5 Things You Might Not Know About Chris Frantz

Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Talking Heads ONCE IN A LIFETIME BOX Album Cover

Today we celebrate the birthday of percussionist Chris Frantz, best known for his work as a member of Talking Heads and – in more recent years – Tom Tom Club. To commemorate the occasion, we’ve put together a list of five things that you may or may not know about this outstanding musician.

1.    He’s the one who first steered David Byrne toward starting a band.

Chris Frantz first met David Byrne during his freshman year at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, but it took two years – and working together on a movie about a guy’s girlfriend getting run over by a car – before they actually hit it off. Chris suggested that they form a band, and Byrne agreed. They were called…The Artistics! Never heard of them? Yeah, that’s probably because they, uh, didn’t really go anywhere, and they soon broke up. But the bond between David and Chris was forged, and that’s what matters. As David admitted later, “Chris is the one who organized the band: I might have been too shy to put a band together to play my songs.”

2.    The Ramones played a pivotal role in Chris re-pitching the idea of starting a band.

Not that the Ramones knew this at the time, mind you. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design, Chris and Tina Weymouth tried and failed to get into graduate school at Yale University, after which they decided to follow in David’s footsteps and move to NYC. Upon their arrival, the bunch of them went to see the Ramones at CBGBs, after which Chris once again pitched the idea of starting a band. According to the book This Must Be The Place, Chris said, “Let’s at least try it. If we fail, we fail. But we’ll kick ourselves forever if we don’t at least try.” So they tried. And they did not, in fact, fail. But you already knew that.

3.    He’s the one who got them their first gig at CBGBs.

Talking Heads played their music for friends for a fair while before they finally felt that they’d accomplished enough to play for a paying audience. Frantz went to Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGBs, and talked him into letting them audition. “They knew what they were doing,” Kristal said in a later interview. “They had obviously practiced much more than other bands. They had it down.”

4.    He’s not against a Talking Heads reunion.

That said, it’s not like he has any idea if one will ever happen. “You’ll have to ask David Byrne
about that,” he told Rolling Stone. We never ended Talking Heads ourselves. That’s entirely in
his court. We never had a fight. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a reunion. On the other hand,
I’m not going to hold my breath because life goes on. Life is too short to sit around moaning
about what could have been or what was. We are in touch with the band and we all would love to
do it, but we can’t do it without David.”

5.    No matter what you’ve heard, he never served cough syrup at a party.

For whatever reason, this is one of the oldest and most frequently recurring rumors about Chris, but in a 2010 interview with Stay Thirsty, he decried it as a falsehood. “Absolutely not!” he said. “Who told you that? My dinner parties are world famous for delicious food and plentiful fine wines.” Another great anecdote ruined by the truth…


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