These Memories Can't Wait

A re-release reopens old wounds for the Talking Heads

"We were almost overrated during our day, but we're almost too much forgotten now," Frantz says, insisting he's thrilled by the re-release of Stop Making Sense, if only so the kids might remember who he used to be. "When you hear bands talk about influences, you hear Television and Patti Smith and the Clash, but you rarely hear these young bands say Talking Heads, which surprises me, because a lot of them sound like Talking Heads. I don't know, maybe we're just no longer chic. We are merely popular. And I think that was caused by a lot of bad vibes and a certain person burning a lot of bridges. That's what I think did it. Who wants to be identified with that kind of person?"

There is still more than a trace of bitterness in Frantz's voice; the animosity lingers like stale smoke trapped in old clothes. This, despite Frantz's insistence that all is forgiven, if not exactly forgotten. Frantz and Weymouth, whose Tom Tom Club will release a new record on the couple's own label next year, remain close friends with Harrison. They've toured and recorded various times during the past ten years, even going on the road as the Shrunken Heads at the beginning of the 1990s, with Harrison capably filling in for Byrne on lead vocals. But the three have not had much communication with Byrne since he abruptly busted up the band after 1988's Naked, a brilliant last hurrah, even if the Heads did not yet know they were recording their farewell.

Frantz says he has communicated with Byrne through e-mail. And even then it's only when absolutely necessary, usually about business matters, such as a greatest-hits collection issued a few years back or the re-release of Stop Making Sense, both the film and its accompanying soundtrack, which Warner Bros. reissued a few weeks ago in the correct sequence, with several songs added to the disc.

That's a big suit: The re-release of Stop Making Sense reopens old wounds for the Talking Heads
Hugh Brown
That's a big suit: The re-release of Stop Making Sense reopens old wounds for the Talking Heads

Then there were those pesky legal issues when Frantz, Weymouth, and Harrison reconvened as The Heads in 1996, releasing a record with various guests standing in for Byrne. Byrne need not have worried, since the album No Talking Just Head stiffed and the scheduled tour fell apart when Concrete Blonde singer Johnette Napolitano backed out at the last minute. "She freaked on us; what can I say?" Frantz recalls. "I wish that would have gone better." If nothing else The Heads helped the three bandmates put to rest a little of the unfinished business they all thought was left over when Byrne walked away without warning, without saying goodbye after nearly sixteen years of friendship. Frantz likes to insist he holds no grudge, that he is, at best, merely disappointed, which is a huge improvement over how he once felt, gravely depressed.

"There are some good memories; we did have some good times," the drummer admits. "I look at the screen, and we're having a good time with our lives. But it took us a long time to get over the fact Talking Heads was over. It was something we should have seen coming. Or maybe we did see it coming, but we were in denial and hoping it wouldn't end. But it did, and unfortunately it's out of our control. I wish it was, because we'd still be together."

Throughout this conversation he throws out sharp, snide asides that still bear the sting of a scorned lover. After all, the band was as much his as it was Byrne's. The two founded the Heads (then called The Artistics) in 1974, when they were attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Early on their repertoire consisted of everything from the 1910 Fruitgum Company's "1-2-3 Red Light" to songs that eventually would make their way on to the Heads' set list, namely "Warning Sign" and "Psycho Killer." But Byrne emerged as the frontman; it is his body shown on the cover of Stop Making Sense, and it was his face and his misshapen voice with which the band came to be identified. By the end surely there were those in the Heads' audience who thought of it as David Byrne and his back-up band. That never did sit well with Frantz, Weymouth, and Harrison, the last of whom joined the band after a stint with The Modern Lovers.

Even now, when talking about how glorious it is to see Stop Making Sense in its restored form -- with songs added, colors touched up, sound remixed -- Frantz can't help but mention how it's really Byrne's film, in a way. The film, after all, was his concept, from the way the band members stroll out one by one during the opening songs to the oversize suit Byrne wears. He was its star -- the vocalist as Lead Character -- with the other group members as his supporting cast.

Frantz says Demme(who would go on to direct films such as Married to the Mob and Silence of the Lambs) had originally proposed re-releasing the film in 1996. But Frantz, Weymouth, and Harrison were about to put out No Talking Just Head and thought the timing might be a little awkward, at best. Three years later, Chris Blackwell (the founder of Island Records, which funded Stop Making Sense) approached the band about touring a restored version of the film, under the auspices of his new company, Palm Pictures. Surprisingly the musicians agreed, none quicker than Byrne.

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