Remain in Light

Remain in Light
Album cover containing four portraits covered by red blocks of colour, captioned "TALKING HEADS" (with inverted "A"s) at the top and (much smaller) "REMAIN IN LIGHT" at the bottom.
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 8, 1980 (1980-10-08)
RecordedJuly–August 1980
Studio
Genre
Length40:10
LabelSire
ProducerBrian Eno
Talking Heads chronology
Fear of Music
(1979)
Remain in Light
(1980)
The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
(1982)
Singles from Remain in Light
  1. "Once in a Lifetime"
    Released: February 2, 1981
  2. "Houses in Motion"
    Released: May 5, 1981
Back cover
Album cover containing a drawing of a mountain range and four mostly red warplanes flying in formation. There is green text on the left hand side and a barcode in the top right corner.
Artwork originally created as front cover

Remain in Light is the fourth studio album by American rock band Talking Heads, released on October 8, 1980 by Sire Records. It was recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia between July and August 1980 and produced by longtime collaborator Brian Eno. Following the release of their previous album Fear of Music in 1979, the quartet and Eno sought to dispel notions of the band as a mere vehicle for frontman and lyricist David Byrne. Drawing on the influence of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, the band experimented with African polyrhythms, funk, and electronics, recording instrumental tracks as a series of looping grooves. The sessions incorporated a variety of side musicians, including guitarist Adrian Belew, singer Nona Hendryx, and trumpet player Jon Hassell.

Byrne struggled with writer's block, but adopted a scattered, stream-of-consciousness lyrical style inspired by early rap and academic literature on Africa. The artwork for the album was conceived by bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, and was crafted with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's computers and design company M&Co. The band expanded to nine members for a promotional tour, and following its completion, they went on hiatus for several years, leaving the individual members to pursue side projects.

Remain in Light was widely acclaimed by critics, who praised its sonic experimentation, rhythmic innovations, and cohesive merging of disparate genres. The album peaked at number nineteen on the US Billboard 200 and number 21 on the UK Albums Chart, and spawned the singles "Once in a Lifetime" and "Houses in Motion". It has been featured in several publications' lists of the best albums of the 1980s and of all time, and is often considered Talking Heads' magnum opus. In 2017, the Library of Congress deemed the album "culturally, historically, or artistically significant",[1] and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.[2]

Background

In January 1980, the members of Talking Heads returned to New York City after the tours in support of their 1979 critically acclaimed third album, Fear of Music, and took time off to pursue personal interests. Singer David Byrne worked with Brian Eno, the record's producer, on an experimental album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.[3] Keyboardist Jerry Harrison produced an album for soul singer Nona Hendryx at the Sigma Sound Studios branch in New York City; Hendryx and the studio were used during the Remain in Light recording on Harrison's advice.[4]

Drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth, a married couple, discussed leaving Talking Heads after Weymouth suggested that Byrne was too controlling.[5] Frantz did not want to leave, and the two took a long vacation in the Caribbean to ponder the state of the band and their marriage. They became involved in Haitian Vodou religious ceremonies, practised native percussion instruments, and socialised with the reggae rhythm section of Sly and Robbie.[4]

Frantz and Weymouth ended their holiday by purchasing an apartment above Compass Point Studios in Nassau, the Bahamas, where Talking Heads had recorded their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food.[4] Byrne joined the duo and Harrison there in early 1980.[6] The band members realised that it had been solely up to Byrne to craft songs even though they were performed as a quartet. They had tired of the notion of a singer leading a backup band; the ideal they aimed for, according to Byrne, was "sacrificing our egos for mutual cooperation".[7] Byrne additionally wanted to escape "the psychological paranoia and personal torment" he had been writing and feeling in New York.[8] Instead of the band writing music to Byrne's lyrics, Talking Heads performed instrumental jams, using the Fear of Music song "I Zimbra" as a starting point.[6]

Eno arrived in the Bahamas three weeks after Byrne. He was reluctant to work with the band again after collaborating on the previous two albums. He changed his mind after being excited by the instrumental demo tapes.[6] The band and Eno experimented with the communal African way of making music, in which individual parts mesh as polyrhythms.[7] Afrodisiac, the 1973 Afrobeat record by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, became the template for the album.[8] Weymouth said that the beginnings of hip-hop music made Talking Heads realise that the musical landscape was changing.[9] Before the studio sessions began, longtime friend David Gans instructed the band that "the things one doesn't intend are the seeds for a more interesting future". He encouraged them to experiment, improvise and make use of "mistakes".[10]

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