Monday, January 19, 2009

And He Was

I don't often sing the praises of David Byrne. This is a man who founded one of the most influential bands in the history of music, then just abandoned it all for a life of pretentiousness. (or so I say) Here is something from yesterday's New York Times that made me forget "The Knee Plays" for a few minutes. It was part of an article that asked New Yorkers to submit their ideas for an Obama "To-Do List."

Here is Byrne's entry:

The educational system needs a huge influx of money. Schoolteachers should all be paid twice what they get now, as they are the ones who will make this city financially and socially livable in the future. An educated generation will create, will be employed, will be healthier and more involved. Crime will diminish, so money will be saved there as well as on welfare and unemployment (assuming there will be any jobs out there to be had). After a while, I think, the benefits will outweigh the costs.

I like that. It certainly seems a bit more thought out than Florent Morrellet's idea of "a car-free Broadway that extends from Central Park to Union Square, then down University Place to Washington Square. That could be our emerald boulevard," but what do I know?


Michael in New York said...

Talking Heads reached their creative conclusion, so what's wrong with Byrne doing his solo stuff? He founded a cool label and puttered around. Better than seeing Talking Heads churn 'em out a la Rolling Stones. Mind you, I'm up for a reunion tour. I like his idea (I know lots of teachers and none of them are overpaid) AND the Broadway as pedestrian walkway. At the very least, Times Square for four blocks around it should be a pedestrian zone. No cars ever should drive through there unless the driver is an idiot so why allow any?

Sal Nunziato said...

Whenever a musician abandons the work that got him famous in the first place, he also abandons and alienates his fans. Yes, there have been some very worthy solo Byrne projects, but when the majority of your less famous, less accessible work exceeds the work your fans became fans of in the first place, you're no longer interesting, you're just a self-absorbed boob.

smartYoda said...

That is nonsense. An artist should do whatever he feels he has to do, with no thought to what the fan thinks. Fans always want the same stuff the artist became famous for. You can't just forever keep making the same music. Case in point: Elvis Costello. A lot of fans would still want him to make ten more CD's of "This Year's Model"-songs, but he has done whatever he wanted to do, and he's made some great music because of it.

Sal Nunziato said...

Costello ventured into other musical waters in ADDITION to staying true to his fans. David Byrne, like Joe Jackson and recently Todd Rundgren actually get angry and belligerent when asked about their early work or "hits."

Costello may do a record of jazz-inspired originals or a classical piece based on love letters, but he never abandons his deep catalogue live, as opposed to aforementioned trio who go out of their way to NOT play what the fans paid to hear.

smartYoda said...

If they don't want to play their back catalog, then they shouldn't. It's their own muse they should follow. If Costello wants to play his old songs, that's also fine with me (although I would actually pay money to never have to hear Pump It Up live again). But to call someone "a self-absorbed boob" just because he or she chooses a path different then you would like him or her to take, is absurd. People have no inherit right to hear artists play their old songs live.
If those artists don't like their old songs anymore, why should they keep playing them?

Sal Nunziato said...

Look, "self-absorbed boob" had a nice ring to it. If I hurt David's or your feelings, I apologize.

As for this--"If they don't want to play their back catalog, then they shouldn't"--I agree to some extent.
I'm with you on never having to hear "Pump It Up" again. But it's less about that, and more about having some responsibility and respect for your fans. Do you believe the majority of Byrne fans prefer hearing "The Forest," or "Lead Us Not Into Temptation" or even the most accessible of his solo work, "David Byrne" or "Feelings" over the material that got him here in the first place? I'm not saying, "play the hits and nothing else." I don't even think a Heads reunion is really the answer. I just know when I see things like this-

I think, "self-absorbed boob."

smartYoda said...

I think you're right: I think David Byrne fans (I'm not counting myself as a hardcore fan b.t.w.) would rather hear the "older", Talking Heads songs, but that's not the point: if he doesn't want ot play them anymore, then that's his prerogative. Nobody is forcing nobody to go to his concerts, it;s all free will. I understand fans will be disappointed, and that's too bad, but it is what it is.

And as for the link you provided: I actually would have liked to see that ;-). David Byrne has just kept growing from a "simple" musician into a full grown artist. Some people have kept up, some people have chosen to focus on his music, some people have given up on him. No good or bad here or there, just the way things go with almost every artist.

Nothing new under the sun, nothing to be upset about.

I think we agree on some things, and we continue to disagree on some others: you seem to think an artist has a responsibility towards his fans, I think he only has a responsibility towards himself (and his fricking muse).

Sal Nunziato said...

Fair enough.

Thanks for reading