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October 16, 2007 3:59 AM   Subscribe

Reliving My Youth Filter: Watching ye olde Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime" video on YouTube, I note that I've never actually got the skinny on what the significance of the "hand chopping the forearm" gesture Byrne makes is.

It seems to (perhaps) have cultural significance in India as evidenced by the film clip playing behind him, but my google searches have yielded nothing. I can kinda figure it out from the context but have always wondered if my half-assed assumptions actually have any grounding in reality. (Given the assumptions I had about sex the first time I saw that video and how accurate those turned out to be, I have my doubts.)
posted by maxwelton to Society & Culture (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I just always thought he was a weirdo doing weirdo things.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:11 AM on October 16, 2007 [8 favorites]

There is, of course, the possibility I am bean-plating this.
posted by maxwelton at 4:15 AM on October 16, 2007

You're bean-plating it.
posted by mykescipark at 4:33 AM on October 16, 2007

I was just watching the DVD of "Stop Making Sense" last night (it was given away as a freebie with a Sunday Paper recently). One of the extras is the original storyboard for Byrne's staging of the show. In the board for Once In A Lifetime, he mentions a preacher (TV preacher, I'm guessing?) by name, in reference to some of the movements he makes on stage. I don't have the DVD to hand, but perhaps it's related somehow to this?
posted by coach_mcguirk at 4:33 AM on October 16, 2007

He is just mimicking the motions of a foreign dance, which is shown in the video at about 1:10.

Some of his movements are just strange gestures he made up, and some are copied from tribal or ceremonial dances, and some are copied from preachers.
posted by The Deej at 5:08 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

My favorite apocryphal theory about this involves a young David Byrne's summer job at a hot dog stand. This was a particularly popular stand, so when the orders poured in, David would line up hot dogs on his arms and apply mustard in a manner not unlike the Once in a Lifetime video.

Forgot where I heard this story and I'm sure it's 100% untrue, but I've decided that it's too good not to believe.
posted by turaho at 7:40 AM on October 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ahhh... google and ye shall receive.
posted by turaho at 7:41 AM on October 16, 2007

The choreography in the video is supposed to mimic a marionette. The hand-chopping motion and pretty much everything else Byrne does are simple, easy marionette moves (at least if Once in a Lifetime.)
posted by SansPoint at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2007

ack. That link is supposed to be "If wikipedia can be believed."
posted by SansPoint at 8:42 AM on October 16, 2007

turaho's "google and ye shall receive" link above includes Byrne explaining the origins of the move.
But I got that thing from, I saw these Japanese kids dancing in the park in Tokyo, these kind of rockabilly dancers, and then there were these kind of space cadet kids that had a completely different set of movements. I videotaped a bunch of them, and that's where I got that.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:46 AM on October 16, 2007

Deej has got it, but I think its a religous thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on October 16, 2007

I dunno, Ironmouth. I'm leaning toward the hot dog theory now. But I think it's the act of adding relish, not mustard.

Since Byrne is mentioned here and on the blue, let me take this opportunity to say: if you haven't seen his Live at Union Chapel DVD, go buy it.
posted by The Deej at 11:16 AM on October 16, 2007

Umm - hello? Is this mike on? I just quoted Byrne answering the question. Right there, three comments up. From turaho's link half way through the thread. Byrne denies the hot dog origins and says he got it from some Japanese kids dancing in a park. He videotaped them, which is what was included in the video. Mystery pretty much solved.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:29 AM on October 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thank you all, and especially turaho, who found a quote from the man himself. Next week: What is it with the little people in the "Safety Dance" video?
posted by maxwelton at 12:01 PM on October 16, 2007

What's "bean-plating"?
posted by philad at 2:46 PM on October 16, 2007

Sorry Flo. I have made up my mind. Relish. Leave David Byrne out of this, who cares what that whackjob says.
posted by The Deej at 3:31 PM on October 16, 2007

Oh David, you're so fine you blow my mind, oh David!

years ago when i learned it was Toni Basil who choreographed for the video, i filed that away and use it in my arsenal of arcane trivial knowledge. no one ever guesses her involvement, unless i give them a clue or two first...
posted by kuppajava at 8:49 AM on October 17, 2007

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