Genius of Drums: 5 Great Songs Co-Written by Chris Frantz of Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club

Founding Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club drummer Chris Frantz turned 73 on May 8, 2024.

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Frantz began playing with singer/guitarist David Byrne in 1973 in a group called The Artistics. The duo both attended the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1975, Byrne, Frantz, and Frantz’s girlfriend, Tina Weymouth, moved to New York City. After Weymouth taught herself to play bass, the three formed Talking Heads. Ex-Modern Lovers guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison then was recruited to join the band in 1977, solidifying its classic lineup.

[RELATED: Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison Calls the Group’s Reunion a “Healing Experience”]

Although Byrne was Talking Heads’ main creative force, the other members, including Frantz, co-write many of the band’s well-known songs.

Frantz and Weymouth got married in 1977, and in 1981 they launched the successful side project Tom Tom Club. Frantz also contributed to the songwriting for that group, which scored some hits in its own right.

In honor of Frantz’s birthday, here are five memorable songs Frantz co-wrote for Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club:

“Psycho Killer” – Talking Heads (1977)

“Psycho Killer” was the song that put Talking Heads on the map. It emains one of the group’s most enduring tunes.

The funky new-wave song, which is sung from the perspective of a serial killer, was co-written by Byrne, Frantz, and Weymouth.

“Psycho Killer” was a standout track on the band’s debut album Talking Heads: 77. In 1995, it was included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

“Once in a Lifetime” – Talking Heads (1980)

“Once in a Lifetime” was the lead single from Talking Heads’ fourth studio album, Remain in Light. Musically, the song’s infectious polyrhythmic percussion was influenced by Afrobeat artists such as Fela Kuti. Byrne’s vocals and lyrics were inspired by the sermonizing of evangelical preachers.

The tune was co-written by the four Talking Heads members and Remain in Light producer Brian Eno. “Once in a Lifetime” became a Top-20 hit in the U.K. The song also peaked at No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Songs chart.

On Rolling Stone’s 2024 list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” “Once in a Lifetime” was ranked No. 28. It also was it was included in the Rock Hall’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.”

“Wordy Rappinghood” – Tom Tom Club (1981)

“Wordy Rappinghood” was the lead single from Tom Tom Club’s self-titled 1981 debut albums. The catchy, hypnotic tune offers up a mix of hip hop, funk, and synth pop. It features Weymouth on spoken-word lead vocals.

The song was co-written by Frantz and Weymouth, along with Tina’s sisters Lani and Laura, and Jamaican producer/musician Steven Stanley, who co-produced the album.

Lani and Laura Weymouth also contributed backing vocals to the song.

“Wordy Rappinghood” was a No. 7 hit in the U.K., and topped the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart as part as a double single with “Genius of Love.”

“Genius of Love” – Tom Tom Club (1981)

“Genius of Love” is Tom Tom Club’s best-known song. The extremely catchy synth-pop dance song features Weymouth on lead vocal, with additional vocals from Frantz and Tina’s sisters Lani and Laura.

The song was co-written by Frantz, Weymouth, Stanley, and guitarist Adrian Belew, who at that time was serving as a touring member of Talking Heads.

“Genius of Love” became Tom Tom Club’s only song to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 31. As mentioned before, it also topped Billboard’s Dance Club Songs chart as part as a double single with “Wordy Rappinghood.”

Over the ensuing years, many hip-hop, rap and R&B songs have interpolated the hooks and used the beats from “Genius of Love.” Perhaps the most famous use of “Genius of Love” is in Mariah Carey’s 1995 chart-topping hit “Fantasy.”

“Burning Down the House” – Talking Heads (1983)

“Burning Down the House” was Talking Heads’ biggest hit on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 9 on the chart. The song was featured on the band’s fifth studio album, Speaking in Tongues (1983). The group’s four members co-wrote the tune.

In the liner notes for the 1992 Talking Heads compilation Once in a Lifetime, Weymouth explained that the song began as a jam. The he title was inspired by a chant Frantz had heard during a recent concert by a legendary funk band.

“Chris had just been to see Parliament-Funkadelic in its full glory at Madison Square Garden, and he was really hyped,” she recalled. “During the jam, he kept yelling ‘Burn down the house!’ which was a P-Funk audience chant, and David dug the line, changing it to the finished version, ‘Burning down the house.’”

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