Talking Heads’ drummer releases memoir

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Though Chris Frantz’s memoir is even-handed, he isn’t sure how it will be received in some circles. Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Chris Frantz goes deep behind the scenes of his bands Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club in his new memoir, Remain in Love, which came out July 21. But one thing the drummer for two of the most influential bands to come out of New York’s celebrated punk and New Wave scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s doesn’t write much about in the book is his own drumming.

It’s an especially odd omission considering Frantz’s idiosyncratic style of interjecting loudly and often into Tom Tom Club songs, as immortalized in the greatest concert film of all time, 1984’s Stop Making Sense. Frantz’s excited growling of “James Brown! James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!” is part of what made “Genius of Love” such a rock and hip-hop touchstone, but his added live vocalizations in the film—“The girls can do it too, y’all!” “Psychedelic and Funkadelic!” “Feels good to me!” and of course, “Check it out!”—take it to a whole other level.

Talking to him about it now though, it’s clear he didn’t write a lot about his wild, live style because … well, he doesn’t know exactly what to think about it himself.

“Man, I don’t know,” he says, when asked what inspired it. “All I know is I wish I could have been a little more relaxed. I guess it comes from the hype men that bands would have come out, like Bobby Byrd for James Brown. It sprung up with Tom Tom Club—the mistake was putting a microphone in front of me. If I didn’t have a microphone, at least nobody could hear it.”

For those who only remember the stories about acrimony among the members of Talking Heads after the band broke up, the scenes of sweetness, camaraderie and creative bursts during the band’s time together are exciting and, in a certain way, almost reassuring. 

Even though he is even-handed in his memoir, Frantz isn’t sure how it will be received in some circles.

“I thought about this book for eight years before I actually sat down to write it,” he says. “At first I was afraid that, ‘Well, it might clear any chance of a Talking Heads reunion, I don’t want to do that.’ Because I know there are people who love David Byrne so much they want to be David Byrne; I’ve met a lot of them along the way. So I’m prepared for some people to react badly to anecdotes I told about David in the book. But the fact is that they’re all true—and the fact also is that I didn’t tell all of the anecdotes.”

However, considering the band’s buttoned-up reputation (especially in the early years), the anecdotes about partying and drugs and even Byrne shitting on a hotel bed might actually enhance their rock ’n’ roll reputation.

“We might have had a touch of nerd in us,” says Frantz, “but we weren’t completely nerdy.”

Chris Frantz will do a virtual book event for ‘Remain in Love’ on July 28 at 6pm, in conversation with Jeff Garlin. Go to booksoup.com/event to reserve a spot.

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