Musical Inspiration #1 David Byrne

Musician, artist, author, folding bike rider, inspiration… David Byrne. I remember first hearing him on an old cassette copy of a Talking Heads album my Dad had. I loved the music and I also loved his voice- it was quirky, it was unpolished-different to what I was hearing at the time. Altogether it was infectious and I would get my Dad to play that tape whenever we got in the car; when I got my own cassette player that, again, would be the only album cassette I’d play.

Musically he has, as I mentioned before, a very quirky- often high-pitched voice and very strange way of phrasing his lyrics. The lyrics too often break out of the ordinary barriers and restrictions of love and heartbreak and head towards inanimate items and unusual topics such as paper or working in the civil service. This appeals to me- I get too bored of hearing of love and I find solace in the fact that someone has bothered to take time to write about something different.

“I try to write about small things; paper, animals, a house- love is kind of big. I have written a love song though, and in this film I sing it to a lamp.”

I love his voice- many of my friends detest it but it’s unique and it brings a new dimension to the music. I get really fed up with musicians who have to sound perfect; no names mentioned in this post but they warble up and down a scale with great gusto and in my eyes achieve nothing but annoyance – they have nothing to sing but only contracts to sign. People with such voices like David Byrne and Bob Dylan (more on him in a later post) gain my respect because they have the guts to enter the record industry and perform in front of large audiences and make a spectacle of themselves.

“The better the singer’s voice, the harder it is to believe what they are saying, so I use my voice to an advantage”

The legendary Big Suit- probably the same size as mine...

They also are often trying to get a message across- maybe a story, maybe something about themselves, maybe just some views on paper; but whatever it is they want people to hear it. That leads on to something else I’ve noticed recently- not many people take much notice of the lyrics- I think the future of the music industry may be reliant on artists who can only hum or make primitive noises…. or , or, or even better we’ll start listening to music in languages which we have no idea what is being sung- that would be awesome!

On stage and on-screen I found David to be more inspirational- he was full of energy (maybe drugs) but he put on a show. Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads is one of my favourite DVDs and it just features an hours worth of awesome music with crazy dance moves, sprinting around the stage, fitting on the floor, dancing with and singing a love song to a large lamp (he really does love lamp, Brick). His performances are electric and add to the mayhem and fun in the music- quite often the band was criticized when the number of members grew because there was less room physically and musically for fun and games to ensue. Here is a montage of clips from Stop Making Sense and you should be able to understand what I’ve been waffling on about.

I haven’t recently taken much notice of his solo career apart from the odd song here or there but recently he’s been working extensively with Fatboy Slim and an album is scheduled to be released on the 6th April 2010 called Here Lies Love. It features many different artists one being Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) who I believe has a beautiful voice. I’m eagerly anticipating it!

What has caught my eye more recently is his adventures with his bicycle- to be honest it inspired me to start trying to blog about my cycling trips. I haven’t yet finished it but I’ve been reading his book Bicycle Diaries (and again it was my Dad’s but I managed to nick it). This is the blurb on the back:

Since the early 1980s, David has been riding a bike as his principal means of transportation in New York City. Two decades ago, he discovered folding bikes and started taking them with him when travelling around the world. DB’s choice was initially made out of convenience rather than political motivation, but the more cities he saw from his bicycle, the more he became hooked on this mode of transport and the sense of liberation, exhilaration, and connection it provided. This point of view, from his bike seat, became his panoramic window on urban life, a magical way of opening one’s eyes to the inner workings and rhythms of a city’s geography and population.

Bicycle Diaries chronicles David’s observations and insights — what he is seeing, whom he is meeting, what he is thinking about — as he pedals through and engages with some of the world’s major cities. In places like Buenos Aires, Istanbul, San Francisco, and London, the focus is more on the musicians and artists he encounters. Politics comes to the fore in cities like Berlin and Manila, while chapters on New York City, and on the landscaped suburban industrial parks and contemporary ruins of such spots as Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Columbus are more concerned with history in the urban landscape. Along the way, DB has thoughts to share about fashion, architecture, cultural isolation, globalization, and the radical new ways that some cities, like his home town, are becoming more bike-friendly — all conveyed with a highly personal mix of humor, curiosity, and humanity.

I find it a riveting read and I can really relate to what he is saying sometimes when I ride my bike. On top of that he has made me want to take Ernie much further afield than Winchester- just got to save up the money or maybe get a reader of this blog to sponsor me… Anyway if you would like a quirky, informative read with some very interesting opinions on what is seen this book is well worth a read! David Byrne has also been campaigning for better cycle routes in New York and has been designing artistic bike racks- here is a video all about them:

Finally, I was in the library the other day when I decided to take a little break from my studying and I thought I would see if he had a blog- sure enough he does! The most recent entry is all about a talk he did at some convention called TED and it’s all about the creation and evolution of spaces to play and hear music in. Fascinating stuff if you’re really into this kind of thing- or just sad like me. Well, anyway, the choice is yours of whether you’d like to read it or not- click here.

Altogether this is a man who has inspired me musically, how I would perform on stage if I had the freedom to (bit too crazy for City Church) and with my cycling adventures. I will leave you with his self interview he did…


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