Episode Seventy-Seven: " '77 "
...in which Art asks to run that again.

1 comment:

  1. Episode Seventy-Seven, Talkingheads '77.
    I was ten years old.

    These albums came out in '77:
    Elvis Costello, 'My Aim Is True'
    The Clash, 'The Clash'
    Kraftwerk, 'Trans-Europe Express'
    Sex Pistols, 'Never Mind the Bollocks'
    The Ramones, 'Rocket To Russia' & 'Leave Home'
    The Jam, 'In The City' & 'This is the Modern World'
    Iggy Pop, 'Lust for Life' & 'The Idiot'
    Bowie, 'Heroes' & 'Low'
    and, of course,
    Eno, 'Before and After Science.'

    I mean, it's not amazing that a bunch of records that were released three of four years before I would become a teenager would turn out to be so influential to me for the rest of my life: these were acts that, in many cases, were in the process of becoming, and would hit their stride a few years later, at the time that I would be developing independence and identity. Naturally they would turn out to be significant. But still, what a year.

    Sometime around 1981, when I was just a teenager, I visited my brother who was taking a summer course at Yale University. He was there with his best friend from high school, and they shared a dorm room with a third student in a green army jacket, combat boots, and torn jeans, who my brother half-sardonically explained was a punk rocker. "He wants to tear down society!"

    I clearly remember the vintage dorm: the carved sandstone(?) building with glazed iron windows, and worn and abused mahogany(?) trim. And I remember the dust in the afternoon light falling in on the stack of vinyl standing against the bookshelf, as I spent two days on my own while everyone was in class. And I pored over those records, and, in the course of two days, heard, for the first time, a series of albums that would change the course of my life. I distinctly remember sitting on the floor, intently focused on 'Talkingheads '77' (1977), and 'Remain in Light'(1980), and Eno's 'Taking Tiger Mountain,' and 'Here Come The Warm Jets' (both 1974). This is perhaps the one experience of my adolescence that I cherish more than any other.

    Something in the phrasing of Byrne's lyrics, as evident on '77 as anywhere else, caught my ear at that age, and has had a significant impact on how I have viewed art ever since. It struck me as weird-sounding, as if he'd taken a casual daily discussion and shifted everything over one frame: there was something missing in the context, and so his lyrics felt like pop music, but they were clearly not banal enough to pass as pop music. Or were they *trying* not to be banal? And if so, was that effort a wry commentary on what makes up art?

    A few years later, when I was a Junior in High School, a sociology teacher dismissed my interest in Talkingheads, saying that she had seen them at CBGBs, and that they were terrible. A fellow classmate joined in: "They can't sing! Simon and Garfunkel, they can sing. Not Talkingheads!" I was unable to articulate what piqued my interest in Byrne's songwriting, but it didn't have anything to do with Simon and Garfunkel's ability to harmonize.

    This comic also notes a time that I had returned to listening to Talkingheads (I was listening to '77 and realized that I was also sitting down to write comic #77) after over a decade of having cooled on them: Byrne's attitude around the "No Talking, Just Head" production had turned me off of him for years.



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