Perception can get in the way of us connecting to music we would otherwise discover. Because we don’t like a certain genre of music, we may not allow ourselves to even listen to a band we may otherwise fall in love with. Because we do not like the way a musician presents herself, we may not open ourselves up to discovering what her songs are really about. Because the lead singer wears a big suit and dances with a floor lamp, we may not even hear the sincere, nostalgic message of a song that emphasizes the importance of home.
“This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” is somewhat of an anomaly in the catalog of The Talking Heads, one of the great new wave bands of the 1970’s. The Talking Heads began while the band members were students at the Rhode Island School of Design, and their music has always creatively explored the rock and roll genre by pushing boundaries, and exploring new ways to to play, sing and perform.
For The Talking Heads, the band who released such groundbreaking songs as “Psycho Killer,” “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House” a song that emphasized messages of home, family and love, all without sarcasm or irony, was truly a departure.
Released in 1983 on their breakthrough album Speaking in Tongues, “This Must be the Place” is a simple song, with complex layers and instrumentation. Beginning with a simple double tap on a snare, the song is soon dominated by synthesized keyboards, a lazy loping bass and a staccato, muted rhythm guitar. An organ leads with a simple, almost playful melody. The very first word is “home.”
Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong, nothing
David Byrne does not write a lot of love songs, so any love song he writes will most likely be something different from the norm. When interviewed about “This Must be the Place,” Byrne said “That’s a love song made up almost completely of non sequiturs, phrases that may have a strong emotional resonance but don’t have any narrative qualities. “
“Home is where I want to be.” “Feet on the ground, head in the sky.” “I know nothing’s wrong.” The narrative may be missing, but the message is strong. Home is good. Home is where we belong. Home is where we make our life.
“And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money, always for love
Cover up and say goodnight, say goodnight”
Home is good, but home can also be complicated. Home can be a place that feels safe and warm, but sometimes can also be a place we need to leave. A place of difficulty and pain. And why are we here? What is keeping us grounded on this spot…this spot of all spots?
“Home, is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from the other
I find you, or you find me?
There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be, where I’ll be.”
The song does not make much sense, but we all get it. Years ago. Or years and years ago. Or even more than that…someone put their suitcase down. They looked around and said “let’s live here.” Then they had kids, their kids had kids, and then you came along. Will you stay? Will you pick up your suitcase, and find a new place to call home? Will home find you, or will you find home? The questions are good questions, important questions, and we consider them in the context of this lovely song from The Talking Heads.
In 1984, The Talking Heads released their Stop Making Sense concert film. Directed by the late, great Jonathan Demme, this is widely considered to be one of the finest concert films ever released. Featuring no audience reaction shots, no backstage interviews, Stop Making Sense is only about the music and the performance, and their performance of “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)” is truly remarkable.
The band is lined up across the stage, all wearing muted colors, and behind them are projected images of home. A bookcase. A farm. A city. Different homes for different people. They are lit only by a household floor lamp. The amazing Alex Weir plays a wonderfully light, crunchy rhythm guitar. David Byrne appears as the stern father, telling his family the importance of home. Then, towards the end, invoking the grace and style of Fred Astaire, David Byrne dances with the lamp, tossing it back and forth with joy and whimsy. Truly a remarkable performance.
Yes indeed, this must be the place.
“This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)”
Written by David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison
Performed by The Talking Heads
Released November, 1983