If you know me, which you probably do because you wouldn’t be here if my Dad didn’t tell you to read this (thanks, Dad), then you know I’m an ardent fan of the Talking Heads. If you know anything about the Talking Heads, then you know their front-man, David Byrne, went on to have a successful solo career. In fact, he’s still doing the damn thing. David’s music has inspired my writing, as well as the way I live my life – I’ve even come close to seriously injuring myself while dancing to ‘This Must be the Place’ in the shower. In other words, he’s had an impact on me.
Anyways, while the Talking Heads were experiencing the peak of their success, David, as well as other members of the band, were busy experimenting with various side projects. Most people are aware of his collaboration with Brian Eno on the seminal ‘My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,’ which was released in 1981, but few talk about his other collaboration that happened the same year.
Under commission of American dancer/coreographer Twyla Tharp, David Byrne crafted just over an hour worth of progressive, experimental, and all around funky music for her dance project’s score. The project was titled ‘The Catherine Wheel,’ which premiered in New York city in the fall of 81′. Enlisting an all-star lineup of musicians, from Adrien Belew on guitar to Eno on piano, Byrne was able to explore his signature sound without the burden of making it ‘pop’ friendly.
There’s something conflicting about ‘The Catherine Wheel.’ On one hand, it sounds like the music of an anxious, coke-fueled artist frustrated by his own genius. On the the other, it sounds like the calming, transcendental flow of an ancient river. This is, in my opinion, the result of Byrne and Eno reaching a level of mastery only a few artists can claim to have accomplished.
A lot of people write-off 80s music. I plead, just dig a little deeper. Yes, there are synthesizers on this album, but it doesn’t suffer from the novelty many other 80s acts have suffered at the cost of not aging well – think, Phil Collins. Okay, that’s all I have to say. Listen to it.
Here’s a link to the dance project in its entirety.
Here’s a link to my favorite song on the album.