I’ve been on a Talking Heads kick lately, mainly because I’ve been reading This Must be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the 20th Century by David Bowman. Bowman, you may recall, was the astronaut who turned into a space fetus at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I don’t know how he managed to write the book. But he did. It’s compulsively readable, if a little snarky and glib. Sometimes the best thing an author can do is get out of the material’s way, and that is something that Bowman refused to do. As I said, though, the book is pretty darn readable and it’s motivated me to listen to a lot of stuff I haven’t heard in years.

Including The Name of this Band is Talking Heads, a double live album that came out in 1982. Today I loaded up the digital versions of the last two sides—played by the extended, funky version of Talking Heads—and listened to it as I walked.

I remember when the album came out. I was a senior at a big university in Los Angeles. I saw the band twice on the tour they did to promote the live set, once at the Greek Theater in Hollywood and once at the Hollywood Palladium. The day after the Greek Theater show I exchanged notes with the reporter from the Hollywood Reporter (where I worked at the time) who reviewed the show. “It was like a religious experience,” I said. “Exactly!” she replied.

I think I had seen The Name of This Band in the stores but didn’t have the money to buy it, because I remember calling up radio station KROQ to request the live version of “The Great Curve,” my favorite Talking Heads song. I thought the live version would be incredible.

A man with a British accent answered the phone. “KROQ,” he said. “This is Aynsley Dunbar.”

The name rang a bell, but it was a pretty faint one. I think I knew he was a drummer. I later learned he had played with pretty much everyone, including Frank Zappa, Ian Hunter, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Journey. Those first four credits would have impressed me; Journey not so much. Journey was one of the bands I felt duty-bound to hate, along with groups like REO Speedwagon, Rush, Loverboy, and their ilk. I thought it was all music for brain-dead frat boys. I gave Rush some grudging respect because Geddy Lee, that hoser, had appeared on the Bob and Doug Mackenzie album. The rest of them, though, were too mainstream for my newly acquired too-cool taste in music.

“Could you play ‘The Great Curve” from The Name of this Band is Talking Heads?” I asked Dunbar, who was answering phones at KROQ as some kind of publicity gimmick.

“Great band,” he said. Then he asked if I knew who he was. He sounded pretty affable. “I’ve heard of you,” I said, tentatively. I hated then and still hate now to confess ignorance. He told me about some of his credits. I’m not sure if he mentioned Journey.

It was right around then that I reviewed a Journey concert at the Rose Bowl for the Hollywood Reporter. Of course, I hated the band on principle, so I hated the concert. I sat way up in the bleachers and it struck me that everyone else in my section was as bored as I was. Plus, I thought singer Steve Perry, visible to me in closeup on the big video screens above the stage, looked less like a rock-and-roll singer and more like Dustin Hoffman. I dutifully mentioned all this in my review, which apparently pissed off the band. Their manager called the music editor at the Hollywood Reporter to complain, so she banned me from reviewing for a time.

I had another Journey experience in California around then, when I went to a party at the invitation of a friend of a friend. It was at an apartment in Riverside. The only people I knew there were the people I had come with, and the guy who had invited us. As the night went on I became more and more bored and more and more belligerent. Finally I decided to take over the stereo, which was easy to do because the host kept it behind his bar. I could easily block anyone from approaching the turntable. One persistent party-goer kept insisting I put on a Journey album. “No. No Journey,” I decreed. Instead I put on Weasels Ripped my Flesh by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

That did not go over so well.

The funny thing is, Aynsley Dunbar had played with both Journey and the Mothers (although not on Weasels Ripped My Flesh).

I wish I had known more about him when he answered the phone. He seemed like he was up for a chat, and I would have liked to ask him about working with Zappa and Bowie and Ian Hunter. One album I bought in California that I really liked was Hunter’s All-American Alien Boy, and Dunbar plays on that. They say ignorance is bliss, but usually it’s just something that makes you want to kick yourself later.

I still don’t like Journey, despite the use of one of their songs at end of the final Sopranos episode. And I think the studio version of “The Great Curve” is better than the live one.

Come to think of it, I don’t think KROQ ever played my request, anyway.

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