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The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

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The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:53 am

Not too long ago, I heard an interview with Steve Albini in which he mentioned having seen or heard some producer boasting about sneaking in a session bassist to play over Tina Weymouth's bass parts.

What I'd like to ask is: which album was it?

This has been preying on my mind for some time now. I heard that Eno and Byrne secretly chopped in a ton of extra bass tracks on Remain in Light, but I never heard about Tina's playing getting the axe entirely on any TH recording.

In any case, it was a bummer to hear about this, since her bass playing is one of my favorite things about that band.

Please don't tell me it was Talking Heads '77. I might just bust out crying.
Last edited by Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:20 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby steve on Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:56 am

Talking Heads 77.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:06 am

Shit. What a fucking tragedy.
But thanks for responding so quickly.

I'll go off to my corner and cry now.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby tommydski on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:10 am

It was Tony Bongiovi. PRF alumni Greg Milner wrote a book about the history of recording called Perfecting Sound Forever and there's some discussion about it in there. It's a really good book besides anything else.

I seem to remember reading in a Talking Heads book that Bongiovi claimed a lot of stuff like this but the band themselves were highly skeptical because the basslines on the record sounded essentially like the ones Weymouth had recorded. Certainly the band were recording things deliberately after Bongiovi had left the studio with engineer Lance Quinn because they disliked the producer's approach so much. Personally I think it was Weymouth and Bongiovi was shooting his mouth off. He also put horns and backing singers on 'Uh-Oh Love Comes to Town' and strings on 'Psycho Killer' among other things but Byrne had it all removed.

gmilner wrote:While we're on the subject, however, I gotta say I much prefer the solo-beatbox version of "Psycho Killer" to the one on Talking Heads '77. And now that we're on that subject, when I interviewed Tony Bongiovi, who produced that debut, he said he replaced some of Tina Weymouth's bass parts without telling anyone in the band. He recruited Bob Babbitt, a Motown session bassist, and instructed him to try not to make his playing sound too "professional," so that it would sound more like Weymouth's playing. Bongiovi didn't say which songs received the Babbitt treatment, but check out "Smiling Faces Sometimes" by the Undisputed Truth, and tell me that Babbitt's bass doesn't sound a lot like the opening of "Psycho Killer."
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:17 am

Thanks, Tommy, that's comforting at least.
What especially pisses me off is what would make a producer want to replace Tina's playing in the first place.

Was it her frequent admission to not being a "real" musician, self-taught at everything she did? Or was there some simple sexism involved? Or was her playing simply not up to snuff?

I personally doubt the latter, since I've heard live TH recordings from as early as 1975 on which her playing sounded ace.

I'll have to go check out that Perfecting Sound Forever book your were talking about. Thans for the tip.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby tommydski on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:23 am

I think it was just that Bongiovi was an idiot. The following record is indisputably Weymouth and the bass sounds better. He also suggested that Lance Quinn should record all of David's guitar parts for convenience. Probably somewhere he claims that he did.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:34 am

"...just that Bongiovi was an idiot". Well, that's a nice way of looking at it. Imagine it: a decision which the guy made over 30 years ago is earning him a new (bad) reputation in a new century. And he's managed to exemplify virtually all of the disreputable traits of the "traditional" producer in a single dastardly deed.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby SecondEdition on Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:09 am

David and Brian played a lot of bass tracks during the recording of Remain In Light, but the engineer corralled Tina to rerecord their bass parts, because the engineer kept complaining that they were "missing beats."

I always thought that was hilarious.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby cesb on Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:29 am

I think Byrne had kicked Weymouth out of the band for not being up to snuff, prior to recording TH '77? She had to audition again to get back in the band, right? Wouldn't surprise me if Byrne himself had the problem w/her playing on that session. Also, even as late as Remain in Light, Eno and Byrne were using Busta Jones instead of her, relegating her to keys or rhythm guitar.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Big John on Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:53 am

Bust Cherry was a awsome bass player. Byrne had pretty much replaced himself on guitar as well.

Tina played a Moog Satilight during a lot of remain in light shows doubleing some of Busta Cherry's bass notes an octive down with a wha synth sound. Bernie Worell did this a lot on Funkadelic songs.

Tina used a pick on the Mustang bass on the first two albums. In the CBS Demos (essentially the first album demo that CBS recorded and did not sign the band) the bass lines on the first album are the same as on the record. I would doubt that anything was replaced but I would listen for a long scale bass sound with finger style tone (babitt played with his fingers on a long scale). There are a couple of different bass sounds on the first album. Tina's style was different but after you heard it impossible to remove from the integrity of the rythum and song structure.

Also the single version of psyco killer sounds slightly different mix wise than the album version. The bass sounds on the second record like "Take me to the river" are much deeper and more satisfying than on the first album.

Remain in light was recorded by a mobile truck at the Franz's loft in Long Island City where there were initial jams. Those jams were editied into the cuts in the studio so no doubt there would have been a lot of overdubbing and sculpting to get to the final tracks.

I saw the band play the songs during the recording of the record in central park. Since no one had heard the album and was just expecting the four piece the audence was in shock. The live versions at time were different than the completed tracks would end up and how they would play the songs a after the album was out.

Part of the reason I think Byrne gave her such a hard time was that the power structure of the band is skewed if there is a couple in it.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby tommydski on Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:37 am

cesb wrote:I think Byrne had kicked Weymouth out of the band for not being up to snuff, prior to recording TH '77? She had to audition again to get back in the band, right?

She is the only one who remembers this though if it happened, which the rest of the band including her husband, deny.

Tina Weymouth was a great bass player but honestly, she also comes across in interviews as a little bit crazy. Since Talking Heads' dissolution she has made a lot of claims regarding David Byrne and I suspect at least some of them (especially this one) were fabricated to make her seem more victimised.

cesb wrote:Also, even as late as Remain in Light, Eno and Byrne were using Busta Jones instead of her, relegating her to keys or rhythm guitar.

This isn't true. Jones never played on any of the Talking Heads studio albums. He was in the Extended Heads and can be heard on some of The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads but he never worked with them in the studio. He was just a touring musician from 1979-81. He also played on a couple of Eno records and on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with Byrne/Eno.

The fact that Byrne and Eno played some of the bass guitar on Remain in Light was mainly because they were in the studio the most and it was just more convenient. It wasn't to do with a lack of faith in Weymouth's ability as a musician. She was the only bassist on the two preceding records and I would argue that Bongiovi's claim was after the fact horseshit so it was more likely the preceding three.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Ryan Electrocution on Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:44 am

tommydski wrote:It was Tony Bongiovi. PRF alumni Greg Milner wrote a book about the history of recording called Perfecting Sound Forever and there's some discussion about it in there. It's a really good book besides anything else.

I seem to remember reading in a Talking Heads book that Bongiovi claimed a lot of stuff like this but the band themselves were highly skeptical because the basslines on the record sounded essentially like the ones Weymouth had recorded. Certainly the band were recording things deliberately after Bongiovi had left the studio with engineer Lance Quinn because they disliked the producer's approach so much. Personally I think it was Weymouth and Bongiovi was shooting his mouth off. He also put horns and backing singers on 'Uh-Oh Love Comes to Town' and strings on 'Psycho Killer' among other things but Byrne had it all removed.


Isn't Bongiovi the uncle of Jon Bon Jovi (Bongiovi)?

So did Bongiovi put that stuff on there after the band left the studio? I remember something in White Line Fever where Lemmy said, I think for 1916 that "Ed Stasium had put all these claves and shit on this track, it wasn't there when we left, he must have recorded it after we left". They weren't impressed and fired him soon after that.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby tommydski on Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:49 am

Tony Bongiovi is the second cousin of John Bon Jovi. He produced the first record Bon Jovi record but they later fell out over a royalties dispute.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby johnnyshape on Mon Oct 12, 2009 10:54 am

tommydski wrote:Tony Bongiovi is the second cousin of John Bon Jovi. He produced the first record Bon Jovi record but they later fell out over a jacket tassles dispute.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Robert G on Mon Oct 12, 2009 12:46 pm

While we're talking Talking Heads, how come this is the only decent Talking Heads biography? and why does it make everyone (and I do mean everyone) sound like a huge asshat? I'm pretty certain that it's because of this book a lot of confusion is out there about what really happened with the Remain In Light sessions, among many other things.

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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Damian on Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:05 pm

I found it a reasonable read, but it definitely skimmed over the more interesting periods of Head-dom.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Mazec on Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:19 pm

Which periods do you mean? The early days '75-'77? Or their overall existence as a four-piece before all the back-up singers, extra guitarists up the butt, cowbell guy, etc.?

At any rate, thanks for the book tip, Robert G. I never even knew that one was out there. Looks like I got two new reads to check out.

Also, interesting point, Tommy: Tina has often made such a point of vilifying Byrne in interviews that it really makes me wonder. Sure, I can totally picture Byrne as being a control freak and an all-round flakey guy to deal with. But if he were really such an out-and-out asshole as she makes him sound like, it's a wonder the Heads even managed to stay together until 1990. Especially when one considers that the Tom Tom club were actually selling pretty well back in the eighties.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby tommydski on Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:40 pm

This book called Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa is the best one I have read. Very in-depth interviews with the whole cast of characters. Weymouth sounds nuts throughout the whole book. Byrne comes across as much more reasonable.

Edit - Turns out it's the same book.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Big John on Mon Oct 12, 2009 1:46 pm

Harrison always sounds very reasonable and down to earth. In the book "This is the Place" he comes off as being pretty reasonable (not a asshat) but a bit of a bystander in the bands problems which seemed to be between the Franz's and Byrne and the fact that Byrne could do his own solo thing without the hassles of the band.

Harrison is very underated and seemes to have been the secret sauce in the Modern Lovers and the Talking Heads. Doing arrangeing and solid controbutions in both groups.
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Re: The Talking Heads bass blasphemy

Postby Ed Stasium on Wed Oct 14, 2009 8:10 pm

A pal of mine informed me of this discussion....

This will be brief...I want to set the record straight about Tina playing on TH77. At the sessions Bongiovi would show up once in a while and when he did he would proceed to the lounge and read airplane magazines. Lance was there most of the time, I was the only person involved in the recording of the project who was there for every minute of the process. Tina played bass on the ENTIRE LP, Bob Babbitt did come in and overdub on one or maybe two songs but at the mixing stage I did not put Babbitt's bass up in the mix and the "producers" knew none the better! I seem to recall that I may have "Ghosted" Bob on the chorus (for effect) of "Love Has Come To Town" under Tina's bass for alas, I was WAY on the band's side.

David could not stand Bongiovi and did not want him present whilst he recorded vocals, David informed me of this and I was the one who broke the news to Bongiovi (who did not care). Jerry has since remixed all of the Band's LPs for 5.1 etc. and he would be the one to know (from the track sheets) which of the tracks Bob played on. But geez, it's been 32 years....c'mon!

Oh... and as for the Bongiovi quotes in Greg Milner's "History" My lovely wife Amy found the book and the first thing she did was read me several paragraphs and I choked on the tremendous amount of BULLSHIT squatted out by Bongiovi! Mr. Milner should get a truthful source for the addendum that should be added to that chapter. I manned any razor blade that was wielded on "Psycho Killer" (at the band's request), and there are no fucking TYMPANI on "Sheena".

The only person who did not know what was going on during those sessions was Bongiovi himself.......I suppose I could go on but I must prepare dinner!

Drinks for my friends!.....cheers.....ed
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