Chris Frantz reveals his love and music story in Talking Heads book
Chris Frantz and an acquaintance were sitting on a small green at his college campus when they saw a girl on a bicycle. It was September 1971.
“All of a sudden, like in a French movie, a beautiful blonde girl wearing a striped French sailor’s shirt and very short pants rides by on a yellow bicycle,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Who is that?’”
The acquaintance told him it was his friend, Martina.
He knew he had to meet her and, as fate would have it, she was in his new figure painting class the next day at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
Their introduction was awkward. A friend of Frantz’s insulted her painting and Frantz apologized for his friend’s behavior.
Thus began the friendship of Frantz and Tina Weymouth, who would both become members of the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club new wave rock bands as well as husband and wife. They will celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary this year.
Frantz, 69, of Fairfield has written a memoir about his life, “Remain in Love,” to be released on July 23 by St. Martin’s Press. The book’s title primarily refers to his commitment to Weymouth but also to his bands and music.
During a recent interview, Frantz offered some advice on how to make a marriage — including between successful musicians — work.
“Give love, accept love and maintain your sense of humor,” he said. “Every once in a while, coax a smile out of your spouse.”
Frantz, a drummer, said he thought about writing a book for a decade before beginning the process two years ago.
“There really haven’t been any good books written about Talking Heads,” he said. “It was a very unique and wonderful band. Our legacy is that together, we created some very unforgettable music.”
Talking Heads was active from 1975 to 1991, attaining much commercial success in the 1980s, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other members were frontman David Byrne and Jerry Harrison.
Frantz said the band’s end came when Byrne left without telling other members, who learned of his plans through media reports.
Byrne hasn’t had a good relationship with Frantz and Weymouth in decades. Frantz’s book details the journey from deep friendship and musical kinship during their early years together as struggling performers, when all three shared a New York City loft, to their current estrangement.
“Gradually, David became more and more detached from everyone in the band,” he said. “Now our relationship is strictly business, which is a shame. I asked our manager what happened and he told me, ‘You were the best friend David ever had.’”
“Even when things were going very well, artistically and commercially, David was never really happy with the situation — even though he was in the spotlight,” Frantz said.
One surprise for readers in the book is who actually wrote “Psycho Killer,” perhaps the Talking Heads’ best-known song.
“They’ll learn how our first song ‘Psycho Killer’ was written by three people,” Frantz said. Byrne was credited as the song’s sole author but the book offers a different version of what happened. “The great majority of our songs, particularly the early ones, were always a collaborative effort,” Frantz writes.
Frantz and Weymouth founded another successful band in 1981, the Tom Tom Club. Hits included “Wordy Rappinghood” and “Genius of Love,” a song that’s been covered by musicians from Grandmaster Flash to Mariah Carey.
The Tom Tom Club was formed to “deliberately create something that was different than Talking Heads,” Frantz said. “We weren’t exactly following a template that existed but were trying to create a new sound, which turned out to be quite influential with hip-hop and R&B.”
Frantz and Weymouth also have produced albums for prominent musicians such as Ziggy Marley and were associated with the Compass Point All Stars, a reggae-based pop/rock music movement in the Bahamas.
The book covers Frantz’s upbringing. He was born in Kentucky, his father a military officer who became a private attorney. The self-described “suburban kid” went to boarding school, bought his first record at age 10 and joined a band at 13.
Talking Heads signed their first record contract in 1976 and went from performing at pizza parlors to appearing on “Saturday Night Live” and “American Bandstand.” Their initial base was the legendary CBGB, New York’s birthplace of punk rock.
Readers will learn Frantz loves sailing, was robbed at gunpoint in Hawaii, went to rehab for cocaine and had to contend with a widespread rumor he’d committed suicide.
He provides insights into encounters with Lou Reed, The Ramones, B-52s, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, James Brown, Andy Warhol and many other fascinating people.
Frantz compares playing the drums to making love, with advice to not be frantic, a show-off or aim to impress. “What you should be is sensitive to the song, the tempo, and the melody,” he writes.
In the late 1980s, Frantz moved to Connecticut after an accountant suggested buying a house. Their home is surrounded by nature with a large room where he can set up his drums and play music. “Neighbors have never complained,” he said.
Locally, he hosts a monthly music show on WPKN-FM, assists the Fairfield Theatre Company with its Emerging Artists Series, and serves on the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County board.
Frantz said Weymouth, a bass player, also is working on publishing a book. The couple has two adult sons. As for the future, Frantz said he and his wife might do something with electronic music. “What we like is electro-techno with a funky edge and rhythm bed,” he said.
Another possibility is getting back to the visual arts, like when enrolled at RISD. “I haven’t done painting or drawing in a long time and really should,” he said.