Funkin’ for Bernie


David Byrne: Keep On Funkin’. Speaking of David Byrne and Bernie Worrell…

I was saddened to hear back in January that Worrell, who I’ve loved since falling upon his collaborations with George Clinton in Parliament, had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Byrne participated in a fundraiser concert on Monday to raise money to help pay Bernie’s medical bills (aside: with Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Living Colour, Jonathan Demme, Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, Maceo Parker, Steve Scales, Bill Laswell, Mudbone, Fred Schneider, Bernard Fowler, Leo Nocentelli, Ronny Drayton, Melvin Gibbs, Jerry Harrison, Screaming Headless Torsos, The Woo Warriors, Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash, Nelson George, Marc Ribler, Paul Shaffer, and the Black Rock Coalition Orchestra in the house, I’d have loved to have been there).

Yesterday Byrne offered up a pair of remixed tracks of a song he wrote and performed with Bernie a while back. Is “How Does the Brain Wave?” the equal of Byrne’s early 1980s collaborations with Worrell, which include The Catherine Wheel and Remain in Light? Well, no, but they’re funky, so donate already.

The Catherine Wheel

I fell behind this week—thank our surprising April snow. So this is being posted on Wednesday and I’ll catch up.

David Byrne’s The Catherine Wheel is one of those works that pulled me all the way into pop music. If I had heard of Byrne or the Talking Heads before, it was picking up Remain in Light or hearing “Once in a Lifetime” on the radio. Then my friend Catherine gave me a mix tape that had “Combat” on it. I had to find more.

I turned up a copy of the CD after some searching (this was the early 1990s) and was hooked. I put “Ade” on a mix tape myself. And then I kind of forgot about it.

I went back last week and started listening to the album with new ears. It’s still amazing after all these years. A lot of insane Adrian Belew guitar, yes, but also some really crazy Bernie Worrell keyboard, and those drums…

And then there’s the performance context. The Catherine Wheel was composed as a ballet score for Twyla Tharp, and the video above has the whole blessed thing. I don’t know enough about modern dance to know if this is any good, but it pushes a lot of the same buttons for me that Home of the Brave does, and that’s a good thing. So enjoy.

David Byrne visits Newport News

David Byrne Journal: 09.21.2008: On the Road Again. I know that this post was primarily about the new show and not about David Byrne’s Life in the Bush of Hampton Roads, but I can’t resist the pointer:

In Newport News, a group of us biked to the beach on the banks of the James River — a long trip, mostly on local highways, passing chain restaurants, industrial parks, gas stations and a steak joint offering square dancing. The residential areas are tucked in behind these strips, I guess, as there were none visible from these connecting roads. There’s an airbase nearby as well. Fighter jets streaked overhead now and then. There’s no town visible in any direction, just endless sprawl. At one point we reached a crossroads, which appeared to be the remnants of a small town, now mostly converted to a row of antique stores, but still pretty quaint. Eventually we found a small beach next to a massive bridge beyond which lay a huge naval station and port. A few of us waded in the water as a film crew set up nearby to shoot a girl in Goth makeup for a TV commercial.

Having grown up in the residential areas tucked behind the strips, I would say, yes, he got it about right. I’d love to see a street map of where he went–Hilton Village, which was built to house sailors shipping out during WWI? It sounds as though he made it all the way over to the 664 bridge.

Very cool. I will say that performing with James Levine and other opera superstars, you get applause inbetween the classical reserve and the pop mania that’s described here. I’ve never been blown back by applause at one of our concerts, though.