Watch David Byrne Practice His Dance Moves for Stop Making Sense in Newly Released Behind-the-Scenes Footage

A new 4K restora­tion of Stop Mak­ing Sense debuted last month at the Toron­to Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val, then opened in the­aters around the world. The pro­mo­tion­al push for this cul­tur­al event start­ed ear­ly (as fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture), and has involved the release of rarely-seen sup­ple­men­tary mate­ri­als cho­sen to delight Talk­ing Heads fans. Take the short video above, a com­pi­la­tion of video clips in which David Byrne rehears­es his dance moves in advance of the band’s 1983 Speak­ing in Tongues tour, four of whose shows would be com­bined, with the help of many col­lab­o­ra­tors includ­ing direc­tor Jonathan Demme, into a seam­less, still-beloved musi­cal-cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence.

In a film full of mem­o­rable ele­ments, from the Pablo Fer­ro titles to the lamp to the big suit, Byrne’s dis­tinc­tive way of car­ry­ing him­self stands out. “His wide-eyed stare, jerky move­ments and onstage cool remind­ed many com­men­ta­tors of Antho­ny Perkins, star of Hitchcock’s movie Psy­cho,” Col­in Larkin writes of ear­li­er Heads shows in The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Pop­u­lar Music.

This elab­o­rate awk­ward­ness, so thor­ough­ly delib­er­ate-look­ing that it comes around the oth­er side to suavi­ty, may seem like a nat­ur­al expres­sion of his artis­tic per­son­al­i­ty. But as revealed by the video he shot of him­self try­ing out dif­fer­ent chore­o­graph­ic ideas — and even more so by the full 25-minute ver­sion, which fea­tures not just numer­ous VHS glitch­es but also the band’s back­up singers — it took tri­al and error to devel­op.

“The film’s peak moments come through Byrne’s sim­ple phys­i­cal pres­ence,” Roger Ebert wrote of Stop Mak­ing Sense upon its ini­tial release in 1984. “He jogs in place with his side­men; he runs around the stage; he seems so hap­py to be alive and mak­ing music,” and even “serves as a reminder of how sour and weary and strung-out many rock bands have become.” Though, when rock bands may be less strung-out but are cer­tain­ly no less weary, his restored per­for­mance is remind­ing count­less Heads enthu­si­asts why they got into the band in the first place — and no doubt giv­ing hereto­fore unini­ti­at­ed new gen­er­a­tions a few para­noical­ly exu­ber­ant, rigid­ly unin­hib­it­ed, and smooth­ly un-smooth moves to try out on the dance floor them­selves.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A Brief His­to­ry of Talk­ing Heads: How the Band Went from Scrap­py CBGB’s Punks to New Wave Super­stars

David Byrne Plays Sev­en Char­ac­ters & Inter­views Him­self in Fun­ny Pro­mo for Stop Mak­ing Sense

How Jonathan Demme Put Human­i­ty Into His Films: From The Silence of the Lambs to Stop Mak­ing Sense

David Byrne Explains How the “Big Suit” He Wore in Stop Mak­ing Sense Was Inspired by Japan­ese Kabu­ki The­atre

How Talk­ing Heads and Bri­an Eno Wrote “Once in a Life­time”: Cut­ting Edge, Strange & Utter­ly Bril­liant

Talk­ing Heads Live in Rome, 1980: The Con­cert Film You Haven’t Seen

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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