Monday 3 August 2020

Songs from the Broadway Production of The Catherine Wheel: David Byrne - 1981

USA Pressing, 1981. 
Earl Collection 00008

From my early teens in the 1980s I was enamoured with Talking Heads, so when I saw a copy of this album in a friend’s collection I taped it and listened to it regularly for years until I bought it on CD sometime in the 1990s. This particular vinyl copy was purchased from Midland Records in 2019 and is in beautiful condition. I wonder how much it was played before I got my hands on it? Not much I’d say. It’s not difficult listening by any means, featuring some beautiful atmospheric and ambient instrumentals with evocative names such as Light Bath and Cloud Chamber. The vocal tracks are as close to the sound of Talking Heads that Byrne got in his solo career. The strangely emotional What a Day That Was could have been a hit single, well, if the buying public was populated by reserved nerdy types who liked their intellectual pop music. 

The Catherine Wheel features both Brian Eno and Adrian Belew, among others, such as Jerry Harrison and Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell. Belew plays ‘steel drum guitar’ and ‘floating guitars’, of course, and Eno plays ‘prophet scream’ and just the plain old bass guitar. God knows what Twyla Tharp’s dance production was like, fairly avant-guard by the look of the pictures on the sleeve, but the music is beautiful, funky, ambient and psychedelic in parts - great drug music basically, or great laying in bed music with soft lights glowing. It’s also great music to play friends who love obscurely pretentious albums that are actually really fucking amazing.

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