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Music

How Chris Frantz convinced Tina Weymouth to join Talking Heads

Soon after David Byrne met Chris Frantz at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1970s, they had an image in their head. The image wasn’t clear, but what they did know was that they didn’t want to be like anybody else. They formed what would eventually become Talking Heads in 1973, going by the original name of Artistics.

From these humble beginnings, the snowball of their creativity gathered momentum as they expanded their scope. Their original sound wasn’t a far cry from punk, which had been burgeoning as the major musical and cultural force in the UK at the time, but they brought to it something unique and more artful than punk.

By the mid-1970s, they had moved to New York City and lived together with Frantz’s girlfriend Tina Weymouth. Frantz often asked Weymouth to join him and Byrne in their musical exploits, but she would put up resistance explaining that she didn’t think she could bring anything to the equation. Eventually, Weymouth saw how she could fit in artistically and joined Frantz and Byrne to make a trio of Artistics. They swiftly renamed themselves Talking Heads ahead of their first big gig supporting punk pioneers, the Ramones.

By 1977 Talking Heads had recruited Jerry Harrison, the guitarist from Jonathan Richman’s The Modern Lovers, and were becoming the cream of the city. Their debut album was met with high acclaim from listeners and peers alike with its catchy, funk-infused take on punk music, with their first charting single ‘Psycho Killer’ doing much of the leg work. 

1977 appears to have been one of the most momentous years in the young lives of Frantz and Weymouth as it was also the year they became happily married. The two stuck together through thick and thin throughout their rollercoaster career with Talking Heads and their funk-inspired splinter project Tom Tom Club. It, therefore, seems fitting that Frantz’s 2020 memoir should be named Remain in Love after the 1980 Talking Heads masterpiece Remain in Light.

In a recent interview in support of his memoir, Frantz reflected on the early days of Talking Heads and explained why he wanted Weymouth to join the group. “I just saw the potential for a really great collaborator, and also a person who would look cool. And that’s important, especially in a band that was not known for looking cool. I knew early on. I asked Tina to be in our first band, The Artistics, back when we were still at the Rhode Island School of Design, and she declined. She very politely declined. Said, ‘Oh no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ But the reason I asked her is I felt she shared an artistic aesthetic that I also shared with David, which was an aesthetic that has its basis in the arts and not just popular culture.”

“And I also knew that Tina had a very good sense of rhythm because when we first started dating, and even still, we liked to dance together. She was the best dancer I’ve ever danced with. I could tell she really had a good sense of rhythm and was really feeling the music. I knew that she played some music, acoustic guitar, and could read some music — and that was really more than I could do, or David.”

“So I thought we should recruit her into the band. I tried and tried and tried, and then finally, after Tina and David and I moved to New York and we were sharing this loft on the Lower East Side, three blocks from CBGB’s, she should hear David and I trying to work out parks and trying to create interesting music beds for his lyrics. And I think she saw that, ‘Oh, I could really add something to this,’ and she did, in a big way. In my way of thinking, Tina was not just a musical contributor to our band, but also a person who helped define the direction we were going to go in.”

Listen to ‘Genius of Love’, one of the hit tracks from Weymouth and Frantz’s side project Tom Tom Club, below.