Earlier this week, we spoke to Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz about his new memoir Remain in Love. It’s a fascinating book that explains how the Talking Heads rose out of the CBGB scene in New York City to become one of the most innovative bands of their era, though it ended all too soon when frontman David Byrne decided to take the band off the road in 1984 and end it forever seven years later.
Their 1983–84 Speaking in Tongues tour — which was captured in the Jonathan Demme concert film Stop Making Sense — is widely considered their peak as a live band. But take a look at this footage from a 1980 Remain in Light tour stop in Dortmund, Germany, where they play “Crosseyed and Painless.” King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew is part of an extended lineup they put together for this stage show and it’s every bit as thrilling and groundbreaking as Stop Making Sense, if not quite as cinematic and choreographed.
The joy emanating from the stage in this clip masks some of the backstage tensions, however. Byrne insisted that bassist Busta “Cherry” Jones be a part of the group, which didn’t sit well with the others. “I had a good deal of respect for Busta,” Frantz writes in Remain in Love, “but this was clearly an attempt to marginalize Tina. Did we really need two bass players? Busta was playing parts that Tina had already written and recorded, and I felt it was a dumb and unnecessary move to merely duplicate all of her bass parts. Tina held her own, though, and remained exemplary.”
Weymouth was once again the sole bassist when they returned to the road for the Speaking in Tongues tour, which wound up doubling as an unannounced farewell tour. There was an impromptu reunion at a 1989 Tom Tom Club show in New York City and a three-song set at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2002, but Byrne has refused all other offers to re-form the band.
“A few years back, we got offered crazy amounts of money to do shows,” Frantz told Rolling Stone. “Not only do the show, but also the DVD and the live recording. It was a treasure trove. Anybody in their right mind probably would have said yes.”
It’s a frustrating situation for Talking Heads fans, but at least the band had the foresight to professionally film a handful of shows from their glory days. Clips like this offer nearly irrefutable evidence that they were one of the all-time great live acts in rock history.