The Great Curve

Originally Performed ByTalking Heads
Original AlbumRemain in Light (1980)
Appears On
Music/LyricsByrne, Eno, Frantz, Harrison, Weymouth
VocalsPage (lead), Fish, Mike, Trey (backing)
Phish Debut1996-10-31
Last Played1996-10-31
Current Gap1004
HistorianMark Toscano


Talking HeadsRemain In Light is all about interlocking gravitational fields, changing densities, kinetics, inertia, basically a physics teacher’s wet dream. “The Great Curve” is a nice example of these properties just like any other song on the album, but is definitely a more restrained artifact of science and nature. Not as sparse and minimal as “Listening Wind,” but certainly not as mind-poundingly dense as “Born Under Punches,” “The Great Curve” takes a slightly different approach. The rhythms are there, as are the instrumental fills and asides, but the focus of this song is definitely the vocals. The arrangement is simple, but no less ruthless than its brethren, allowing the complicated interplay of voices to take charge. There are multiple entry and exit points for the vocals, and Phish likely had a difficult time pinning this one down on 10/31/96

Talking Heads "The Great Curve" -- 1980 Rome, Italy

Perhaps needless to say, they nailed it pretty firmly, playing nicely with and around the sounds of the original track. In both versions, guitar solos consist of short bursts of metallic noise, wrapping otherwise inaccessible melodies into untieable knots. Horns (synth on the original) punctuate every few measures, putting periods on ends of musical sentences. The music itself remains quite consistent throughout the entire song, fitting the vocal madness like a heavily starched shirt. The stop-on-a-dime ending came just before everyone (especially the audience) is completely out of breath. 

Fans of both bands may want to pick up 1982’s The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, a double live album containing a seven-minute version of this track by the folks who wrote it. 

"The Great Curve" 10/31/96 Atlanta, GA

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