Remain in Light is Talking Heads’ fourth album, and their first to embrace the African rhythms that would become a hallmark of their future work. Unlike their previous efforts, David Byrne didn’t deliver these songs to the band intact. They were conceived during jam sessions driven by the Heads’ excellent rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.
Talking Heads’ 1983 album Speaking in Tongues was the band’s commercial breakthrough, to whatever extent a band this idiosyncratic can break through. The single ‘Burning Down the House’ became the group’s only top ten hit.
Speaking in Tongues followed the critically lauded but less accessible Remain in Light, and these two records form the band’s creative high point.
Take today’s Random iTunes Selection, Talking Heads, a band I consider among my favorites. This is just the third appearance by the group in more than five years.
They started off strong, landing the third-ever Song of the Day post. But it was slim pickings thereafter, with only two appearances in the next 2,316.
First, a few words about how I went about categorizing my tastes. I scanned my music library for artists whose entire discographies I own (or near enough to not make much difference) but discounted anybody who is only two or three albums into a career. Then I started scanning that list (of 35 artists) for similarities.
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.