Talking Heads | Fear of Music – 1979

Religion, or the losing of it?

David Byrne was the Seinfeld of song writing, taking the warped view of the mundane and every day. The lyrics on this album were each built from an idea, eg write a song where animals set a bad example, write a song about life during wartime, write a song about an electric guitar.

“I know that animals are laughing at us, don’t even know what a joke is”

1979, I think I need some help here. Think I was getting ready to leave for Europe, also think I was hanging around North Epping Baptist Church. I don’t remember where I was living, had probably left Eastwood, was no longer living in caravan in Carlingford, maybe living in North Epping, or Baulkham Hills. It was definitely pre-Darlinghurst days. I remember listening to this with Karen B and putting I Zimbra on mix-tapes. It was wonderfully ugly music, dense and heavy. Very unexpected, not at all similar to North Epping Baptists.

I was reminded this week that I was in a band called ‘The Anti-talents, our first gig was in this Church hall. One song we sang was the Troggs ‘Wild Thing’. Very silly, there are some things the memory won’t let go. The Anti-Talents were: Jenny C, Karla H, Georgina M, Nick P, Nick P (on drums), Adam ?(Robinson -thank you Niven) on bass, Mike ?(Hall – thanks again Niven) on lighting and too many more that I can’t remember. I do remember being too shy during rehearsals to sing in front of the band. All these memories are probably deeply coloured, not sure if they are real. [I’ve have just remembered, one rehearsal was a the Stiles house in North Epping. Maybe I was living there]

There is a tenuous link to all the above to The Talking Heads. Like Velvet Underground before them, Talking Heads inspired creativity – “if these guys can do it, anybody can”, hence the formation of “The Anti-Talents”, Epping’s first Folk Punk band (or were we Polk Funk?)

Back to the Talking Heads album, this sounded like important serious music in 1979. The music was built up from jams by Talking Heads and musos, tweaked and twisted by Brian Eno. The sparse guitar music from their earlier albums has vanished, to be replaced with dense African rhythms and treated instruments. The biggest change is the effects put on David Byrne’s voice. His voice, uncertain on previous albums, becomes manic and anxious here, giving an edge to these songs that unsettles.

This is still a good album and worth a listen, but very patchy. Lots of experimentation with structure and sound – which are not always successful. Stand out tracks for me are: I Zimbra, Life During Wartime, and Heaven. These still stand up well, the rest are interesting, but as an album, I wouldn’t put it on every month without skipping several tracks.

On the 1st of Feb, 2009 Marg and I saw David Byrne at the Opera House with songs from the Eno/Byrne album ‘Everything that happens, happens today’. Opening song, Heaven. The Opera House is a poor place to see a rock concert, the acoustic get muddled and you are removed from the performer (as compared to Sufjan Stevens @ the State Theatre – see 2010 posting). David Byrne and group had the Opera House on it’s feet and dancing. A great mix of dance and rock and concept.

Fear of Music is an important album for me, but not something that I would recommend to everyone. Sometimes memories can’t wait.



I Zimbra
Life During Wartime
Memories Can’t Wait
Electric Guitar
p.s. check out David Byrne’s journal, it’s like Steven Fry with Rock music.
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5 Responses to Talking Heads | Fear of Music – 1979

  1. Niv says:

    Never heard the album – now I want to.
    Didnt know the band till Psycho Killer ( and psychochicken ) burst onto jj
    Love so much of thier brilliant and unique work. . Powerful and evocative
    I think the Antitalents had Adam Robinson on bass, Mike Hall on lights.
    I’ll never forget them until the altzheimers takes over.

  2. Jennie says:

    Thanks for helping my memories of the Anti-talents resurface! The names here all bring back faces to me now. I do remember one rehearsal at the Stiles’ place in North Epping, but am not sure how many gigs we did – I’ve only got hazy memories of one or two. Maybe the Altzheimers’ is starting to kick in. Fun times though, and special memories. I’ve never heard this album, but wouldn’t mind a listen. Phil and I have a collection of some interesting vinyls that would be a fun way to spend a few rainy evenings, but not the equipment to play them at the moment. It is interesting how we look back over our lives, and a soundtrack of what we were listening to at the time often accompanies these memories. Are we shaped in some way by what we hear? hmmm… food for thought…

    • I can remember three gigs at least. One at North Epping, one at the Thomas Ball Theatre in Pennant Hill (really the living room of someone’s house) and one at a church in Hornsby.

      Definitely think that we have a soundtrack for life, and that there are specific moments when music ties completely with the memories. It is so easy to remember the music we heard in our years 17 to 21, things tend to blur beyond then. I’m having trouble remembering much of the late ’80s. Think I was travelling, living in Japan, Nigeria, London, Anchorage – but all the actual dates tend to merge.

      I’m keen to review them in the coming weeks by the albums that were released then. But the next one will be one from 2008, and probably the most fun record I will review.

  3. Pingback: A life in albums | michaelsprott

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