Still Making Sense
Moving beyond the Talking Heads
“Girlfriends are really important to bands. They can make them or break them,” says Tina Weymouth in the living room of her Fairfield home. She should know. In the pantheon of rock n’ roll girlfriends, Weymouth is queen—the polar opposite of Yoko Ono. In the mid 1970s Weymouth became the bass player for the band her boyfriend, drummer Chris Frantz, had been trying to form with their good friend David Byrne. The group called themselves the Talking Heads, and Weymouth’s bass playing helped power their success.
Today, Weymouth and Frantz are married and live in Fairfield. They settled in this area in 1985 and say they were drawn by the natural beauty of New England and the strength of the local arts scene. The couple is undisputed rock-rhythm-section royalty: the Talking Heads were one of the most successful groups of the 1980s. In addition, in the early 1980s Weymouth and Frantz also formed the Tom Tom Club as a side project. The couple’s new band produced the major dance hits “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love,” the latter of which became one of the most sampled songs in music history. Weymouth and Frantz recently released a new Tom Tom Club EP called Downtown Rockers, and in January recorded a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with Ingrid Michaelson as a fundraiser for Newtown (see details on page 25).
Visiting their Fairfield home, one need not possess the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes in order to guess accurately what the couple does for a living. The studio on the property, where “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was recorded, and the house are filled with instruments—a grand piano here, a bass guitar there. It’s a rock n’ roll laboratory with experiments constantly in progress. These experiments gave birth to the new EP. Frantz explains that the material for the EP was “composed from two jam sessions that we had here. We recorded the jam sessions and then developed the material into full-fledged songs.”
In addition to referencing obscure and well-known artists and musicians, Weymouth and Frantz quote readily from This Is Spinal Tap, the 1984 mockumentary which unflinchingly parodied the idiosyncrasies of self involved rock stars. “After I saw that movie I thought, ‘Oh gee there it goes, I can never take my work seriously again,’” Frantz says.
Weymouth and Frantz met while they were both students at the Rhode Island School of Design. While in Rhode Island, Frantz was in a band with Byrne called The Artistics. Later Frantz, Weymouth, and Byrne ended up sharing a loft in New York City. Byrne and Frantz wanted to start a new band, but they were having trouble finding a bass player. “We were not meeting people that had the same kind of musical artistic sensibilities that we had,” Frantz says. “So I had suggested to Tina quite a few times that she would be a great bass player for us.”
Weymouth did not play the bass, but Frantz knew she was a fast learner and more importantly, he says, “I knew that she shared an artistic sensibility with us, so I kept after her to join the band, but she kept saying ‘no, no that’s a guy thing, rock n’ roll.’”
Eventually Weymouth was convinced and showed up at the loft with a new bass in hand. Weymouth helped develop the early Talking Heads sound. “It was a music that had a lot of space in it and wasn’t all about the unison of the parts, we were really attempting to not do the expected. That was the shared sensibility we all had.”
Weymouth and Frantz formed the Tom Tom Club in 1981 after Byrne took a hiatus from the Talking Heads. The Tom Tom Club was originally conceived as a studio project but the success of the band’s material led them to form a touring group. In the 1980s the Tom Tom Club ended up doing a world tour as the opening act for Talking Heads. “The club is about being inconclusive and everybody is invited to the party, that’s what I always hope anyway,” says Weymouth.
Weymouth and Frantz say their neighbors in Fairfield have embraced that party vibe. “Our neighbors are great, they say leave your doors open we love to hear you play,” Weymouth says. “When we recorded our live album we recorded it here. We just threw a big party and all our friends and neighbors came. People here couldn’t be more neighborly, there’s a real sense of community.”