The Tom Tom Club was a Talking Heads splinter group that featured drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth. I actually heard of the Club before I heard of the Heads, thanks to “Genius of Love”, the quirky funk jam that made it all the way up to the penultimate spot on Billboard‘s soul charts in early ’82. The Tom Tom Club’s success actually influenced their parent group’s more funky sound on Speaking In Tongues, which remains my favorite Talking Heads album.
“Genius of Love” took the Heads’ stiff art school new wave and gave it rubber limbs. The song nods its head to the then burgeoning genre of hip-hop, and shouts out a series of soul, rap and reggae rebels. James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Hamilton Bohannon and Sly & Robbie all get love from the Tom Tom Club. “Genius” was inclusive and reverent in addition to being playful and fun. All of those descriptors explain why the song has maintained its freshness for several generations, living a long life as a sample (most notably on Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy”, the song that earned Mariah serious street credit and probably earned Weymouth and Frantz quite the chunk of change.)