25 years ago, no one expected a little side project from the bassist and drummer of art-rock/New Wave combo Talking Heads to be much of a hit, much less become a touchstone in dance music, or be sampled over and over. But that’s exactly what happened to Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s debut Tom Tom Club album and its immortal party single, “Genius of Love”. It may seem strange now but keep in mind, when the first Tom Tom Club album was released in 1982 Talking Heads had one minor mainstream hit under their belts and were still considered avant garde. Tom Tom Club’s success was significant since they topped the dance charts, crossed over to Top 40 and watched their disc go gold. A year later, the Heads would release Speaking In Tongues, go platinum and lose the cult band tag – I think the mainstream success Tom Tom Club enjoyed had a lot to do with that.
Of course that same year, Tom Tom Club had to follow up that breakthrough, which they did with Close To The Bone and its leadoff single, “The Man With The 4-Way Hips”. A huge dance hit, “Hips” was very similar to what the Heads were doing at that time, but with shinier synths and more fun. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate into another Top 40 hit. And is it me, or does New Order’s “Perfect Kiss” begin the same exact way (“Kiss” was released in 1985)?
The album’s second single, “Pleasure Of Love” was much better, mining a lot of the same ground as “Genius of Love”, but I actually like “Pleasure’s” melody and verse structure a bit more. It didn’t hurt that it came accompanied with a brilliantly animated video, much like the clip for “Genius of Love” – the famous “oopsza mamma” dog even returns:
MTV played the hell out of that clip, but again, Top 40 wasn’t interested. Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club both continued to release albums, the Heads to more and more success, but Tom Tom Club would never reach the heights of their debut again. Close To The Bone has yet to be released on CD. Meanwhile, Chris & Tina continue to bring out Club projects every few years, even touring in the early ’90s and around 2001. I’d love to see David Byrne remove the stick from his ass, reunite with the Heads for a massive tour with Tom Tom Club as openers. How hot would that be?
“The Man With The 4-Way Hips” peaked at #106 on the Billboard Bubbling Under Chart and at #4 on the Billboard Club Play Singles Chart in 1983.
“Pleasure of Love” peaked at #23 on the Club Play Chart that same year.
And I can’t let this post go without sharing this performance of “Wordy Rappinghood” from an Italian Top of Pops-like show – check out Tina just sitting at the back of the stage, just chillin’:
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