Morning Music: Talking Heads

Talking Heads 77When I was young, I loved Talking Heads. And I think I have a lot to say about them. The truth is that I haven’t listened to anything since Little Creatures. And in fact, I thought that Speaking in Tongues marked the end of the band as a truly creative force. There is a problem when people get good enough to do the kind of art they always wanted to. Talking Heads always wanted to be a funk band. On the first two albums, they totally failed at that. In the next two albums, they had created a bizarre kind of funk. That was all great! Then they actually became a funk band and they just weren’t very interesting.

But let’s start with the first album, Talking Heads 77. It is clearly the weakest of the four great albums. And I’m not sure if I would even say that it is a great album. Certainly any Ramones album from this period puts it to shame. Still, it is an excellent album — and extremely consistent. The classics from it are, of course, “Psycho Killer” and “Don’t Worry About the Government.” The latter song has always bothered me in that almost everyone seems to think it is meant as satire, when I’m pretty sure they are deadly earnest.

But I want to highlight the first song on the album, “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town.” It is probably the song that most screams funk. And I love that bass line, which is damned hard to play over and over again — especially when you have hands the size of Tina Weymouth’s. It also has some lovely minimalist synth work by Jerry Harrison. And top it off with what are very funny lyrics. The truth is that love is very disruptive. “Jet pilot gone out of control, ship captain run aground; stock broker make a bad investment when love has come to town!” Tell me about it!

Anniversary Post: Casca and Cassius Don’t Kill Mark Antony

Mark AntonyOn this day in 44 BCE, Casca and Cassius were making their final plans for the assassination of Julius Caesar, which would occur the following day. And you might ask, why didn’t I just wait until tomorrow to talk about the assassination? For one thing, I don’t care about the assassination. I’m much more interested in the plays about it than the actual event. That’s the thing about power: there always other powerful people who want to kill you. This is why I like my quiet little life.

But Casca and Cassius made a fateful decision on that day. They decided that Mark Antony should be kept alive. Okay people, here is the lesson of the day: do not keep people alive who will hunt you down and kill you. Certainly, that is what Mark Antony did. So it was really important that he was alive. Oh, I’m just kidding! It made no difference whatsoever. But it is interesting what they were thinking. Their idea was that the Roman Republic was on its way out and they were trying to save it. So they didn’t want to turn it into a blood bath. They just wanted to get rid of Julius Caesar.

But it just goes to show that history isn’t about people. The Roman Republic was on its way toward the Roman Empire, and there were a lot of reasons that had to do with that. Julius Caesar’s being dictator perpetuo was not the problem. The problem was that the Senate felt the need to make him dictator perpetuo. And if it hadn’t been Julius Caesar, it would have been someone else. I don’t blame Casca and Cassius for thinking this.

Actually, most people today believe the Great Men theory of history, even if they don’t know that the theory exists. And I’ll admit: personalities do play some role. The fact that Hitler was alive meant something different to Germany than if he hadn’t been alive. Just the same, something bad was going to happen in Germany in the 1930s. And today: Trump doesn’t bother me. The fact that we have a good chunk of the population that is just begging for an authoritarian like him is what bothers me. And don’t fool yourself: the same authoritarian tendency that drives Trump supporters also drives Cruz supporters, so the Republicans are an authoritarian party.

But within two decades of the assassination of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony would be dead, and so would the Roman Republic. On the other hand, we never would have had I, Claudius.