Monday, March 30, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

I have cleverly avoided Talking Heads/David Byrne ever since I began to devote Mondays to posting my favorite song lyrics. How could I possibly choose a favorite song from this band/singer who were so central to my life in my teens and twenties? However, having just spent some time over the weekend listening to David Byrne, I have decided to brave it.

My sister and her friends introduced me to Talking Heads when I visited her for a weekend when she was a sophomore in college, and I was a very wide-eyed and innocent fifteen-year-old. I suppose they could have been playing anything, and I would have been "hooked," so exciting was it to be hanging out with all these "college kids." But I am so glad it was Talking Heads, and not, say, The Carpenters, who became the back-drop to being sneaked into bars by my sister and cute boys (I'm sure there were cute girls, too, but I only remember the boys) who didn't bat an eye when I ordered my Coke, but who offered me sips of their beer (in those days, in NC, 18-year-olds could drink), and seeing Dr. Strangelove for the first time.

I have many favorite Talking Heads and David Byrne songs and many memories that involve their music and lots and lots of friends and family members associated with those memories. However, one memory sticks out in particular. It's of the first time I heard a song from the last Talking Heads album before they broke up. I had recently moved to Connecticut from North Carolina, was loving my new life, and, although I had been a bit homesick during the first month or so, those feelings had long since left me, as I settled into a job I loved, made new friends, and fell in love with a new guy (that ended disastrously, but at this point, it was new and not the least bit disastrous).

I was driving home from work one day when this song came on the radio, the new release from the new album "Naked," which I had not yet heard. I guess, for some reason, I had not been playing my Talking Heads albums too much since moving to Connecticut. Suddenly, hearing David Byrne's distinctive voice made me homesick in a way I thought I never would be. The funny thing was that it made me homesick for a time and place that would never be again, which was the summer of 1985, a summer my friends and I referred to as "the best summer ever." That was the summer before my last year in college, the summer before my parents moved out of the house I'd lived in all my life (with the exception of brief stints in England), the summer most of my friends from Winston-Salem and my newlywed sister and her husband were still all living in town. The summer my brother and other sister had not yet moved to South Africa. Within one short year, those friends would be scattered all over the country. My siblings would be scattered all over the world. My parents would be living in Eastern North Carolina, where I knew no one.

The song is about a post-apocalyptic world in which most of modern technology is gone. It spoke to me on many different levels. The narrator is missing that world and his technology, but I heard it as an ironic take on how we've grown so accustomed to things like parking lots that we resent it when flowers take their place. Most of it, to me, was a cry for environmentalism. However, one line was something else entirely. That line, "And as things fell apart/Nobody paid much attention," was about the end of The Best Summer Ever, when a group of good friends spent as much time with each other as they could, listening to bands like Talking Heads, and paying no attention to the fact that things were about to fall apart. And, yes, I missed my own "Honky tonks, Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens." Needless to say, I immediately went out and bought the album.

Nothing (But) Flowers
by Talking Heads

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it's nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers
you got it, you got it

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner
we got it, we got it

There was a shopping mall
Now it's all covered with flowers
you've got it, you've got it

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower
you've got it, you've got it

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I'd pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
you got it, you got it

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
you got it, you got it

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens
you got it, you got it

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention
you got it, you got it

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
you got it, you got it

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
you got it, you got it

This was a discount store,
Now it's turned into a cornfield
you got it, you got it

Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle


Pete said...

Makes me think of "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot" although it's the other way round here? And I'm amazed at your powers of memory. 1985 was one of those years I've happily forgotten.

ZoesMom said...

I LOVE that song! And it is funny because I have been on a Talking Heads kick lately. I've been listening to "Stop Making Sense" and "Little Creatures" a lot. I have a lot of memories associated with those songs too. Good choice!

nigel patela said...

This song is an anthem for me.
But then I'm calling my road stories zine (on paper & everything), when I finish it, "Pave My Soul".
When I heard this song I knew I could never be a hippy.

Emily Barton said...

Pete, probably many of my "memories" are just stories I've written in my head. However, I like to think there is at least a grain of truth to them. (Actually, I do seem to have an especially fine-tuned memory when it comes to my personal life. However, don't ask me where I put the car keys.)

ZM, I think it's the approaching spring. Talking Heads is such a spring/summer band, no? "Little Creatures" figure prominently in that summer of 1985.

Nigel, I love that: "Pave My Soul."