I THINK my favourite story in Chris Frantz’s new memoir Remain in Love is the David Johansen one. It takes place one 1970s winter night in downtown New York when there’s a blizzard blowing outside, and the snow is knee deep. Frantz, having decided to walk the three-and-a-half blocks from his home to CBGB, the club that was home to New York’s punk scene and the bands that made it up – the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith and, of course, Frantz’s own, Talking Heads – dresses himself in a ski cap, tartan wool scarf and a Swiss Army sheepskin overcoat to make the journey.

When he arrives the club is, understandably, largely empty. But Johansen, front man of the New York Dolls, is at the bar wearing a light blue satin suit but with no shirt underneath. The New York Doll looks Frantz up and down, takes a sip of his cocktail and says, “You know, Chris, rock stahs, we don’t dress fuh the weathuh.”

If you want a marker for the good humour and self-deprecation to be found in Remain in Love that anecdote is as good as any. Like every band memoir it’s full of arguments and fall-outs, and the eventual, inevitable break-up. But for the most part it’s a book by a man who is giving the best impression of someone having all the fun.

But then Frantz always did, whether playing with Talking Heads or Tom Tom Club, the spin-off group he formed with his wife and fellow Talking Head Tina Weymouth. To watch Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme’s celebrated 1984 film of Talking Heads live, is to see Frantz on drums at the centre of the stage, a grinning bear of a man who looks like he is having the time of his life.

“Oh, I was,” he says. “I always have fun when I play. Even if I’ve got blisters, I still have fun. When I sit down to play, particularly with the people I’ve had the good fortune to play with, I get happy.”

He has carried that attitude into writing his memoir. “I think the music press in particular liked to dwell on conflict. I understand it. It makes for interesting reading and writing when a band member is yelling at another band member. Or someone is unhappy and wants to quit the band. That makes for drama and people love drama.

“Talking Heads was not without drama. We had many twists and turns throughout the years, but when I sat down to write the book, I thought to myself, ‘What is the tone of this going to be?’ And I decided I would concentrate on the many, many good times and exciting experiences we had with Talking Heads, and also Tom Tom Club.

“I think any band that has been working for as many years as we did has their ups and downs. But I chose to concentrate on the ups because they’re more smiley.”

And it’s more you? “Yes, it’s more me. The last thing I wanted to do is come across as embittered or somehow playing the victim. I’m not like that. That’s not me. I consider myself a very fortunate guy to have worked with David Byrne and Jerry Harrison and particularly Tina Weymouth. The music that we made together over the years, thank God, still sounds great today. It sounds cool, it sounds hip and so I wanted to write a book that was cool and hip and accentuated the positive aspects.”

Today, Frantz is at home in Connecticut he shares with Weymouth, when I ring. “Ah, Scotia calling,” he says when he picks up the phone. He is sitting in his music room, surrounded, he tells me, by his drums and his computer. What else? “Let’s see. There’s a Talking Heads poster on the wall designed by Robert Rauschenberg from the Speaking in Tongues album. And there’s a great picture of Tina dancing with Grandmaster Flash.”

For the next three-quarters of the hour he steps lightly through his back story, not shying away from the darker moments, but constantly finding the humour in it.

Looking again at that Johansen story at the top of the page is to see one of the reasons why Talking Heads stood out when they emerged in the 1970s. They looked straight. But it’s what they did with that “straightness” that was key. In contemporary parlance you might say they weaponised it, made us look again at how strange straightness can be.

“Some people called us preppy because we decided to wear our street clothes, clothes we would wear ordinarily,” Frantz says. “We deliberately did not wear ‘rock costumes’. We didn’t have any rock costumes. We wore what we had, which was mostly jeans and polo shirts and things like that. Tina was a little more style-conscious than David and I, but she also kind of dressed down.

“And that looked unusual in those days because people were used to seeing a band like Yes or Queen.

“Also, musically, our sound was very nervous and jittery and maybe a little on the self-conscious side. We didn’t have professional chops. We were learning our craft as we went along and that was one great thing about CBGB. You could do a show there and if there were only 20 people in the audience in the early days not that many people saw you f*** up.

“It was like a little incubator where you could gradually become more professional and that’s how it worked for us.”

Read More: Dave Ball on life in and out of Soft Cell

So, how did we get here? Frantz was an army brat, the son of a military lawyer, who was born in Kentucky and grew up in the turmoil of 1960s America.

“Despite my father’s misgivings I marched in anti-Vietnam War marches. Only two of them, but they were the only two I could actually get to. I didn’t even have a driver’s licence at the time.

“Most kids my age were vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War and therefore had a bad opinion of the military and I knew from personal experience that there were also good people in the military, but, sure, the people who were calling the shots, Nixon and his whole administration were … maybe not as bad as who we have now. But they were bad and profiteers and so in the late 1960s you may remember there was a lot of animosity between the young people and the older people what we called the establishment and I was right there. I was as rebellious as any other teenager I knew.”

Frantz met Weymouth and Byrne while he was a student at Rhode Island School of Design. They formed a band and moved to New York in 1974.

Arriving downtown was, I think it’s fair to say, something of an eye opener.

“The lower East Side was a real shock. We were one block from the Bowery and in those days let’s just say it was a den of iniquity. People were either drunk, stoned or hooked on heroin and Chrystie Street at night was lined with $5 prostitutes, the cheap ones, and it was something we learned to deal with. But at first I thought, ‘Oh my god, am I going to be able to make it, or am I going to end up like one of those guys out in the middle of the street trying to direct traffic drunk out of his mind? What’s going to happen to me?’”

What happened was Jerry Harrison joined the band and they began to develop from the jittery post-punk outfit of their early albums (Talking Heads: 77 and More Songs about Buildings and Food) into a band who embraced electronica and funk and moved from the margins into the mainstream.

“I never had any doubt that with Talking Heads we could accomplish something great,” Frantz says. “I always felt like we were in the right place at the right time, being in New York, being near CBGB, and discovering Patti Smith and Television and Blondie. All the bands that were at CBGB were so interesting and different from each other and I felt we’re going to fit right in here.”

Not everyone agreed. Patti Smith, for one, was quite sniffy about Talking Heads, Chris.

“Yes, she was,” Frantz says, laughing. “She’s funny. I have utmost respect for Patti, but she can be downright rude.

“On the other hand, her guitarist Lenny Kaye was a tremendous champion of ours, really helpful and encouraged us and cheered us on. You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet.”

It should be said that in Remain in Love Frantz never hides the fact that working with Byrne could be, well, challenging. More than once in the book there is a sense that the band’s front man takes more than his fair share of credit in the band’s story (and even on the band’s song credits).

“Well, let me just start by saying we still love David and have great respect for his many talents,” Frantz begins when I bring it up. “But, you know, at a certain point we realised that his brain is wired differently than the rest of ours were. He was just a different kind of person. You can call it what you want. You could call it narcissism, or you could call it being on the spectrum, or you could just call it just plain selfishness.

“But, in spite of all that, we realised that we were doing such great work together, and I do mean great, that we were just going to ride out those less … shall we say, less attractive aspects of working with David. It was worth it.”

Still, was there a sense of validation or one-upmanship when Tom Tom Club, the band he formed with Tina when Dumbarton-born Byrne and Harrison went off to make solo albums, ended up being bigger for a while than Talking Heads.

“Yes. We never had any intention of doing any other band outside of Talking Heads but our hand was kind of forced because David was doing his solo album and then Jerry said, ‘Well, if David’s going to do a solo album I’m going to do a solo album.’

“And so, Tina and I looked at each other and said, ‘’What are we going to do?

“Fortunately, Chris Blackwell of Island Records was a guy who appreciated the importance of a good rhythm section.”

Blackwell invited the duo down to Compass Point in the Bahamas to record a single. The result was Wordy Rappinghood, which went Top 10 all over Europe and Latin America, “which was way higher than Talking Heads had ever been at that time,” Frantz points out. “And so, it was very gratifying to Tina and I. And I think it was kind of a shock to David, and maybe a surprise, also, to Jerry. And to a lot of people.

“But to people who were actually paying attention, I think they realised that Talking Heads was more of a shared experience artistically than maybe they had come to believe or expect.”

The truth is, any bad blood being spilled in Remain in Love, is outweighed by Frantz’s pleasure in the music he made.

And ultimately, as the title might suggest, this is a love story – that of Frantz’s love for his wife Tina. Theirs is one of the most successful marriages in pop.

Not that it’s been without issues. Given how honest he is in the book about his drug intake at the height of Talking Heads, I do wonder, I say, if it ever threatened that relationship.

“Yes, she threatened to leave me and take the baby with her if I didn’t straighten out,” Frantz says simply. “She was scared I was going to kill myself accidentally and a couple of times I probably came close. But with Tina’s help and with also the help of our manager and a few friends of mine I got into a programme where I straightened myself out and I haven’t had any hard drugs since, what? 1985? Something like that. It’s been a long time. I mean, I still smoke a joint now and then. But I don’t drink, and I don’t snort the cocaine.”

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You do wonder, then, how he and Tina coped when they were hired to produce the Happy Mondays in 1992, back when the Madchester band fronted by Shaun Ryder were at their most out of control.

“Oh man, yeah,” Frantz says. “Shaun’s brother Paul and their manager Nathan McGough came to see us here in our home in Connecticut. They took the train up from New York and said, ‘We’d like you to produce our band Happy Mondays.’ And they seemed like such nice guys. They were well-dressed and clean, and they looked sharp and well-spoken, and Tina and I both thought, ‘Well, this sounds like fun.’

“All we knew about them was that they were on Tony Wilson’s label Factory Records and we had a great deal of respect for Tony Wilson. We thought why not?

“They wanted to go down to Barbados, and we loved that idea. They wanted to record at Eddy Grant’s studio, and it wasn’t until we got down there, and they arrived, that we realised this band is a mess. We had no idea that Shaun, the lead singer, was addicted to heroin. And there’s no heroin in Barbados.

“He had dropped and broken his bottle of methadone at the airport in Manchester. He supposedly had enough methadone to get him through the recording project, but he dropped it. Someone described to me the image of Shaun down on his hands and knees licking the methadone off the floor.

“So, when they arrived everybody was in a sort of a state of shock and Shaun was clearly sick from lack of heroin. And the next day, I guess, he found a local guy who would supply him. There was no heroin, but there was loads of crack cocaine. He started smoking crack. Well, Tina and I had to deal with that.

“They were really nice guys, but they had drug problems and multiple layers of dysfunction and they came from a completely different background from us and they had a whole different point of view from us. Their point of view was if you can’t afford it, steal it.

“They also thought the record company was their boss, therefore they should just milk the record company as much as they can. And so, they brought not just the band, but their parents and their wives and a couple of little babies to Barbados and ran up an enormous bill. And I think they thought, ‘Well, we’re going to get it while we can.’ Instead of looking to the future. They really weren’t looking to the future.

“Long story short, it’s a miracle that any record got made.”

These days Shaun Ryder appears on Celebrity Gogglebox, while Frantz and Weymouth are still making music together. It still matters, then, Chris.

“Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. We always believed that popular music is capable of being very fine art. The Beatles showed us that. Bob Dylan showed us that the lyrics of the popular song can be elevated to great poetry. Dylan’s new album is maybe one of the best he ever made in my opinion.

“I’m also excited by young bands I see. I haven’t seen any lately, but music is still one of the most powerful mediums there is. I have no doubt somebody is going to come along and surprise the world all over again. I don’t know who it’s going to be or where it’s going to come from, but I know it’s coming.”

Remain in Love by Chris Frantz is published by White Rabbit, priced £20.


 “I’m sure there are many secrets, but my belief is it’s good to remain romantic. It might sound like a cliche to do, but when Valentine’s Day comes, get her red roses, a dozen, long-stemmed. And don’t forget the really nice chocolates to go with them. And whatever she wants to do, do that. Go to the theatre, go for a hike in the woods.

“Also, perhaps even more importantly, is to maintain your sense of humour and have a few good jokes up your sleeve so you can make her laugh. I think that goes a long way.”


“It was great. We were there on a sunny day, which I know is unusual, and a lot of young people were out wandering around, eating bags of fish and chips and Tina looked at me and said, ‘The boys are cuter than the girls.’

"Our soundman Frank Gallagher was from Banknock. Frank is still a good friend of ours, and Frank was our first soundman on that tour and eventually he came to America and worked for us. Frank said to me, ‘What’s the difference between Scottish summer and Scottish winter? In summer, the rain is warmer.’

And then it started pouring, so he was right on time. We played Strathclyde University with the Ramones and on the same night at the same time across town, at the Apollo, Television and Blondie played.

“We all got together afterwards and had a few drinks. It was just so crazy that here we were, four bands from the Bowery performing on the same night in Glasgow. It’s fantastic.

“And both shows sold out by the way.”