Thanks to South By Southwest and being invited to help Dave Rave do a 2010 showcase in Austin, TX, I reconnected with two old friends from the CBGB’s scene and my erstwhile life as the fabulous, poor-but-famous Trixie A. Balm. Seeing Chris and Tina, of Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club, talking at one of those big SXSW symposiums was a trip -- along with other now-famous “fixtures” from the scene (I blush to think of a possible indiscretion with one of them, years back, but then, I digress -- and I’ll stop there).
Friendly and open as ever, Chris gave me his cell number and an email to contact him & Tina with. Since they said they’re now also Connecticut residents, I figured, what the hey? It would be nice to chat again because I’ve only known reciprocal kindness, and it’s great to have some common history, even if one isn't married to the past (not me!).
This memoir-blogging is a hobby, I tell you -- I prefer working in the present and dreaming of the future, one where I’m not broke, not worried, eating leisurely and enjoying just desserts (in my favorite flavors!).
So, I asked Chris and Tina to be guests on a cable TV show I was doing, FINDING BLISS. I uploaded a bunch of episodes on Vimeo (click Link).
Here are some good quotes from Chris!
“Growing up, to have a band was my dream. I was a musician at a very early age, and I started in fourth grade. I started off on the trumpet, and it wasn’t really working out, so I had a very perceptive music teacher who noticed I had a good sense of rhythm, so he said, ‘Let’s start you out on the drums.’”
“When the Beatles came out I was in the 6th grade, and then I wanted to be like every other kid: we wanted to be the Beatles. All the Beatles were cool, and it was obvious that the girls really loved them. And they were playing great songs, and it was evident that they wrote a lot of them, themselves. They sort of set the bar, so my friends and I would practice in these little garage bands, or in the basement. One thing led to another, and I became a professional.”
But Chris attended art school at Risdee. “Music and Art go hand in hand. It’s the same impulse that makes you want to create a painting, or a sculpture, or a backdrop. So despite the fact that I wanted to be the Beatles, I didn’t really think I had what it takes to be one of the Beatles, but I do have what it takes to be a good painter, maybe sometimes having a little too much to drink, or having more than one girlfriend -- that kind of romantic aspect, living poor but an exciting life.“
OOhh la la!!
“I was very fortunate, I had an art teacher in high school who said I could do art after school instead of sports. I got to go to the art studio and do paintings. And then he said, I’m going to recommend you to the Harvard of art schools, the Rhode Island School of Design. I said, Oh, my parents are going to like that -- and they did. They weren’t sure about art school, but when they heard Harvard attached to it they were cool with it, bless their hearts. . .”
So how about Talking Heads -- and how it happened?
Back to Chris: “This is what happened: I went to art school, I loved it, I met great people there, but after four years, it was evident to me that there was this opening in rock ‘n’ roll music, a spot that nobody was filling. And so I got excited about playing the drums again, and I organized this band, The Artistics. I met this sort of odd character named David Byrne who was hanging around the periphery of this school at that time --“
“--Actually, what happened was a friend of ours named Mark Kehoe was making a student film and he needed music for the film. And he got David and I together in Tina’s carriage house. Tina was living in a carriage house and that’s where I kept my drums. She was really nice and she let me keep my drums there. And he (Kehoe) said I want you to make some music. The movie was about a girl that’s run over by a car, so he said I want you to make some really cacophonous music. So we said, ‘Oh, we can do that.’ We did it, he recorded it and he was happy.”
“So then David said, ‘You know, I can play stuff other than cacophonous music; I can play real music.’ And so we started this band in college, the Artistics, and one thing led to another, and we moved to New York. Tina was very encouraging to both of us. We had a friend, another Risdee graduate, who was living on Bond Street, and Bond Street led into the Bowery. It was cattycorner across the street from CBGB’s.”
“And the first day we were there our friend Jimmy Douglas said, ‘There’s this place, CBGB’s, and something’s going on there. This girl, Patti Smith, is going to play there. I think you really should go check it out.’ I went over there that night because I was chomping on the bit to find a place to hang out and meet people. Patti wasn’t playing that night but I did meet Arturo Vega in like a purple sharkskin suit with a Mexican wrestler’s mask on (laughs), shooting pool. There was hardly anybody there that night, but a few nights later, Patti Smith did perform and I went to the show and it was fantastic, just Patti and Lenny Kaye on guitar.”
“But it was mesmerizing, and the hair on the back of my neck was tingling. I thought, ‘This is it, it’s gonna be like the Cavern Club was for the Beatles, and I’m gonna camp out here and I’m gonna be a part of this.’”
For the rest, go to Vimeo link.
Next: Tina talks!