“We didn’t want any gimmicks. No split screens. No interviews. That would be too Spinal Tap”: Talking Heads on the making of Stop Making Sense

Talking Heads, 2023
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Talking Heads have been talking about the upcoming remastered version of their Stop Making Sense concert film and their music with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.

In an 11-minute interview they also touched on recording every album in a different location and how they met Jonathan Demme, the director of Stop Making Sense. Fallon also showed footage of David Byrne practising his quirky dance moves in preparation for the gig which was recorded over four nights at Los Angeles Pantages Theatre in December 1983.

It’s widely regarded as the greatest ever concert film and as Tina Weymouth explained to Fallon it started from a list of what the band didn't want: “We didn’t want any gimmicks. We wanted to cameras to show what an audience member would see. No split screens. No interviews. That would be too Spinal Tap.”

Talking Heads on Creating Stop Making Sense and Recording Every Album in a New Location (Extended) - YouTube Talking Heads on Creating Stop Making Sense and Recording Every Album in a New Location (Extended) - YouTube
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There was also a plug for the tribute album, Everyone’s Getting Involved, in which a range of artists including Lorde, Miley Cyrus, the National and Paramore cover the songs that were originally featured in the film.

One thing Fallon didn’t touch on was the band’s long estrangement from each other. Relations between the four, but especially between Chris Frantz/ Tina Weymouth and David Byrne have been tricky since the group split in 1991. In 2004 Weymouth described Byrne as being “incapable of returning friendship...cutting off attachments when a thing/person is perceived to have served its purpose, or there is a perceived threat to ego is the lifelong pattern of his relations.”

Meanwhile, in his 2020 memoir Remain In Love Frantz painted a picture of Byrne as a cold egotist. “It’s like he can’t help himself,” he said in an interview with The Guardian to promote the book. “His brain is wired in such a way that he doesn’t know where he ends and other people begin. He can’t imagine that anyone else would be important.”

After that the odds of the four of them chuckling in each other’s company on a TV chat show sofa would have been very long indeed. But the Stop Making Sense reissue has seen them put their differences aside, at least for the moment. They appeared last autumn at the Toronto International Film Festival, talking in front of an audience with Spike Lee and on Fallon’s late-night rival, Stephen Colbert’s show.

Fans are doubtless delighted that the four are at least speaking now, but the chances of any reunion extending to live performances must be slight. When Colbert asked that question to the band last autumn the four members remained silent on the issue.

Will Simpson
News and features writer

Will Simpson is a freelance music expert whose work has appeared in Classic Rock, Classic Pop, Guitarist and Total Guitar magazine. He is the author of 'Freedom Through Football: Inside Britain's Most Intrepid Sports Club' and his second book 'An American Cricket Odyssey' is due out in 2025