“Home is where I want to be / But I guess I’m already there” I thought as my favourite Talking Heads song was playing in Stop Making Sense. I first watched Stop Making Sense without any knowledge of Talking Heads despite having sporadically heard their songs on the radio, but after watching the film, they became one of my all-time favourite bands in a flash. Nevertheless as I watched Stop Making Sense I was in awe of its production: I could never have imagined any other concert film out there much like it. Among many things that I’m fairly certain of, Stop Making Sense is truly a flawless production on all grounds but it seems that there is also a greater force of life coming out of the screen from watching this. This was one of those rare instances I immediately watch a film once again after my first viewing many years ago, because this sort of music could never possibly make me feel more alive.
For the longest while I’ve always heard “Once in a Lifetime” playing everywhere and I always thought to myself it had a really cool rhythm and it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. During that time I had no idea that it was even a Talking Heads song, but it wasn’t until I saw Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense where something else came up for me. It wasn’t only the time I became a Talking Heads fan on the spot but there was a sort of energy that it brought in that only made my life feel like it was worth living. At first I thought it was going to be one of those experiences in which it was something that had come perfectly for the time and place I was within life, but somehow I managed to find a greater impact rather than just through the style of music that has defined Talking Heads for all of these years. Everything flashed right in front of my face during this one moment and upon rewatches those experiences linger.
It only starts from the moment when David Byrne takes the stage by himself as he performs “Psycho Killer.” Then later on, more people take the stage together with Byrne. If it were never obvious enough, Byrne’s performance is fantastic because he retains such an infectious presence through the energy he exerts from the first second to the last. To talk of the music itself would be something else, for their style was an important pioneer for new wave music in looking at how much they mix within their style. You can listen to a song like “Once in a Lifetime” and it doesn’t feel like any other rock song you would hear so commonly, but before Byrne heads down there, an act is being built upon itself. The way Byrne starts from his introduction is him alone, but as other people come onto the stage, it progresses in a way not like any other concert film. From how he starts alone, it doesn’t carry power just yet, but as his support gradually builds it becomes all about the freedom he gains from a newfound strength.
Something about this I soon had realized spoke to me on a more personal level. People in real life know me as an incredibly shy introvert who carries very little interest in what he recognizes perfectly as what appears to be a growing sense of conformity in the world he sees. My teachers were the only ones who ever gave my interests more attention than other students would and the way it starts with “Psycho Killer” almost would be like me thinking it would get “fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better,” so just “run run run run run away” from these troubles. People come and notice, and suddenly we reach a point where it almost feels like home with all of the support having been acquired. At that point comes “This Must Be the Place,” as it follows up with “Once in a Lifetime.” Soon I realize how much I mean to others around me and maybe even alone there’s a greater sense of comfort in such – and only the music of Talking Heads could have reached out in this manner.
What exactly is there to comment on Talking Heads’s music that would ever be of significance when something so astoundingly perfect has been presented in front of the eyes the whole time? He never shows the audience during this whole concert, it’s a film all about the performance. Jonathan Demme directs this film to perfection for he captures an experience of what a concert should feel like for some, where it becomes so up close to that point it feels interactive in itself. If something else about Stop Making Sense could ever have felt so much more joyful on the spot, then there comes how abstract it is to that point it feels perfectly representative of Talking Heads’s abrasive, avant-garde music style. It feels heavenly all around because Jonathan Demme creates the illusion for an audience that they were watching Talking Heads live up close as they start dancing to their tunes, something that only the very best of the best concert films could perform.
I would write a whole lot more about what this experience was like for me but there’s a point to which I could only think it plays off as meaningless ramble. I knew from my first “proper” introduction to the music of Talking Heads I was only having an experience that almost feels so religious in itself and soon enough I only understood more why their music has remained in my head for so long. It may have been something of the moment when I first watched Stop Making Sense, but if there were anything else that it had taught me, it would be that our lives are building ourselves more on the spot as freedom begins to come our way. Yet to acquire such freedom, we need a sense of strength to rise from somewhere and maybe, “You may find yourself in another part of the world.” But from all the fun that one could ever have from watching something of this sort continue to unfold, it would only be fitting that lyrics from “Once in a Lifetime” sum it up: “And you may ask yourself, well / How did I get here?”
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Palm Pictures.
Directed by Jonathan Demme
Treatment by Jonathan Demme, Talking Heads
Produced by Gary Goetzman
Starring David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth
Release Year: 1984
Running Time: 88 minutes