The Bonnaroo lineup dropped this morning and it’s pretty short on classic-rock acts unless Tool and Oysterhead now fall under that banner. But buried on the fifth line of the Friday section is the news that Turkuaz featuring Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew will perform the 1980 Talking Heads masterpiece Remain in Light. The funk band has been working with the Talking Heads guitarist for a number of years, and they’re gigging all over America this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve toured,” Harrison said in a statement. “Once I started producing Turkuaz, I started to think. I’d love to play Talking Heads’ songs again. And, Turkuaz is one of few artists that really understand this music. Once Adrian signed on it was clear we could recreate the excitement and joy that was achieved in Talking Heads iconic 1980 Rome concert.”
Guitarist Adrian Belew, who would soon join King Crimson, was a key part of the Remain in Light sessions and the tour that followed. It was an amazing period where the original four members of the group fleshed out their sound with additional singers and musicians. The era wasn’t documented to the same degree as the legendary Stop Making Sense shows of 1983, but the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey filmed every act that came through town and has an invaluable archive from the era. Here’s video of Talking Heads performing “Once in a Lifetime” on November 4th, 1980, at the theater. (By coincidence, it’s the same night that Ronald Reagan was elected president.)
Talking Heads could easily generate millions and headline Coachella and Bonnaroo if they reunited, but frontman David Byrne has no interest. “I’m trying to think of any reunions I might have seen where I felt, ‘This needed to happen,’ where it allows a band to move on to the next step,” Byrne told Rolling Stone late last year. “With the Pixies, I thought it was terribly justified because the public caught up with what they were doing. So they finally got the audience that they deserved early on, whereas we did OK.”
In other words, Talking Heads got plenty of acclaim back in their day and he has no desire to repeat the past. That may come as a crushing disappointment to countless fans along with the three other members of the band, but doing it without David Byrne is simply impossible. They tried that in in 1996 with the album No Talking, Just Heads and … let’s just say it didn’t really work. Guest singers like Michael Hutchence, Debbie Harry, and Gavin Friday tried to fill the void, but it was just impossible.
At the very least, fans will get a chance to see Harrison and Belew play Remain in Light this year. And maybe there’s a tiny chance Byrne will cave in 2023 for the 40th anniversary of Stop Making Sense, but don’t count on that. Much like Robert Plant, David Gilmour, Morrissey, and Peter Gabriel, he’s made up his mind about re-forming his old band and no amount of money will convince him otherwise.