How a college prank turned into a public art tradition
Drums, love and music – tales from a Talking Head
Hari Sreenivasan: Drummer Chris Frantz is well known as a co-founder of the legendary band 'Talking Heads.' His new memoir "Remain In Love" is as much a look back at the origins of one of America's most culturally and commercially successful bands as it is a love letter to his long time bandmate and wife Tina Weymouth. Still married after 43 years, Weymouth and Frantz are the rarest of rock n' roll couples. NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.
Christopher Booker: When a drummer is said to be in the pocket, they are not only keeping solid time, they're said to be deep inside the groove of the song.
Chris Frantz: You're very comfortable and you're you're listening to everybody else all around you and you're playing, you're really playing together with these people. You're just in the pocket.
Christopher Booker: But for drummer Chris Frantz, co-founder of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, to be in the pocket is just a bit different than other drummers because if he is indeed there, he is most likely in the pocket with his wife, bass player Tina Weymouth.
Chris Frantz: We played together enough that we don't have any problem getting into the pocket. I mean, it's like we just do.
Christopher Booker: And they've been this way for nearly 50 years -- from when they first met in college, through the formation of Talking Heads with David Byrne and then on to global stardom a journey retold in Frantz's just-released memoir Remain in Love.
Chris Frantz: Most of the time, yes, we agreed on memories. She has an excellent memory, but I think she remembers more serious things than I remember. I remember like what we had for dinner.
Christopher Booker: As Frantz writes, he picked up the drums early. His father, a graduate of West Point served in the Korean War and studied law at Harvard and later became a General. While his mother encouraged his musical pursuit. Frantz's encouraged his musical pursuit. He describes her as a southern belle who fell in love with The Beatles alongside the rest of America.
Chris Frantz: I was really getting into painting and drawing. And just I decided one day, this is what I want to do. I want to be an artist and I liked the idea and I told my parents and they were like, what? How will you ever support yourself? My parents were conservative and old fashioned. They believed in self-discipline and being able to take care of yourself.
Christopher Booker: Frantz would end up at the Rhode Island School of Design where he would not only meet Tina Weymouth, but also David Bryne. After college the trio moved into a loft in New York City forming Talking Heads getting their first gig as an opening act for the Ramones at CBGB.
Chris Frantz: Without CBGB's it's very doubtful we'd be having this conversation right now. Because CBGB was like the incubator for so many bands and then the springboard out into the rest of the world.
David Byrne: The name of this band is Talking Heads and the name of this song is Psycho Killer.
Christopher Booker: During this period, Talking Heads were rubbing shoulders with bands that would become the giants of American music - Patti Smith, Television, Blondie and The Ramones--the groups trading slots at America's epicenter of punk rock. Talking Heads, now a foursome after adding guitar player Jerry Harrison, were considered the vanguards of a music being dubbed New Wave.
Chris Frantz: We weren't always sure what we wanted to do, but we were very clear on what we did not want to do. Some people describe the sound as coming from the Twilight Zone. We were very interested and we were very interested in moving the hips, but also moving the brain a little bit.
Christopher Booker: And with this approach came critical and commercial success on a level few bands achieve. While they stopped touring in 1984, they continued to record through the decade. But in 1991 with little warning says Frantz, David Byrne left the group. The band's last performance was in 2002 during their induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame.
Chris Frantz: I'd like to thank the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame for giving this band a happy ending.
Christopher Booker: How was that a happy ending and why?
Chris Frantz: Well, we hadn't performed together or something like 18 years when we did that. And so there was that whole period of like sort of wondering why, you know. Was it something I said?
Chris Frantz: You know being in a rock band is hard work, I mean you have to work real hard and some times you have to roll with certain unfair aspects of the business you know?
Christopher Booker: But Frantz's and Weymouth's musical story is not just Talking Heads. There is also the story of an unlikely side project born during a Talking Heads break in the early 1980s.
The result was Tom Tom Club. And a number of hit songs - Wordy Rappinghood and Genius of Love - a song that certainly did well on its own, but quickly grew into something else entirely. Its groove making its way into songs by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. And later, Mariah Carey.
Christopher Booker: Does having that experience and the success of Tom Tom Club help when you consider what happened with Talking Heads?
Chris Frantz: Well, I think it did a little bit in that I think some people, people who were perceptive, realize that oh, maybe the whole Talking Heads band is more of a shared experience than we realize. You know?
Christopher Booker: But as Frantz's writes in his memoir, there has been one constant throughout this shared experience - Tina.
Chris Frantz: Tina has been wonderful to me and I hope I've been wonderful to her.
Christopher Booker: What what advice would you give to couples to last 43 years and then the follow-up, what advice would you give to music couples to last?
Chris Frantz: Well, I believe this important to keep up the romance, so I think you should send flowers. I think you should send candy. And I think you should do the dishes and I think it's also very important to keep your sense of humor and to get enough sleep.