David Byrne Discusses Here Lies Love, His Disco Musical with Fatboy Slim on the Life of Imelda Marcos

In Imel­da Mar­cos, wid­ow of con­tro­ver­sial for­mer pres­i­dent of the Philip­pines Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry had one of its most col­or­ful first ladies. Or at least, to make the most obvi­ous pos­si­ble joke, it had its first lady with the most col­or­ful col­lec­tion of shoes. In fact, giv­en her coun­try’s his­to­ry of pover­ty and cor­rup­tion, Mar­cos’ report­ed­ly vast and osten­ta­tious wardrobe made her a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in her­self. Yet she has nev­er seemed whol­ly uncon­cerned with her lega­cy, and in fact remains a mem­ber of the Philip­pine House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives today. She has wished aloud that her tomb­stone read, sim­ply, “Here lies love,” and that epi­taph gives a title to the dis­co musi­cal that Talk­ing Heads mas­ter­mind David Byrne and DJ/nineties elec­tron­ic phe­nom­e­non Fat­boy Slim have craft­ed to tell the sto­ry of Mar­cos’ life. “Prob­a­bly the first thing you need to know,” writes Allan Kozinn in the New York Times, “is that although it is about Imel­da Mar­cos, the for­mer first lady of the Philip­pines, her famous col­lec­tion of shoes is nei­ther men­tioned nor shown.” At the top of the post, you can watch a short clip of Byrne dis­cussing the inspi­ra­tions for and long ges­ta­tion process of Here Lies Love, not to men­tion his efforts to break down the audi­ence’s pre­con­cep­tions, shoe-relat­ed and oth­er­wise.

“Imel­da, who was this flam­boy­ant, noto­ri­ous kind of per­son on the scene, loved going to dis­cos,” he says. “She loved going to Stu­dio 54. She turned the top floor of the palace in Mani­la into a club. She had a mir­ror ball installed in her New York town­house. [ … ] Maybe there’s a con­nec­tion between the eupho­ria you feel in a dance club and the eupho­ria a per­son in pow­er has. ” Just above, you can lis­ten to the musi­cal’s title num­ber. Despite hav­ing sev­er­al times lis­tened to and enjoyed the entire Here Lies Love album, I under­stand it can’t com­pare to the live ver­sion, because the live ver­sion makes you dance — lit­er­al­ly. Kozinn describes Byrne’s lat­est venue as “trans­formed into an ’80s-style dis­co, and the audi­ence is meant to stand, mill around or, if the spir­it moves, dance through the entire 85-minute show.” Byrne has also writ­ten about the devel­op­ment of Here Lies Love on his diary, and promis­ing­ly. “The stag­ing and the con­cept work,” he assures his fans. “It works so well that I sort of cried at every per­for­mance. [ … ] In the end, I’d say it’s the best thing I’ve done since the Stop Mak­ing Sense tour—which I guess is say­ing some­thing.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

David Byrne Gives Us the Low­down on How Music Works (with Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Daniel Lev­itin)

Lis­ten to the New David Byrne/St. Vin­cent Album, Love This Giant

How David Byrne and Bri­an Eno Make Music Togeth­er: A Short Doc­u­men­tary

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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