Stop Making Sense

by Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 11:44am Part of the Music Films series

There was a time before YouTube, believe it or not, and if you wanted to see clips of your favorite band playing live, you either had to try and bootleg them from the next show you went to, which was not generally encouraged by most bands, or you could buy a concert video.

Made around the peak of Talking Heads’ commercial success, David Byrne wanted Stop Making Sense to be very different from traditional concert films.

The 80’s were a very strange time for music. It seemed like everything about music had changed. Bands you loved in the 70’s were now going in a new, less-than-desirable direction, and pop music at a whole was taking an interesting turn, for the better or worse. There were a lot of trendy, good-for-nothing groups going around, polluting the air waves, but there was also some pretty innovative stuff being made as well. The Talking Heads fall into the latter.

The Talking Heads started out as nasally, new wave punk music and had evolved into funky, rhythmic pop music, all in the span of about 5 years. David Byrne was the creative genius behind it all, and he was pulling the band into a mainstream light that was shining brightly at them. The film was created in 1984, which was around the peak of the band’s commercial success. Songs like “Burning Down The House” and “Once In A Lifetime” were dominating the charts, and it was as good a time as ever to cash in on the band’s popularity.

David Byrne always had a very unique way about making music, and that definitely bled through into the creative process for the film. He wanted the film to be very different from traditional concert films. There are never any close ups of any of the band members during solos, for one, which is not a traditional approach to making a concert film. Normally, the solo is the musician’s moment of glory, his time to shine, but not in this film. The stage set is also built from the ground up as the concert progresses. What starts out as just David Byrne standing on a bare stage with an acoustic guitar and a beatbox playing drum loops eventually turns into an elaborate stage set-up with screens and lights, as well as a full band with 2 drummers and 2 back up singers.

The film is also a great display of the quirkiness of David Byrne’s often imitated but never duplicated stage presence. Whether he is dancing wacky choreography while singing, running laps around the stage, or parading around in his infamous ‘Big Suit,’ it is safe to say he is always keeping the viewer entertained. This film is one for the ages.

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