Monday, August 4, 2008

Talking Heads Remix

When I first met Mike I noticed a copy of David Byrne's book Arboretum in his studio and we started talking about Byrne and the Talking Heads. His passion for their music, coupled with the release of the new Eno/Byrne collaboration (which is supposed to launch today, with a free download) and the new Byrne song which is actually getting radioplay even here in Dufftown (I'm hearing it in convenience stores - its probably due to the excellent video) I've been revisiting their material.

He burnt me a nice remix he did of Naive Melody, always one of my favorite Talking Heads' songs. It's a great contented love song (home is where I want to be but I guess I'm already there) with some strangely romantic lines (sing into my mouth). Laurel Woodcock is basing a billboard around one of the lyrics for the LOLA project in London which I am contributing to. More about that soon.

So I got the urge to remix a song myself, something I've never done before without having access to some of the isolated tracks (like a 12" single that included an a cappella version, for example). I chose Papa Legba from the most underrated of the band's albums, True Stories. I always thought it was a great soundtrack to a a great film. Radiohead took their name from one of the songs and it spawned a few hit singles but is generally considered an embarrassment. Byrne himself says he wishes he just released the film versions. I'm quite happy to have both (especially now that I've hunted down the kids choir version of Hey Now).

I've been thinking a lot about constraints lately so I set myself the following:

I could not incorporate sounds from outside sources, the instrumentation had to remain from the original and from the Pop Staples film version. I cheated a little - I used canned cymbals because they were impossible to isolate from the original and I added a little bit from Byrne's demo version, which I suppose is still a primary source (well, moreso, even).

The final remix should be shorter than the original, not longer.

It should take no more time than I might waste watching a movie.

I'm pretty happy with the final result, which is posted here.

Papa Legba, or Legba Atibon, Atibon Legba, Ati-Gbon Legba, is, in Haitian Voodoo, the intermediary between the Ioa/lwa and humanity. He stands at a spiritual crossroads and gives (or denies) permission to speak with the spirits of Guinee. He is a master linguist, trickster and warrior. The standard petition to Legba is

Papa Legba, open the door
Your children await
Open the door Papa Legba
So that I may pass
When I return, I will thank the loa

which is where the chorus lyric is derived from.

This quote from Tommy Johnson (often misattributed to Robert Johnson) describes how one strikes a deal with Legba in return for guitar playing prowess:

"If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and your go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there be sure to get there just a little ' fore 12 that night so you know you'll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself. A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he'll tune it. And then he'll play a piece and hand it back to you. That's the way I learned to play anything I want."

1 comment:

Westcoast Walker said...

I like the remix! What program did you use? Also, I agree that a shorter remix is better - some feel obliged to drags things out and I think with less time there is a greater inclination to do something more dynamic.

Also, I have the dual disc version of "Speaking In Tongues" and my kids love the video for "This Must Be The Place". They refer to it as the "Grandma's Tea Song" because near the end of the video the band gets served tea and biscuits from someone's granny. It really cracks them up for some reason and they have made me play it repeatedly on a few occasions. The 5.1 surround mix is also quite sublime.