In 1974, Chris Frantz, David Byrne, and Tina Weymouth collectively made the daring move to New York City in search of conquering their dreams within the four walls of the city that never sleeps. However, their story wasn’t exactly a fairytale. From the start, Byrne showed a reluctance to let Weymouth join the group, and he even made her audition three times before eventually giving in.
The trio studied together at Rhode Island School of Design, with Weymouth finding herself in a relationship with Frantz, who at the time, played with Byrne in their band, The Artistics. After the group split, they made their way to New York, sharing a loft-space, where Weymouth started to learn the bass, which solved the final piece of the puzzle they needed. Somehow, Byrne was still not convinced, and his trepidation had nothing to do with her skill as a musician.
“It was Chris’ idea to form this band,” Weymouth recollected in a BBC Four documentary which celebrated her. “It took two years for me to enter it, I just thought it was too difficult, I just thought I’m going to be up against a lot of flack,” she says in regards to her gender.
Weymouth remains a pioneering figure for women in alternative music. However, in truth, her talent flew under the radar as Talking Heads morphed into the David Byrne show, and the attention was laser-focused upon him.
Staggeringly, these barbaric attitudes towards women in music were also projected onto her from Byrne himself, who let his feelings clear to Weymouth on the matter. The resistance from him only enhanced the bassist’s fear to express her artistry and believe that she couldn’t be in a band.
“He said to me that he thought women’s roles shouldn’t really be in the big world because it was a dangerous place for women,” she says with a puzzled look on her face. “He really said this to me,” Weymouth reiterated.
It’s well documented that Byrne is a difficult customer to get along with, and ultimately, his relationship with his bandmates would continue to decimate until they eventually called it a day in unceremonious circumstances.
As Weymouth’s comments show, their relationship was fractured from the start. However, tensions began rising uncontrollably over the final few years of their tenure together. Byrne became even more controlling and refused to compromise over his creative vision on their farewell record, Naked.
Officially speaking, it wouldn’t be until 1991 when the news of their split was finally confirmed. “We were shocked to find out about [Byrne’s departure] via the Los Angeles Times,” Chris Frantz said at the time of the break-up. “As far as we’re concerned, the band never really broke up. David just decided to leave.”
Communication was frosty from Byrne from the outset with Talking Heads, and it just signalled a glimpse into their future. Thankfully, the kaleidoscopic sounds they made together injected new life into pop music and gave it a hair-raising facelift. Without Weymouth, they don’t achieve what they did, and on top of that, she proved to Byrne that his opinions on women were primitive, and outdated.