Today I was thinking of the 1980 album by Talking Heads, Remain in Light. In my opinion, it’s their best and most inspired work. A visit to the vinyl collection in the basement and a look at the album and liner notes reminded me that Brian Eno, David Byrne and Talking Heads co-wrote the album’s songs. Eno also played percussion, bass, keyboards and voice, and arranged the vocals. I have to think that Eno had something to do with engineer Rhett Davies and guitarist Adrian Belew being involved in the record, too. (Listening to the album tonight, I can make out Eno’s backing vocals. I hadn’t listened for them before, and barely remember him being part of the album though must have known it at some time…)
I’d mentioned in my post on Wordy Rappinghood how Remain in Light joined David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) as essential parts of the soundtrack to my “Vancouver period.” As I think more of it, Remain in Light was more prominent as friends had the record and kept playing it at gatherings that seemed to have been put together to celebrate my friend and me having a visit. At one point, I got to listen to the album on headphones and heard the wild, rich, aural landscape Eno had helped Talking Heads create.
It’s a wildly out-of-control kind of album in many ways, and a departure for even the Talking Heads, who were way ahead of their time in experimental rock music. The one song that was suitable for radio was at the time was “Once in a Lifetime,” probably one of Talking Heads’ best-known hits. (I wonder how many radio lovers bought the album on the strength of the single, and then couldn’t find any sense in the album.)
I remember that at one gathering, my friend (that subject of infatuation for a few years, whom I wrote of here) told me about one particular couple we had been hanging out with. The woman in the couple was of East Asian descent, and her partner was of white European lineage. She had fled from her family rather than going through with the marriage her parents had arranged with those of a man in India. My friend told me that the woman lived in significant risk because her fleeing had meant her family, who also lived in Vancouver, would live in shame, and there was some fear of an “honour killing” of her. I remember, after hearing that, I watched that couple and tried to imagine what it was to be them, to live with that uncertainly, and how they accepted it because of their love. It was incredibly powerful and inspiring. After that trip, I never saw them again, and as they were among six or eight people we were meeting up with on and off, I didn’t get addresses or anything for them. After all, I would be moving there within a year, so it would be effortless to reconnect through my friend. I’ve thought of this particular memory only seldomly in the past 40 years.
I really hope all those people I met are still alive, loving and thriving.
“Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On),” my favourite track on the album, had initially been my choice tonight. And, while that song is terrific, this album is so excellent, and as I listened, I remembered the magical sounds, including a hollow-sounding African drum that opens “Listening Wind.” Its rhythm is like primordial chanting, and fades into the background after the opening, then turns and heads partway back, and its steady beat suffuses throughout the remainder of the song.
Of course, I have to mention that this song was one Peter Gabriel included on Scratch My Back, an orchestral covers album. That collection produced some marvellous music, including a couple I have featured: The Power of the Heart and Flume (and another, Mirrorball — except I featured the original version of that one by Elbow, the lead singer of which is none other than Guy Garvey, of Guy Garvey’s Finest Hour on BBC 6 Music whose musical choices I draw from so often … oh, hey, did we just go full-circle?).
Anyway, it’s the kind of music a well-blessed, some-travelled, ambient-infused, art-loving, justice-oriented, political activist wannabe would listen to. How about you?
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. I’d love to hear from you about your thoughts on or memories of the song.
Here is the audio for the song from the Talking Heads Youtube (topic) channel. Please remember to click on “thumbs-up” on the video if you appreciated the artists’ work.