Red Hot Chili Pepper’s John Frusciante is known for his groove-laden, concrete-floored riffs. It’s no wonder, then, that the oft-celebrated guitarist counts those other groove pioneers, Talking Heads, as one of his favourite artists.
Like David Byrne’s pioneering new-wave group, when Red Hot Chili Peppers first burst onto the scene, critics and fans alike were dumbfounded. Whereas most groups tended to wear their influences on their sleeves, RHCP’s seemed utterly out of reach, hidden behind a sonic wall. Thankfully, back in 2007, Frusciante did some of the hard work for us and named 40 of his favourite albums for Discogs under the title: ’40 Albums You Must Hear.’ Among slices of Depeche Mode, The Durutti Column, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix, the guitarist also included Talking Heads’ 1978 album More Songs About Buildings And Food
Released in the July of ’78, More Songs About Buildings and Food was the group’s second studio album and their first collaboration with Brian Eno. Talking Heads’ frontman David Byrne had been introduced to Eno at Ramones concert in May 1977, where Talking heads were serving as a support act. The following morning, Eno invited Byrne to his apartment to share records.
It proved to be a pivotal moment in Byrne’s career because it was here that he first discovered the polyrhythmic grooves of Fela Kuti, whose blend of Afrobeat would turn out to be a seminal influence on Talking Heads’ 1980 album Remain In Light. As Eno told The Guardian in 2009, “I was very excited about this music at the time and they were pretty excited too,” he said, going on to describe this shared passion as “thrilling, because no one in England was at all interested.” Byrne, on the other hand, was interested and would go on to use Fela Kuti’s approach as a means of separating Talking Heads from the fruitful yet stifling CBGBs scene, in which he risked being lumped in with groups such as Television, who were chasing an entirely different sound.
In More Songs About Buildings and Food, Kuti’s influence can be heard slowly rising to the surface. While many of the tracks on the album had already been honed in Talking Heads live set, as their collaboration with Eno continued, the band began pursuing a more groove-centric sound, fragmenting once-melodic guitar parts into choppy snatches of texture. Those brittle guitar lines can be heard in much of Fruscainte’s best work with Red Hot Chili Peppers, just as Byrne’s manic politically-minded sing-talk can be heard in Anthony Kiedis’ vocal approach in the group’s earlier records.
Make sure you check out a sample of John Frusciante’s favourite Talking Heads album below.