Song of the Day #1,390: ‘Listening Wind’ – Talking Heads

Best Albums of the 80s – #13
Remain in Light – Talking Heads (1980)

An album higher on this list (shouldn’t be difficult to guess which one) drew high praise for blending traditional pop music with African rhythms. But years earlier, as the decade began, Talking Heads went even farther in the same direction.

Three albums into their celebrated career, the band was on the verge of splitting. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, the married couple who formed the group’s rhythm section, weren’t happy with the perception of David Byrne as the band’s main creative force.

During a Caribbean vacation, they discovered a new sound and a new method of recording, drawn from the Caribbean and African influences around them. Byrne and keyboardist Jerry Harrison joined them on the islands to work on an album.

Rather than Byrne composing music and lyrics and bringing completed songs to the band, the new tracks were born out of jam sessions. The music came first — a frantic blend of African percussion and electronica flourishes — with Byrne recording his vocals much later, after he’d penned a batch of stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Remain in Light produced one minor hit (‘Once in a Lifetime’) but was an instant critical smash. It topped many year-end lists and shows up on almost every 80s retrospective I’ve seen. It’s a challenging and rewarding work of art… the musical equivalent of a good Don DeLillo novel.

Today’s SOTD tells a sympathetic tale of a domestic terrorist. I was inspired by this song to use the name Mojique as my internet chat room handle in the days of AOL.

Mojique sees his village from a nearby hill
Mojique thinks of days before Americans came
He sees the foreigners in growing numbers
He sees the foreigners in fancy houses
He thinks of days that he can still remember…now.

Mojique holds a package in his quivering hands
Mojique sends the package to the American man
Softly he glides along the streets and alleys
Up comes the wind that makes them run for cover
He feels the time is surely now or never…more.

The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
The dust in my head
The dust in my head
The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
(Come to) Drive them away
Drive them away

Mojique buys equipment in the market place
Mojique plants devices in the free trade zone
He feels the wind is lifting up his people
He calls the wind to guide him on his mission
He knows his friend the wind is always standing…by.

Mojique smells the wind that comes from far away
Mojique waits for news in a quiet place
He feels the presence of the wind around him
He feels the power of the past behind him
He has the knowledge of the wind to guide him…on.

The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
The dust in my head
The dust in my head
The wind in my heart
The wind in my heart
(Come to) Drive them away
Drive them away.

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,390: ‘Listening Wind’ – Talking Heads

  1. Dana says:

    I have to admit that, in both the case of REM and Talking Heads (and perhaps even Costello), I tend to gravitate to their work when they moved from being edgy and/or avant garde to when they applied those elements to more user-friendly commercial radio-play accessible material.

    That doesn’t make me a shallow person, does it?:)

    So, with the Talking Heads, while I appreciate this album, the one I would feature on my list is Little Creatures. Perhaps diehard Heads fans would consider that album something of a sellout, just as diehard REM fans would say of Out of Time or Costello fans would say of Punch the Clock, but I don’t care–I love each of these albums more than some of the earlier works of these artists.

    Also, if I am going to listen to older Talking Heads music, I generally pop in the wonderful Stop Making Sense, which gives a great live energy and pulse to their earlier recordings much in the way that Songs in the Attic does for Joel’s early work. I suppose you wouldn’t consider putting a live “hits” album like that on your list, but I would put both Stop Making Sense and Little Creatures on a list over Remain in Light, critics be damned.

  2. Clay says:

    I considered Stop Making Sense for this list but decided that live albums shouldn’t be eligible. I don’t consider Little Creatures a sellout — that’s a very strong album, as is Speaking in Tongues. I put those two albums and Remain in Light on a higher level than the band’s first three records, which were more punk-pop and less rhythmic.

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