Again with the Eno! Always with the Eno! I’ve said it before here, but there’s no avoiding Brian Eno in any discussion of late 20th century pop and rock, and his work with the Talking Heads is just one more example of his everywhereness.
Having developed a friendship with David Byrne and seeing in the Talking Heads a vessel for pushing forward a longstanding passion for African music as realized by Fela Kuti, Brian Eno produced two records for the band that became central to their story. But it was on the second of these albums, Remain in Light, where Eno and the Talking Heads — with a significantly fleshed-out band — captured a critical density of sound measuring up to the giant slabs of Afro-Beat/Jazz jams Kuti conducted. The record, importantly, also marks a point in transit for Adrian Belew, who in a span of three years would go from Zappa to Bowie to Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club to King Crimson, while beginning his own fruitful solo career. Belew’s presence on Remain in Light (1980) and King Crimson’s Discipline (1981) make the albums a natural pair, as Fripp’s great reinvention of Crimson drew heavily from his new guitarist-vocalist’s recent adventures.
Remain in Light contains only one well-known Talking Heads song, the superb “Once in a Lifetime.” The balance of the record spins extended grooves cooked up from percussive, bass-driven jams borrowing in their feel from an African music aesthetic, creating a shared kinship too with the Eno/Byrne collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, albeit voiced more organically.
This live version of “Born Under Punches” shows a Talking Heads — with Belew, Busta Jones on second bass, Bernie Worrell on keys, Dolette McDonald on backing vocals, and extra percussionists — morphing into a band that, as George Clinton might say, could tear the roof off the sucker, a product of the ever-shifting crossroads Brian Eno always seemed to leave in his wake.