Bill Doskoch: Media, BPS*, Film, Minutiae

Curated knowledge, trenchant insights & witty bon mots

Stop Making Sense revisited

Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense

Back in the spring of 1986, when I first saw Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads concert film was the shit for the college crowd in Edmonton. The film had been out for about two years and had established itself as a cult movie, with the usual rituals that accompany viewings of such films.

In the case of Stop Making Sense, that includes hollering along with singer David Byrne when he yelled “My God – What have I done!” in his reedy voice and racing around the theatre during Life During Wartime, mimicing Byrne’s onstage antics.

Well, I went to see the film Saturday night, part of a retrospective of director Jonathan Demme’s work, and the core audience is about 30 years older and not given to running around the theatre any more, no matter how joyous and enervating the music.

But the film itself stands up as a great document of a fantastic band at the peak of its powers (for a short biography, read this Rolling Stone article).

It’s too bad there weren’t many younger people there. Stop Making Sense risks becoming a lost musical treasure, although it’s available on YouTube for $3.99 (there are also bits and pieces of the film available by searching YouTube). But there are fewer and fewer people to pass the word along.

If you don’t see the film, you’ll miss out on the remarkable performance of lead singer and frontman David Byrne, the visual focal point.

Fellow band members Chris Frantz (keyboards, guitar), Jerry Harrison (drums) and Tina Weymouth (bass) don’t bring the same level of showmanship to their roles, but they certainly hold up their end of the frenetic energy.

The backup singers (two playful sprites named Lynn Mabry and Ednah Holt) and three guest artists (keyboardist Bernie Worrell, percussionist Steve Scales and guitarist Alex Weir) round out the performers. All of them had some background in funk. And all of them appeared to be wrapped up in delivering one whale of a concert.

In filming their performance, Demme delivers one whale of a movie. You’ll come as close as you can to being on stage with Byrne and company. The whole thing is crisply edited into an 88-minute package.

So I left the theatre feeling happy, but also tinged with nostaglic regret. The Talking Heads of the film will never grow old, but you can’t say that about their audience.


For reviews of Stop Making Sense, go to Rotten Tomatoes.

Sun, July 23 2017 » Film, Main Page, Music Monday et al