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Why David Byrne refuses to reunite Talking Heads


Talking Heads have had a remarkable afterlife. At the height of their fame in the early 1980s, they were the eccentric odd-balls of the new wave scene, capable of crafting unusual musical blends in a way that felt effortless and natural.

After releasing four albums in less than four years, the group parted ways, leaving Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz to continue as Tom Tom Club and Bryne to indulge in his solo creative pursuits. It wouldn’t be until 1991 that Talking Heads would formally announce their split.

Since then, the group have taken on near-mythic status, not least because their work inspired countless artists throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The group’s art-pop sensibility served as a foundation for the likes of Radiohead, St. Vincent, The 1975, Vampire Weekend and many others.

When an artist’s DNA becomes embedded within pop culture in this way, it’s only a matter of time before audiences start clamouring for a reunion. We saw it with the shoegaze and dream-pop revival of the 2010s, when releases by the like Beach House, Pinkshinyultrablast, DIIV, Deerhunter, and Wild Nothings coincided with a moment of mass-reunion amongst classic shoegaze groups like Slowdive and Ride.

Unfortunately, Talking Heads’ David Byrne wasn’t so keen on getting the band back together. Speaking to WIRED, he explained why: “I think, in a nutshell, I could say that we came together more as friends than as, you know, incredible musicians. It was really a kind of shared musical taste. And then gradually, as you age and you grow and you explore, your musical tastes start to change. It became more work that we did, we didn’t hang out all the time anymore, so eventually you just kind of drift apart that way.”

That very diplomatic answer barely hints towards the bad blood that has existed between Byrne and Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz since the group’s split. While the pair certainly didn’t part on good terms, the fact that Talking Heads’ afterlife has been narrative almost exclusively by David Byrne hasn’t helped to bridge the gulf between them.

Speaking to The Guardian, Frantz explained that working with Bryne became impossible long ago and that he had no intention of doing it again: “It’s like he can’t help himself. His brain is wired in such a way that he doesn’t know where he ends and other people begin. He can’t imagine that anyone else would be important.”

The members of Talking Heads seem content working in their own lane, and it looks like we’ll just have to accept that they’ll continue to do so. Anyway, the spirit of Talking Heads lives on in the various member’s solo work and literary pursuits, whether its Byrne’s leftfield musical analysis in How Music Works; Frantz and Weymouth’s work with Happy Mondays, Ziggy Marley and Gorillaz (not to mention as Tom Tom Club); or Jerry Harrison’s work as a producer for groups like No Doubt and Crash Test Dummies. But, yes, a person can certainly dream, and I fully intend on doing so.