Why Stop Making Sense? Why a movie? Why tour? Why do the musicians come out gradually? What will the band do next? Whe do the odd instruments come from? Are live concerts better or worse than records? Why no "special effects" in the movie? Why a big suit? Why was a digital system used for the sound?
Talking Heads' now-legendary live project Stop Making Sense asked a lot of questions of the listener when it was released in 1984. Here's another one: why reissue the album? That one's easy to answer: the film is coming back into theaters this summer in a new 4K transfer, and Rhino will be revisiting the classic soundtrack in a new double vinyl and digital package that includes two previously unreleased recordings.
Directed by Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense captures the post-punk icons at the peak of their commercial powers: 1983's Speaking in Tongues gave them a Top 20 album and an unlikely Top 10 hit in the herky-jerky "Burning Down the House." Over four nights at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, the group embarked on a striking career-spanning set on a minimally-designed stage. Band members join the set song by song - only from "Found a Job," the fourth song of the set, do frontman David Byrne, bassist Tina Weymouth, drummer Chris Frantz and guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison appear together; the line-up later expands to accommodate Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt on backing vocals, second guitarist Alex Weir, percussionist Steve Scales and Parliament-Funkadelic co-founder Bernie Worrell on keyboards. Classic singles mingle with deep cuts and selections from side work (Byrne's soundtrack to The Catherine Wheel, Weymouth and Frantz's classic "Genius of Love," released as Tom Tom Club). And in one of the most visually striking sequences in concert film history, Byrne gyrates onstage during "Girlfriend is Better" (which features the song lyric from which the film takes its title) in a Noh theatre-inspired oversized suit.
The new reissue of the Stop Making Sense film - now distributed by A24, who just enjoyed the critical and commercial success of Everything Everywhere All At Once, a seven-time winner at last weekend's Academy Awards - comes at an interesting time in Talking Heads post-history. Byrne recently expressed to 60 Minutes some regret as to how he handled the gradual dissolution of the group, while Harrison and former touring guitarist Adrian Belew, currently on tour together, recently snapped a photo with Weymouth and Frantz. A musical reunion past the group's 2002 performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is exceptionally unlikely, but revisiting Stop Making Sense is yet another step in Byrne's unlikely attempts at looking back at his work with the group - a trend that began with the celebrated Broadway show American Utopia, combining new tracks with favorites from the Talking Heads catalogue. (Byrne also somewhat shockingly retrieves and wears the "big suit" from a dry cleaner in a new trailer for the reissue.)
Rhino's new 2LP edition of Stop Making Sense, which will be available August 18, brings 19 songs from the various concert releases to the fold, including newly released versions of "Cities" and "Big Business/I Zimbra," which were edited into certain VHS/laserdisc releases of the film and included as DVD/Blu-ray extras. Harrison and mixer Eric "E.T." Thorngren have also completed a Dolby Atmos mix of the concert which will be available to stream the same day.
And you may ask yourself: what is the track list? Below - I guess that this must be the place.
- Psycho Killer
- Thank You for Sending Me An Angel
- Found a Job
- Slippery People
- Burning Down the House
- Life During Wartime
- Making Flippy Floppy
- What a Day That Was
- This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
- Once in a Lifetime
- Big Business/I Zimbra
- Genius of Love
- Girlfriend is Better
- Take Me to the River
- Crosseyed and Painless
All tracks recorded live at the Pantages Theater, Los Angeles, CA - 12/13-16/1983
LP 1, Tracks 1, 5, 7-8 and 10 and LP 2, Tracks 1, 3, 6 and 7 released on Sire CD 25186, 1984
LP 1. Track 2 released on "Stop Making Sense (Girlfriend is Better)" single - Sire 29080, 1984
LP 2, Track 2 released on "Slippery People" single - Sire 29163, 1984
LP 1, Tracks 3, 6 and 9 and LP 2, Tracks 2, 5 and 8 released on Sire CD 47489, 1999
LP 1, Track 4 and LP 2, Track 4 previously unreleased