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Talking Heads drummer sheds light, and "Love," in new memoir

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Chris Frantz became a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with Talking Heads.

But he lets his fingers do the talking in his new memoir "Remain In Love."

"Very few books have been written about Talking Heads — and the ones that were written were pretty unsatisfactory to me," the drummer says by phone from the Connecticut home he shares with his wife, Tina Weymouth — also his bandmate in Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club. "I don't think they really presented a very accurate image.

"It always turns into, like, the David Byrne show."

Byrne, of course, was the Heads' frontman and visual focus, as well as a successful solo artist, most recently on Broadway with his acclaimed "American Utopia" concert until it was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. But with "Remain in Love," which publishes Tuesday, Sept. 21, Frantz portrays the band — also including keyboardist-guitarist Jerry Harrison — as a more equal endeavor that he co-founded with Byrne and Weymouth, all alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design, during 1976 in New York.

The book traces the group's rise through the late ’70s punk and New Wave scenes, establishing its own arty style that encompassed diverse influences from World Music and avant garde works, building a catalog of eight eclectic studio albums before a somewhat abrupt end in 1991, reuniting only for its 2002 Rock Hall induction.

"I mean no disrespect to David Byrne," Frantz, 69, insists. "I'm not jealous of him or anything like that. But it was always a more shared experience for Talking Heads. It was a very collaborative effort, always. Yes, David was the frontman, and we chose him to be the frontman, but there was a whole lot that went into the band and a whole lot of effort that went behind the band on the part of other people who rarely get mentioned or credited.

"So for that reason I thought, 'Oh, I can do this (book),' and tell a story that's more complete."

"Remain in Love" is more than just the Talking Heads' story, however. The 384-page book traces Frantz's childhood and upbringing in Kentucky, Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as the musical adventures of Tom Tom Club and his work producing, with Weymouth, albums for Ziggy Marley and Happy Mondays.

"I also wanted to express my great love for Tina and my belief that she was a very, very significant part of the band and a very important person for music in general," says Frantz, who married Weymouth in 1977; they have two grown sons. "I wanted it to be very personal. I consider myself a very fortunate guy to be able to have done the things I have and experience the things I did — going around the world, playing the shows, making movies. It was all very exciting to me, and I wanted to convey that."

Rather than new perspectives, Frantz says writing the book gave him "a deeper understanding" of that life — and particularly "what it was like to be Tina Weymouth and David Byrne." Weymouth, he notes, "made a lot of sacrifices along the way, on the personal front," including her playing being the subject of skepticism, sometimes even from within Talking Heads.

"Her playing wasn't steeped in the rock ’n’ roll tradition of the blues and Chuck Berry and whatnot," Frantz explains. "It often had a more classical approach, which was pretty unique, and I'm glad she seems to be getting recognized more for that now."

As for Byrne, who legally prevented the other three members from using the band name after its breakup, Frantz acknowledges that "there was a great deal of pressure on David, and maybe it didn't have such a great effect on him. It wasn't easy for him to accept being the 'rock star.' I'm not sure that he ever really wanted that, so I'm sympathetic. I know he wanted to be a star, but I don't know if it's a rock star that he wanted to be."

Frantz and Weymouth have kept Tom Tom Club alive, and the group plans to release a new album, "Live at the Clubhouse," on vinyl for this year's Record Store Day. They're also considering doing another studio album as an "electronic duo, just Tina and me with some drum machines and synthesizers." Meanwhile, Frantz is encouraging Weymouth to write a book of her own, and he has an idea for another book, one focusing on travels with the couple's two beagles.

"One of them has been to France 12 times, so it might be fun. I could describe the people we meet and the great cafés we can go to when we're in Europe, traveling with the dogs," Frantz says. "You know, I'm of a certain age, and the touring business is not so great right now — in fact, it couldn't be worse. So I'm thinking that this might be a good way to keep myself busy."

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