Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Talking Heads' Movie Stop Making Sense Out Digitally in Honor of 30th Anniversary

Original poster from movie premiere
The Talking Heads' concert documentary Stop Making Sense is finally out in a digital format via Palm Pictures, just in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary.  As directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia and The Master Builder, an adaption of the Ibsen play which is currently playing at NYC's Film Forum) the groundbreaking cinematography focused on the band, allowing the movie-going audience to become one with the live show crowd.  Find Stop Making Sense on iTunes here plus if you're lucky during a limited theatrical engagement. (NYC's Film Society of Lincoln Center is even hosting a Q&A with frontman David Byrne this Friday, August 1 at 9 pm with a showing.)

The original footage was collected over three nights at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood back in 1983, using long camera shots and stripped down lighting to create a virtual reality -- a "you are there" feeling that only gets even better as the camera pulls in tightly,  placing the viewer right on stage with this iconic 80s band.  I was at the Forest Hills tour stop, up to the side in bleachers usually reserved for watching tennis.  It was such a thrill to see Byrne walk out solo with his acoustic guitar to play "Psycho Killer" along with a little cassette recorder. It was a quirky yet appropriate beginning to the show, as he stumbled around the stage in precise choreography that would continue throughout the night. (See the first video below to relive this moment.) Then song by song, Byrne is joined by the rest of the group: Tina Weymouth on bass, Chris Franz on drums, and Jerry Harrison. The core group just kills it as they joined together for "Found a Job" in the second below, showing their strength as a quartet with a much bigger sound that transcended genres and now time.

At the time, I owned all the Talking Heads records including the latest, Speaking in Tongues, which would bring the band its first and only American Top Ten hit, "Burning Down the House." My favorite song would be the album's sweet last track, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" and just love how Byrne created a homey look with a floor lamp that he proceeds to dance with just like Fred Astaire.  Check out the backdrop of books and random images in the third video below. (There were plenty of random words elsewhere in the show as well, both radical use of stream of consciousness associations that seem quite ordinary today.) It showcases the talents of Bernie Worrell (of Parliament-Funkadelic) on keyboards, Alex Weir on guitar and back up singers Lynn Mabry and Edna Holt, along with additional percussion provided by Steve Scales.

On our rooftop with neighbors Bruce Meyer and Nancy Geist
Yet it was the song "Girlfriend Is Better" that gave the film its title, with the lyrics "Stop making sense!" Paul and I, just newlyweds, were out at Greenwich Village hot spot Da Silvano after the movie release, when someone upstairs lowered a note to Byrne's sidewalk table. It read "Stop making sense." It was my first of many NYC encounters with this musical genius, fangirl that I am and always will be!

I also went to the movie premiere party at The Ritz on 11th Street (now Webster Hall), where the band came out on stage to introduce the movie before it played on the big screen hung from the ceiling, mostly used for music videos to keep the crowds dancing.  It was one big party that night, and afterwards I walked back to our first apartment with a coveted poster that still hangs in our home -- as well as in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And while I don't still have my concert t-shirt, at least I have a photo of me wearing it (featuring the artwork of Speaking in Tongues, see album cover at end of the post).  This is a snapshot archiving my look at the time as it's paired with a black cotton mini-skirt, low-heeled pumps and back-combed 80s bangs. Clearly some things, like Talking Heads music, are better equipped to stand the test of time.



Album cover artwork

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