Tina Weymouth: “I know Bono used me to taunt Adam Clayton when U2 were starting out”

by GuitarDomain

As one of the funkiest bassists of the American New Wave scene, Tina Weymouth clearly had a lot more to offer the bass guitar world than just her gender. Still, she’s put up with untold grief in the male-dominated arena of rock, and her survival – coupled with her onstage ascent from novice to seasoned pro – made her an inspiration to aspiring bass players everywhere. “I think you can look at me and say, ‘Wow, there’s this small, small person working away at this, and if she can do it, I can,'” she told BP. “It’s a punk thing, you know?”

Could it be that women play the bass differently from men? “Obviously, the bass does limit me physically,” said Weymouth. “But there are ways of getting around limitations, and my size was almost like a dare to boys. I know Bono used me to taunt Adam Clayton when they were starting out, which was terrible for Adam!”

Weymouth’s inventive playing style is all the more impressive bearing in mind that she only picked up the bass for the first time a matter of months before Talking Heads’s first gig. 

“The three of us moved to New York in September of 1974,” Weymouth told BP, “and within a month Chris was begging me to play bass. We all shared a loft just down the street from CBGB’s; he’d go there every night looking for a bass player, but no one was interested. I’d taught myself guitar out of Bob Dylan songbooks, so playing bass in a band seemed very far-removed to me. It just didn’t seem realistic. I figured I would leave as soon as they found a real bass player.”

Even during punk’s heydey, few bands did so much with so little. When a former marching band drummer, a super-eccentric singer/guitarist, and a neophyte bassist – all former classmates at the Rhode Island School of Design – began gigging as Talking Heads in 1975, they’d already come farther than many had predicted. 

The following interview from the Bass Player archives took place in 1996, eight years after Talking Heads’ final album, Naked.

What do you remember most about the band’s early days?

“I remember how committed we were, but also how tough it was. We lived on pasta and cottage cheese. We had no shower and no hot water – just a hot plate and a mini fridge. Our big refrigerator was the window ledge. The toilet was down the hall, and I was the only one who ever cleaned it. But it never really got clean, so eventually I just spray painted it silver, à la Andy Warhol. The whole setup was really unsanitary and dangerous and weird, but I think being absolutely bone poor is the most motivating thing in the world. We were so committed; we rehearsed seven days a week.”

(Image credit: Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Even though it must have been a struggle, the three of you seemed to gel pretty quickly.

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