Portable Music

Yesterday was our anniversary (#24), and we elected to celebrate by getting takeout from our favorite Indian restaurant in Lexington. As I headed out to get it, I tuned the car stereo to 1st Wave on SiriusXM; much of the trip passed listening to Richard Blade’s Monday 6pm Eastern feature, The Magnificent Seven, in which he features seven New Wave songs that were charting in Britain on the current date in one year from the 80s. This week’s trip back in time was to 7/13/81, and Blade played tunes by (in order) Kraftwerk, Visage, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, the Tom Tom Club, and the Specials. The only one of these I really knew was “Wordy Rappinghood,” from the sixth of those bands–I was chiming in with, “What are words worth?” from the opening clicks of the typewriter. Hearing it again for the first time in a while got me thinking about the projects the various members of Talking Heads pursued in the two-plus year break between Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues. Which in turn reminded me of a cassette James toted around with him during our last year of college.

While Chris and Tina were doing their dance/funk/rap thing with the Tom Tom Club, Jerry released a solo album, The Red and the Black, and David scored Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel. In addition, a two-disk live album, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, came out (as well as the fascinating Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, though it had mostly been recorded prior to Remain in Light). By the spring of 1986, James and I had been snarfing up the Heads’ albums for about two years, but at the time none of those 1981/82 releases had yet wound up in our hands. That’s when James came across a sampler cassette: Portable Music (Eight Songs from the Latest Albums by David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club). One thing that was cool about it was that both sides of the tape included all eight cuts–no need to get up and flip it over after twenty minutes. I never picked up a copy for myself, but that doesn’t stop me today from checking out some of what it had to offer.

Last month’s Stereo Review in Review post noted that SR was not impressed by The Catherine Wheel, but there are several songs on it I enjoy (my Illinois office-mate Will ripped a cassette with The Catherine Wheel and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for me in 1987). One of those is “My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks).”

The cassette version (but not the LP) of Tom Tom Club had a cover of “Under the Boardwalk” that may go on just a little long.

From The Name of This Band… came this tight live version of Remain in Light‘s “Houses in Motion.”

The most fun discovery for us was “Slink,” off The Red and the Black. We may have been known to occasionally bust out, “Have you ever been in a traffic jam? Have you ever needed a gram? Well, I have. But I got over it. Uh-huh, I got over it.” Harrison’s almost maniacal laughter as he ‘sings’ these lines won me over more than it should have.

No Byrne/Eno made it onto Portable Music, alas. I’m thinking I may need to fish out that tape from Will, though, and give it another listen this afternoon.

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