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How Talking Heads' Remain In Light Album Changed Music Forever
In 1980, Talking Heads released their fourth studio album, Remain in Light, which was a radical departure from their previous work. The album was influenced by African music, especially the Afrobeat genre pioneered by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti. The band experimented with complex polyrhythms, looping grooves, and layered vocals, creating a dense and hypnotic sound that was unlike anything else at the time.
Talking Heads Remain In Light To
Remain in Light was also the last album that Talking Heads collaborated with producer Brian Eno, who had worked with them on their previous two albums, Fear of Music and More Songs About Buildings and Food. Eno helped the band to explore new sonic possibilities, using studio techniques such as overdubbing, sampling, and mixing. He also contributed to the songwriting process, co-writing all eight tracks with the band members.
The Making of Remain in Light
The recording of Remain in Light took place in two locations: Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. The band chose these studios because they wanted to work with different musicians and engineers, and also because they wanted to escape the cold winter of New York City.
The band started by recording instrumental tracks as a series of looping grooves, without any clear structure or melody. They used various instruments, such as guitars, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, and synthesizers, as well as unconventional sounds, such as sirens, radio broadcasts, and animal noises. They also invited several guest musicians to join them, including guitarist Adrian Belew, singer Nona Hendryx, and trumpet player Jon Hassell.
The vocals were added later, after the band returned to New York. Singer David Byrne had difficulty coming up with lyrics for the songs, as he felt that they were too abstract and rhythmic. He decided to adopt a stream-of-consciousness style of writing, inspired by early rap music and academic literature on Africa. He also used a technique called cut-up, which involved cutting up words and phrases from different sources and rearranging them randomly. This resulted in lyrics that were often nonsensical, surreal, or contradictory.
The Themes of Remain in Light
Remain in Light is an album that explores various themes related to identity, culture, politics, and spirituality. The title of the album comes from a phrase that Byrne heard from a preacher on the radio: "You can't run away from yourself. You can't run away from your problems. You have to remain in light."
The first song on the album, "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)", is a commentary on the oppression and violence that many people face in the world. The song uses metaphors such as "the hand speaks", "the government man", and "the big chief" to refer to different forms of authority and power. The chorus repeats the phrase "I'm not down", which suggests a sense of resistance and defiance.
The second song on the album, "Crosseyed and Painless", is a reflection on the confusion and anxiety that comes with living in a modern society. The song uses phrases such as "facts are simple and facts are straight", "facts are lazy and facts are late", and "facts don't do what I want them to" to express the difficulty of finding truth and meaning in a world full of information and misinformation. The chorus repeats the phrase "still waiting", which suggests a sense of frustration and impatience.
The third song on the album, "The Great Curve", is a celebration of the feminine principle and its creative power. The song uses imagery such as "the world moves on a woman's hips", "the world moves when she swivels and bops", and "she's moving like water" to describe the beauty and grace of women. The chorus repeats the phrase "the world moves on a woman's hips", which suggests a sense of awe and admiration.
The fourth song on the album, "Once in a Lifetime", is one of the most famous songs by Talking Heads. It is a song that questions the meaning of life and one's place in it. The song uses rhetorical questions such as "How did I get here?", "Where does that highway go?", and "What is that beautiful house?" to express the doubt and uncertainty that many people feel about their choices and circumstances. The chorus repeats the phrase "same as it ever was", which suggests a sense of resignation and acceptance.
The Reception of Remain in Light
Remain in Light was released on October 8, 1980 by Sire Records. It received critical acclaim from music critics, who praised its sonic experimentation, rhythmic innovations, and cohesive merging of disparate genres. The album peaked at number 19 on the US Billboard 200 and number 21 on the UK Albums Chart, and spawned the singles "Once in a Lifetime" and "Houses in Motion". It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1985.
Remain in Light has been featured in several publications' lists of the best albums of the 1980s and of all time, and is often considered Talking Heads' magnum opus. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked it at number 126 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2006, Pitchfork ranked it at number five on its list of the best albums of the 1980s. In 2012, Slant Magazine ranked it at number one on its list of the best albums of the 1980s. In 2017, the Library of Congress deemed the album "culturally, historically, or artistically significant", and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.
The Legacy of Remain in Light
Remain in Light has influenced many artists across different genres and generations. The album's use of African rhythms and samples inspired other musicians to explore world music and incorporate it into their own styles. The album's innovative production techniques and layered textures influenced the development of electronic music and hip hop. The album's lyrical themes and vocal delivery influenced alternative rock and indie rock bands.
Some of the artists who have cited Remain in Light as an influence or covered its songs include U2, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, Vampire Weekend, Phish, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Talking Heads themselves (who reworked some of the songs for their live album Stop Making Sense), and many others.
The Tour of Remain in Light
After the release of Remain in Light, Talking Heads embarked on a tour to promote the album. The band expanded their lineup to include nine additional musicians, such as Belew, Hendryx, Hassell, and members of Parliament-Funkadelic. The tour was a huge success, drawing large crowds and rave reviews. The band performed songs from Remain in Light as well as their previous albums, often extending them into long and improvisational jams.
The tour was documented in the concert film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme. The film captured the band's dynamic and energetic performances, as well as their innovative stage design and lighting. The film was released in 1984 and became one of the most acclaimed and influential concert films of all time. It also spawned a live album of the same name, which featured new versions of some of the songs from Remain in Light.
The Reunion of Remain in Light
In 2020, Harrison and Belew announced that they would reunite to perform Remain in Light live for its 40th anniversary. They were joined by a nine-piece band featuring former members of Turkuaz. The reunion was originally planned for 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour finally kicked off in 2021, with a debut performance at the Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa., followed by a show at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.
The tour continued in 2022 and 2023, with more dates added across North America. The tour received positive feedback from fans and critics, who praised the band's faithful and vibrant rendition of Remain in Light. The tour also featured opening acts such as Les Claypool's Fearless Flying Frog Brigade and Cool Cool Cool. The tour was a celebration of Talking Heads' legacy and influence, as well as a tribute to their groundbreaking album. d282676c82