Drum and bass
The party rages on for Talking Heads offshoot Tom Tom Club (so long as Happy Mondays aren’t invited), who are bringing their delirious sunshine funk this way. They have a message for David Byrne too, as Jim Carroll finds out
ONE CLASSIC BAND with oodles of hits is usually sufficient for most musicians. Getting to the top of the pop tree once, after all, is hard enough to do. In the case of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, they first hit the jackpot with Talking Heads and then again with Tom Tom Club.
The first act may have been more celebrated, but the Club have always brought good times, great tunes and funky shows with them. From the release of debut single Wordy Rappinghood in 1981, it was full-steam ahead for the couple and their bandmates.
Thirty years on, the party is still in full swing and the band visit Dublin’s Vicar Street next week, their first visit to the city since a euphoric show at the old McGonagles’ venue on South Anne Street in 1988.
“The band sound great in rehearsals,” says Frantz. “We’ve a new guitarist from Argentina called Pablo Martin. We’ve also got the people we’ve been working with for 20 years like Bruce Martin and Victoria Clamp, and they’re wonderful players and singers. It’s a smoking hot show, with a lot of energy and great tunes.”
Tom Tom Club’s delirious sunshine funk came about because of a desire to do something different to the main gig. The duo had just come off Talking Heads Remain In Light tour in 1981 and, with the other Heads off doing other pursuits, Frantz and Weymouth decided to follow suit. They got in touch with Island Records boss Chris Blackwell, headed to the Compass Point studios in the Bahamas, where they’d previously recorded two Talking Heads’ albums, and started to work.
“Originally, we were supposed to just do the Wordy Rappinghood single, but it quickly became an album. Chris Blackwell realised that a drummer and bass player could drive a band and a hit song.
“A lot of people think it’s the guitarist or lead singer, but Chris understood the value of a good rhythm section from his work with jazz and reggae musicians.” The self-titled debut album was a chance for the pair to show a different musical side, as they immersed themselves in sounds that had nothing to do with the art-rock influences of the CBGB set.
“We were enjoying great success with Talking Heads but that was its own thing and we didn’t want to try to ride on those coat-tails”, says Frantz. “We loved reggae and American r’n’b and dance music with a good beat and the early hip-hop which was coming out of the South Bronx, so we used that as our source of inspiration.” Their self-titled debut album still sounds thrilling.
“There is a joyous sound to that record,” Frantz agrees. “It’s fair to say that we were in a fairly elated state when we made that record. It was a magical time for us, when it seemed that we could do just about anything. We weren’t overly ambitious to have success, but we wanted to do something that would be remembered in the future and have a positive influence. Who knew that 30 years later we’d still be performing those songs?”
Just as Talking Heads had a great record label man in Seymour Stein to steer them, Tom Tom Club were fortunate to have Chris Blackwell in their corner. “Seymour gave Talking Heads its first shot and we owe a lot to Seymour and we still see him and will always be grateful for his enthusiasm. But Chris was the one who did that for Tom Tom Club. He had the foresight to see that a rhythm section like us was capable of making a really cool album and just let us get on with it. Like Seymour, he was a great record man.”
The tours that followed were memorable. “We were fortunate with our timing because Talking Heads were all over MTV and the radio so the clubs we played in were packed with happy people. I remember The Edge coming to that McGonagles show in Dublin,