Here’s a clip of Tom Tom Club’s infectious 1981 dance floor filler “Genius of Love”, taken from their self-titled debut album. This is the sound of early 80s dance music at its best, folks: funky, sexy, yet somehow more innocent than the dance music of today. To me, it’s the sound of adolescence.
The group is actually an off-shoot project as led by bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, both of Talking Heads, expanding on the more funk-oriented interests of that parent band, along with an exploration of early hip hop textures. The ‘band’ Tom Tom Club was initially more of a collective than a traditional group, with Weymouth and Frantz acting as musical fulcrums for the contributions of guests.
It is important to note that on the New York club circuit in the late 70s-early 80s, dance music was the leader of the pack, and punk coming out of CBGBs, a scene in which the ‘Heads flourished, was just a stray pup trailing behind in comparison. Needless to say, this is a very New York track, as much as any music coming out of the punk clubs of the time. The world which this track typifies is where a young and hungry Madonna would make her name, and build her initial sound.
And of course, then there was the nascent hip hop scene, in which this track would play an important role too. It would be sampled heavily by disparate artists in that genre, starting with Grandmaster Flash and Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. It would later hit the mainstream in the 90s, when it was sampled for the Mariah Carey track “Fantasy”. That’s what I call a groove with mileage, despite what you may think of Mariah Carey.
Through the life of the Tom Tom Club ‘vehicle’, Weymouth and Frantz would release a number of albums spread out across the decades from ’81 to the 21st century, with the project becoming their main focus when Talking Heads broke up officially in 1991. They kept their eyes on the urban scene, using it as a sort of stylistic horizon while adding in influences from other genres. The project remains to be a going concern for the pair, recently playing shows with Devo, their early 80s classmates. Yet, this song marks their biggest mainstream success.
For more about Tom Tom Club, boogie on down to the official Tom Tom Club site.