Chris Frantz: Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina

Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina is the memoir of drummer Chris Frantz and a 400-page valentine to his wife and bandmate, Tina Weymouth, the bassist and one of the founding members of both bands. As a founding member of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club himself, Chris’ insights and retellings of key moments and events will undoubtedly be of interest to aficionados of the two groups. Additionally, fans of seventies and eighties punk, reggae, rock, and soul will find a lot to love due to Frantz and Weymouth’s careers as performers, producers, and collaborators being heavily involved in all of these genres and their key players of the time.

The memoir is essentially broken into two halves. The first two hundred pages of the book covers the first twenty-six years of Chris’ life, beginning with his idyllic childhood growing up in Kentucky as the son of a West Point-graduated military officer father and a Southern belle mom. Frantz meets David Byrne and future wife Tina Weymouth at the Rhode Island School of Design and, after a brief period of calling themselves The Artistics, the three agree to the name Talking Heads. After relocating to New York City and adding Jerry Harrison, the band finds quick success at the legendary Bowery club CBGB’s. By 1976 they’ve signed their first record deal, and by 1977 they’re touring Europe with The Ramones. All of this takes place before their debut studio album has even been released.

Frantz must have kept an explicit day-to-day diary of his travels on tour throughout Europe in 1977 because the details provided are stunningly specific. Whether it’s an anecdote about Dee Dee Ramone getting caught by the band’s tour manager while trying to smuggle pills in a hollow cane, or Johnny Ramone throwing a fit over a salad not made with iceberg lettuce, Frantz’ many stories regarding traveling from country to country by bus with the four original Ramones are sometimes scary, often hilarious, and make up some of the most memorable moments in the book.

The second half of Remain in Love begins with Frantz’ marriage to Weymouth. Mini tours throughout the US are well-detailed, with Chris supplying setlists and copious info involving the band’s opening acts. Early supporters and friends of Talking Heads may be surprising. Lou Reed is kind to the group while Patti Smith is dismissive. While on tour with XTC, Andy Partridge is portrayed as good-humored and cheeky while the band’s time working with Eno on three of the group’s most beloved studio albums is sometimes strained, with Brian making increasing monetary demands that eventually lead to the band and the producer parting ways.

Those looking for dirt on David Byrne will find plenty. The frontman is portrayed as consistently odd and lacking in basic social graces. Byrne is depicted as meddlesome, often seemingly working behind the scenes to disparage and discredit Frantz and Weymouth’s contributions to the band. The group’s 1991 breakup, which was brought about by Byrne’s sudden announcement in the Los Angeles Times (to the surprise of the other band members) is included, but Frantz neglects to mention anything about No Talking, Just Head, the album released by the other three members of the band in 1996 and Byrne’s subsequent lawsuit regarding the use of the band’s name.

Some of the most surprisingly compelling stories in Frantz’ memoir arrive late in the book and take place between Talking Heads albums while Tina and Chris are working on Tom Tom Club records. Most of these tales occur during Chris and Tina’s time at Compass Point, the recording studio in the Bahamas founded by Island Records’ owner Chris Blackwell. It is at Compass Point when Weymouth and Frantz work with Sly and Robbie, Ziggy Marley, and Adrian Belew among others. There are some delightful and often shocking tales regarding Chris and Tina’s encounters with some Compass Point visitors, including: Grace Jones, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Big Audio Dynamite, and James Brown.

Those looking for debauched tales of drug-fueled weeks and trips in and out of rehab may want to look elsewhere. While Chris doesn’t shy away from his penchant for recreational drug use, and while he readily admits to a brief time when his dependence on cocaine was getting out of hand, Remain in Love makes no reference to illicit drugs ever derailing Frantz’ work creatively. Those looking for a compelling biography of a talented, easygoing, consistently grateful Kentuckian who helped create one of the most beloved American new wave bands of the eighties need look no further. Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina is an entertaining and informative document of a rock and roll couple whose love for one another and their creative endeavors helped them make their mark in music history.

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