Chris Frantz Breaks Down How He Crafted Songs for Talking Heads & Tom Tom Club: A Nakedly Examined Music Interview

Chris found­ed Talk­ing Heads in the ear­ly ’70s with his wife Tina Wey­mouth and David Byrne, and he focus­es heav­i­ly on these ear­ly years of his career in his new mem­oir Remain in Love, describ­ing it as very much a group effort, even though they inten­tion­al­ly put the spot­light on David, who in turn pret­ty ear­ly on announced that he had to write all the lyrics, that he could­n’t sing oth­er peo­ple’s songs.

On the Naked­ly Exam­ined Music Pod­cast, Mark Lin­sen­may­er inter­views song­writ­ers about their cre­ative deci­sion-mak­ing, and in this inter­view, Chris tells how he and Tina and David col­lab­o­rat­ed on lyrics for their ear­ly sin­gle “Psy­cho Killer,” and then how Chris’ lyrics were used for “Warn­ing Sign,” a song (played in full as part of the pod­cast) that appeared on the Heads’ sec­ond album, 1978’s More Songs About Build­ings and Food.

Also sur­pris­ing is that Chris and Tina’s spin-off band, Tom Tom Club, formed in an inter­val when both David and the Heads’ lead gui­tarist Jer­ry Har­ri­son want­ed to pause Talk­ing Heads to record solo albums, actu­al­ly had its best-sell­ing sin­gle, “Genius of Love,” pri­or to the Talk­ing Heads real finan­cial suc­cess with hits like “Burn­ing Down the House” and “And She Was.”

The inter­view includes a detailed treat­ment of the com­po­si­tion and arrange­ment of two Tom Tom Club songs that are also played in full: “Bam­boo Town,” a reg­gae-inspired track from their sec­ond album Close to the Bone (1983); and “Who Feel­in’ It,” a dance track replete with record scratch per­cus­sion from The Good the Bad and the Funky (2000). This song was lat­er remixed by The inter­view con­cludes with a song that Chris sings: the title track from Tom Tom Club’s most recent release, Down­town Rock­ers (2012).

Both these last two tracks have as their main lyrics lists of artists that Chris and Tina want­ed to pay trib­ute to, both in influ­enc­ing their musi­cal sen­si­bil­i­ties and/or play­ing shows with them at CBG­B’s dur­ing their for­ma­tive years as Talk­ing Heads in New York City. Chris’ book gives us a vivid glimpse of that scene, as well as the excite­ment of their first album, work­ing with Bri­an Eno, their first Euro­pean tour, and oth­er mile­stones all the way up to their induc­tion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, which was their first time play­ing togeth­er since the group’s split in 1991.

For more Naked­ly Exam­ined Music in-depth inter­views about song­writ­ing, arrange­ment, and the musi­cal life, vis­it

Mark Lin­sen­may­er is also the host of The Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life Phi­los­o­phy Pod­cast and Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast. He releas­es music under the name Mark Lint.


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