In response to the coronavirus pandemic, some people have been posting relevant songs on social media. One song that resonates for me is Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.”
“People have been contacting me lately about how this song is, to them, more relevant than ever,” says Talking Heads drummer and co-founder Chris Frantz, who co-wrote the song with his bandmates. “I’m sorry about the circumstances that led them to say this, but it’s good to know that a song we composed over 40 years ago still has meaning to our listeners.”
Over the past 11 days, NJArts.net has been putting together a series, titled Songs to See Us Through, to spotlight songs like these, and encourage readers to support the artists who made them. Frantz suggested that we include the Talking Heads performance of “Life During Wartime” from the classic Jonathan Demme-directed 1984 concert film “Stop Making Sense” (see video below), and reflected on it in the comment above.
Shot over four nights at the Hollywood Pantages Theater in 1983, the film captures the band while touring to support their Speaking in Tongues album. In the “Life During Wartime” clip, the audience screams and tension builds until you hear Frantz signal the start of the song by striking his drum four times. Frontman David Byrne, dressed coolly in shades of white, dances along with the magnificent bassist Tina Weymouth and others in a rhythmic frenzy.
This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco
This ain’t no fooling around
No time for dancing, or lovey dovey
I ain’t got time for that now
This is followed, later, by:
I got some groceries, some peanut butter
To last a couple of days
But I ain’t got no speakers
Ain’t got no headphones
Ain’t got no records to play
While many of us hoard peanut butter and toilet paper, we are not having much collective fun. Movie theaters are closed, concerts postponed and kissing a hot date would be out of the question. Byrne’s isolation and frustration seem very familiar these days.
Barring continued store closings due to the pandemic, Frantz will sign copies of his romantic and compelling memoir, “Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina,” and read from it, May 14 at 7 p.m. at Little City Books in Hoboken (with James Mastro of The Bongos and Ian Hunter’s Rant Band interviewing him) and May 15 at 7 p.m. at Bookends in Ridgewood. Visit littlecitybooks.com or book-ends.com.
In the book, Frantz — also known for his work in the band Tom Tom Club — explores his childhood, his days as a student at Rhode Island School of Design, the early stages of punk in New York, his present life in Connecticut and his relationship with Weymouth, with whom he remains deeply in love. They have been married since 1977 and founded Tom Tom Club together in the early ’80s.
NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series is designed to spotlight songs relevant to the coronavirus crisis and encourage readers to support the artists who made them (and won’t be able to generate income via concerts at this time). Click here for links to all songs in the series.
We encourage artists to email us submissions (newly recorded, if possible) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include links to sites such as Patreon and Venmo. Readers can also make suggestions via that email address.
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence, though, depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of $10, or any other amount, to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJ Arts Daily to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.