Talking Heads musicians come to Fairfield University

Talking Heads musicians come to Fairfield University

The Jamie A. Hulley Unplugged Series, a new series featuring musicians discussing their work, kicks off Wednesday, Feb. 23, with drummer Chris Franz and bassist Tina Weymouth, the husband-wife rhythm section for seminal rock/funk bands Talking Heads and The Tom Tom Club. The informal event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. in The Levee on the campus of Fairfield University.

Franz and Weymouth will discuss the inspiration for and creation of several Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club songs, as well as the changes they've seen in the music industry throughout their career. Brian Torff, director of the Fairfield University Music Program, who is organizing the campus series, said he chose Franz and Weymouth because of their pioneering spirit and artistry.

"They exemplify the creative vision in contemporary music and we appreciate them sharing their views on the music scene both past and present," he said.

The couple's musical career began around the time they graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1974. Moving to New York City, they linked up with fellow RISD grad David Byrne and formed Talking Heads about a year later. With Franz on drums, Weymouth on bass, Byrne providing vocals and guitars, and former Modern Lover Jerry Harrison on keyboards, the group quickly established what would be a career-long penchant for quirky art school lyrics over funky, world beats that helped move '70s punk into the New Wave movement.

The band's stunning debut album, "77" showed its range with the chirpy "Don't Worry About the Government" coming just two tracks before the malevolent "Psycho Killer."

Talking Heads' trippy brand of what one reviewer called "preppie pop with brains" continued through their next few albums, "More Songs About Buildings and Food," "Fear of Music" and "Remain in Light" before they reached the height of their fame with "Speaking in Tongues" and the companion concert film "Stop Making Sense."

While Talking Heads was making waves as a group, its members were delving into other projects. Byrne and Harrison, who had made solo albums, encouraged Weymouth and Franz to do likewise and the pair signed with Island Records and flew down to the Bahamas to make its first album as The Tom Tom Club.

The self-produced, self-titled album that evolved through the Bahamas sessions included such darlings of the dance clubs as "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius of Love." Recorded in 1981, "Wordy Rappinghood," an original mix of schoolyard rap over a funky groove, shot to the top of the charts in 17 countries and is credited, along with Blondie's "Rapture," with bringing the burgeoning spirit of hip-hop to a wider audience. Both Tom Tom Club songs have certainly enjoyed a long life, being used, in part, in future recordings by Tupac Shakur, Busta Rhymes, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers, among many others.

The Tom Tom Club toured both alone and with Talking Heads, including brief appearances in Stop Making Sense tour shows. Their second album, 1983's "Close to the Bone," featured underground hits "The Man with the 4-Way Hips" and "Pleasure of Love," as well as an eclectic host of musicians, such as mainstays Steve Scales on percussion and Alex Weir on guitar.

Weymouth and Franz continued their duel musical ventures, releasing both Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club albums through 1994, when Byrne decided to devote his full attention to his well-received solo career. The couple has spent the last several years dividing time between creating and performing their own music and producing others, sometimes at their Fairfield studio, the Clubhouse.

The new Unplugged Series is one of 14 different programs sponsored by the Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, which was created to celebrate the life of Jamie Alaine Hulley, daughter of Fairfield University psychology professor Judy Primavera and Fred Hulley Jr. Jamie Hulley was an Orange resident and arts enthusiast whose dream of a career in the arts was cut short when she died of cancer in 2002 at the age of 20.

The fund's new initiatives for 2005 also include a summer internship stipend for a Fairfield University student in the visual and performing arts. For the third year in a row, the Fund is sponsoring a Fairfield University senior theater major's independent study production.

Space is limited for the Unplugged event. For more information on the Fund, visit . To make a donation, contact Judy Primavera, Jamie A. Hulley Fund for the Arts, P.O. Box 1208, Orange, CT 06477-7208.

Posted On: 01-23-2005 10:01 AM

Volume: 37 Number: 147