From the outside looking in, Tina Weymouth is so integral to the sound of Talking Heads that you can only imagine her as a driving force from the get-go. As it happens, despite being a creative tour de force and the girlfriend of drummer Chris Frantz, it took Tina Weymouth a long time, and a whopping three auditions for David Byrne to finally pledge allegiance to the changing future of punk.
Frontman David Byrne and drummer Frantz first met in 1973, at the Rhode Island School of Design. The art school duo soon formed a band called the Artistics and while Weymouth was involved, it was far from a spotlight role. Her duties in this early outfit involved driving the band around, cutting their hair and a few other backstage roles. All the while, the idea of what would become Talking Heads slowly maturated and soon she would almost reluctantly make the switch to the stage.
“It was Chris’ idea to form this band, but it took two years for me to enter into it,” she told the documentary Girl in a Band: Tales from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Frontline. “I just thought that it was too difficult, that I was just going to be against a lot of flak [for being the girl]. But Chris had another idea, he thought it was going to bring a lot of attention to the group, and it did, and it worked.”
Weymouth’s trepidation was also shared in by Byrne who seemed unsure how the whole thing would work out. However, when he got to grips with the idea of a feminine input having an arty angle, he came around the idea and suggested a few tweaks to Weymouth, including cutting her hair short to make her “eyes look bigger”. Thereafter, Weymouth became a seminal figure in the music industry, not as some sort of defiant trailblazer, but as a terrifically melodic bass virtuoso and creative contributor who illuminated the future for women in rock almost by proxy.
Fellow bass playing female, Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth posited the idea that women are drawn to the bass because it is a naturally nurturing role, demurring away from the egomaniacal wail of showy guitars or destructive drums. This is far from a notion that Weymouth adheres to, stating: “Oh please! I don’t think it has anything to do with gender, and it is one of the reasons I have always eschewed answering feminist questions. It’s so loaded!”
Passionately adding: “If you want to do something, just do it! Don’t talk about it and don’t criticise other women, if they want to go out, you know, and swing on a wrecking ball naked, why not?” She opines in reference to the Miley Cyrus video released at the time. Adding: “Let them do what they want. We just are smart as women because we have our balls neatly tucked inside where they are protected… and that’s that.”
This notion and her fervent spirit have made Weymouth one of the most influential female figures in music. Living by this acerbic wit she once befittingly asserted of her musical output: “Art is not predictable. Art is not golf, as great as that may be. There are 360 degrees of choice to make.”