Road to Nowhere: Covering a Classic

Road to Nowhere: Covering a Classic

What’s the first CD you ever bought? Back in the 80’s, when those shiny new laser disks appeared in elongated cardboard packages, my first purchase was Talking Heads’ Little Creatures.  I enjoyed the entire album, but I particularly liked to play the final track, “Road to Nowhere,” on endless repeat.

ABOVE: Watch David Wallace & Friends perform Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” at the 2016 MWROC festival.

Road to Nowhere in the Golden Era of MTV

In fact, MTV’s heavy rotation of “Road to Nowhere” was probably what prompted me to buy Little Creatures. Lead singer David Byrne always had artistic concepts and films for Talking Heads’ songs. “Road to Nowhere” remains my favorite for its symbolism and cinematography:

Byrne perpetually jogs on an invisible treadmill in the lower right hand corner. Meanwhile, other band members perpetually twist, age, and cycle through life’s major events.  If you watch the video in slow motion, or frame by frame, prepare to catch oddities you may have missed while staring at the jogging Byrne:

We briefly witness Trinity, the world’s first detonation of an atom bomb (0:59-1:01)

Road to Nowhere Trinity Atomic Test Film

Screenshot of the original Trinity atomic test film, briefly excerpted in the Talking Heads video

At 1:20, drummer Chris Frantz appears to have become a musical Sisyphus, dragging a heavy accordion up a steep hill.

And then we see sparring, rotating men wearing business suits and Mexican luchador masks (1:45). I can’t explain why this ten-second montage rings so true to me, but it does.

Does the stop-motion animation beginning at 2:55 looks familiar? That’s because it inspired the subsequent video for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

Covering Road to Nowhere

At the 2016 MWROC Festival, I needed a set-closer to follow my new electric viola tone poem, Array of Irrevocable Light. Since “Array” digs deeply into nuclear wonders, threats, and problems, “Road to Nowhere” seemed a fitting conclusion. Why? Well, consider David Byrne’s summary of the song: “I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom.” Although I intended to take my audience to some dark places, I also wanted to leave them joyful.

A few notable covers of “Road to Nowhere” exist. (For example, check out Jars of Clay or the Young at Heart Chorus). For my unique spin, I added violins, cello, and rhythm viola to the original orchestration. To me, the song feels as timely today as it did when I first spun Little Creatures in 1986.  Enjoy!

Harbingers of Awesomeness

Harbingers of Awesomeness

I just invented a new hash-tag: #HarbingerOfAwesomeness (plural: #HarbingersOfAwesomeness). Simply put, Harbingers of Awesomeness are unforeseen portents of good things to come.

Twitter doesn’t recognize this hash-tag yet, though it does know #HarbingerOfTheMundane.  Since that sounds rather awesomeless, let’s tweet our #HarbingersOfAwesomeness and start a better trend.

But first, here’s some inspiration to get you started. . .

First-class #HarbingersOfAwesomeness

Before I went to bed last night, Delta Airlines gave me a surprise first-class upgrade. Thus emerged the historic first #HarbingersOfAwesomeness tweet:

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

“#FirstClassUpgrade?! ALL bags fly free?! Boarding first?! Room in the overheads for my viper & viola? #Hallelujah! #HarbingersofAwesomeness.”

As Dave Carroll’s song “United Breaks Guitars” clearly relates, traveling with instruments can be a major ordeal:

If you still need convincing, here’s another woeful saga from Yours Truly: MY BAGS WENT TO GHANA AGAIN?!!!.

Naturally, flying first facilitates traveling with two instruments and a backpack full of electronics. Upgrades are doubtless #HarbingersOfAwesomeness, but so are the people around you. . .

People can be Harbingers of Awesomeness

Before I went to the airport, I encountered a human Harbinger of Awesomeness. While making a mad, last-minute cash-dash for the bank, I was greeted by a soft, friendly, “David Wallace!”

I spun around to face a smiling Bridget Kibbey, who was on her way home from an early morning jog.  Bridget was the original harpist of my trio that recently re-emerged as Hat Trick, with flutist April Clayton and harpist Kristi Shade.

In 2004, Bridget also toured with the Teaching Artist Ensemble of the New York Philharmonic on our inaugural tour. Whenever anyone encounters Bridget, something good follows, usually of a musical or spiritual nature. In other words, Bridget Kibbey is a certified Harbinger of Awesomeness:

Sure enough, on this morning, there was no traffic to LaGuardia Airport. As a first-class passenger, I circumnavigated the “infinitely long, plebeian, non-elite traveler” check-in line.

Even a TSA Inspection Can Equate to Awesomeness

Then came the next MAJOR Harbinger of Awesomeness. During TSA screening, my electric viola tested positive for explosives. Believe me, I want to give some EXPLOSIVE performances at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp this week!

Electric Violas are indeed most explosive.

Electric Violas: most explosive, indeed!

I was tempted to photograph the large “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED” message on the computer screen, since this had never happened before. However, I didn’t want to arouse additional attention. -That’s because in a #HarbingerOfTheMundane, the TSA was predictably suspicious of one of my favorite electronics effects pedals:

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler: #Awesomeness!

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. 100% probability of receiving a TSA inspection. Heck; who can blame ’em? Admit it. You wish you could swab it right now!

TSA agent: What’s this?

Doc Wallace (with pride & enthusiasm): It’s the Line 6 DL 4 Delay Modeler; it makes electric violas sound mad awesome!!

I daresay the agent cracked a smile before she nudged her male colleague to give me a full-body pat-down.

“Sir, I’m going to gently pat your buttocks with the back of my hand.”

Under very special circumstances, I suppose that someone might consider such an intimate utterance to be a Harbinger of Awesomeness. In the context of a TSA inspection, though, we are reminded:

Harbingers of Awesomeness are not about business as usual. . . on the contrary, they are portents of exciting or extraordinary realities on the horizon. They are neither guarantees nor assurances. Rather, Harbingers of Awesomeness are hunches, sparking our minds and sensitizing our intuition. By waking us up, they open us up to transcendent realities and greater appreciation of the mundane. We just know that we’re onto something good.

Wishing You Awesomeness

To close, I’ll leave you with a short video from Robert Brooker. Robert’s a train engineer who works in the Toronto subways, and who also subscribes to my YouTube channel. Clearly, he gets the concept:

Hey, did I mention that my plane arrived in Kansas City fifty minutes early?!!

For more #HarbingersOfAwesomeness, please visit and follow my Twitter page.

Wishing you extraordinary realities!

-Doc Wallace 14 July 2013