Remain in Light
Sire Records Company
This girl I worked with – Laura was her name – picked me up in her Jeep CJ5 rag-top to go to a party just to celebrate Saturday night. This was in 1983, during a hot July weekend. Laura was a pothead and had a lit bong between her legs as we drove to the house of festivities.
I buckled myself up in the Jeep as I cradled a stack of vinyl in my arms. This was what you did back then when you went to parties – you brought LPs to share. And I’ll admit that I took a couple long drags off of Laura’ bong, which is also something you did back then when you went to parties.
Its a risky proposition (then as now), sharing music that you personally love with people who may not give a shit. In a party situation, its even more risky. One of the albums in the stack I brought to that party was Talking Heads Remain in Light.
Back in ’83, Talking Heads was on the verge of a mass breakthrough but the band was still relatively unknown by the mainstream. However, there was a cult of Heads followers, which included so-called college student ‘intellectuals’ who gravitated toward the band’s quirky lyrics and manic live performances. David Byrne’s odd looks and sense of humor helped seal the deal for kids looking for something adventurous – but nothing too frightening. As part of the Heads breakthrough, Speaking in Tongues, released in 1983, was kind of new-wavy but was ultimately a mainstream journey just different enough for those wanting a little more risk than, say, Bryan Adams.
Remain in Light (1980), on the other hand, was not mainstream thanks to punky/psychedelic production by Brian Eno punctuated by Adrian Belew’s trippy, dissonant and altered state-inducing guitar work. Byrne’s lyrics were almost impenetrable and provided expansive abstraction. Ironically, the record spawned a semi-hit – Once in a Lifetime – that helped put the Heads on the map. Over the years, Once in a Lifetime has become a staple on classic rock radio, which points to the evolution of taste. In 1980, the stations playing that song were more of the ‘underground’ nature. The rest of the songs on Remain in Light never saw the light of day on radio. They couldn’t. Either they were too long or too bizarre (Seen and Not Seen anyone?).
Stumbling into the party already stoned and wrecked was the perfect recipe for spinning Remain in Light, which I promptly put on the host’s turntable. There were other people at the party already stoned and wrecked and I couldn’t wait for the oozing Belew guitar solo that worms its way into Houses in Motion, just to watch other listeners react to the lysergic sonic soundscape.
When the solo hit, in my state, I felt it stretch forever, but I was digging it: every peak and valley sluicing through my synapse, a cosmological experience of innerspace, color and dissipating time. I was experiencing visionary geometrical imagery (that was some weed Laura had!) during Belew’s warpage – a psychedelic break that, apparently, others didn’t appreciate.
Laura, who was twice as ripped as I, looked at me and said (buried under Heads cacophony), “Your taste in music is fucked up.”
© 2017 Chris Barry