Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Musician Who Fell to Earth

Hey, guess what? There's a new Talking Heads box set out, and I've been listening to it on the drive to and from work. 77, More Songs about Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, etc. etc.

David Byrne was born in Scotland. He's mentioned this often. He also mentioned in the Once in a Lifetime that he can no longer write the lyrics he wrote back in the day. What strikes me as most obvious about Byrne's lyrics is the sense of a mostly benevolent alien who's amused and amazed with both the human condition and the banalities of American life.

There's a party in my mind..
And I hope it never stops
I'm stuck here in this seat...
I might not stand up
Other people can go home...
Everyone else will split
I'll be here all the time...
I can never quit
Everything is very quiet
Everyone has gone to sleep
I'm wide awake on memories
There memories can't wait.

And of course, what I connect to is this sense of distance and alienation mixed with a sense of amusement. As a would be artist, this sense of detachment is something I feel all too well. And like Byrne, I've often felt the outsider. I grew up in a mostly black neighborhood, and went to school in the richest public grade school in Portland. This was my status in middle school as well. I had no real connection to either the people I went to school with or the people in my neighborhood. One group I didn't have the ducats to compete with, and the other I wasn't around enough to be accepted into the whole. As such, I received the occasional beatdown in my neighborhood, and felt out of place with my schoolmates. What are you going to do.

I have always felt a kinship with the Talking Heads music. As I've gotten older, I've grown more integrated into a social world, but I've never outgrown my affection for their music, and listening to them now, it's interesting to note Byrne's progression into acceptance. The further his career went on, the more he was taken into the American way of life, and the more his music became less interesting. Though up to and including Naked there are interesting elements, and I still have a place in my heart for "Uh Oh" there is the sense that Byrne got too old and familiar to feel alienated. Alas. But the joy and discovering of writing lyrics like "I'm painting, I'm painting again" still hold true and meaningful in their particular gibberish.