There are many exquisite character portraits. A surprisingly solicitous Sid Vicious inspects Weymouth’s bleeding hands after a gig: “But Tina, have you ever tried using a plectrum?” Patti Smith “chewed gum a mile a minute, like a schoolyard speed freak”. There is Mick Jagger, alone and high in a New York jazz club, wearing “a huge, quilted pimp-style newsboy cap” and bawling along to Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack (which was on the jukebox) but with his own lubricious adaptation of the lyrics.
That Frantz remained star-struck is one of his many winning qualities, and I commend Remain in Love to discerning rock fans everywhere.
Unlike so many rock-star memoirs, Remain in Love (a play on a Talking Heads album title, Remain in Light) doesn’t recount a fall into the horrors of addiction and subsequent recovery, or rail against the vampires in the record business. Presumably, neither is part of the story, which is refreshing. Frantz is not a polished writer, but that’s forgivable in the rush of enthusiasm he has for the story. Also refreshing is the lack of a neat ending: Chris and Tina are still a couple, Byrne still hasn’t talked to them since he announced the end of the band, and the future remains unwritten. That’s fine with me. Remain in Love is a worthy addition to any shelf of rock memoirs.
Despite Talking Heads’ pioneering polyrhythms and dance beats, Frantz writes in thumping four-to-the-floor prose that often reads like an annotated tour diary: a visit to Stonehenge with the Ramones here, excitable Italian fans there. New York punk is already well documented, from Legs O’Neill and Gillian McCain’s fabulous oral history Please Kill Me up to Debbie Harry’s atmospheric Face It. However, Frantz’s inner-circle, right-time-right-place status lends him a stash of great anecdotes, suggestive of the era’s downtown crosscurrents.
This is a very different book from Byrne’s swarming memoir of ideas, How Music Works. Even on the far side of recovery, the ache lingers, palpable in the longing energy Frantz invests in set lists and outfits from long-ago gigs. I love Talking Heads. I danced to them at my wedding, and I want them played at my funeral too, but I’m not sure the grains of bitterness and sorrow that make their music so entrancing are quite so appetising in the raw.