Tuesday, September 15, 2015


They say that timing is everything and when Talking Heads first came together, the furious beat of punk and new-wave was just beginning to gain some traction in popular music. The band fit perfectly in this movement however, their particular sound didn't easily fall in to either of those categories. They were one of the first bands to merge different genres together to create their own version of world music. Lead by David Byrne's melodic, droning voice and offbeat vision, Talking Heads would forge their own unique path and become one of the most innovative and influential musical groups in pop history.

David Byrne and Chris Frantz met while attending an art college in Rhode Island. They formed a band together called The Artistics in 1974. Frantz's girlfriend, Tina Weymouth, who also graduated from the school, would help out by driving them around to local gigs. The three decided to move to New York to try their luck. The band needed a bass player, so they encouraged Weymouth to learn how to play. The trio renamed the band, "Talking Heads" and made their first performance in the city opening for The Ramones at CBGB in 1975. Talking Heads developed a cult following and soon record labels came calling. After adding keyboardist, Jerry Harrison to the band in 1977, they signed with Sire Records and released their debut, "Talking Heads: 77". The single, "Psycho Killer" was not a major hit but brought attention to the band.

For their follow-up album, "More Songs About Buildings and Food", Talking Heads teamed up with experimental rock producer, Brian Eno. This was a perfect match of unconventional style and sensibility and the band blended elements of country, reggae and funk in to their sound. Their cover of Al Green's "Take Me To The River" became their first to hit the top-forty on the U.S. pop chart. Eno produced their next two releases, "Fear of Music" (1979) and "Remain in Light" (1980) with Talking Heads exploring further with disco and African rhythms. During this time, they released memorable singles such as "Once In A Lifetime" and "Life During Wartime" which featured the famous lyric "This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco, This Ain't No Foolin' Around"

When the time came to work on their next album, Talking Heads decided to change direction in more ways than one. David Byrne had been the lead vocalist and head writer from the beginning which eventually left the rest of the members feeling frustrated and nothing more than a back-up band. They had begun working on their music as a group and with "Speaking in Tongues", Talking Heads also produced the record together. This became one of their most commercially successful albums with the song, "Burning Down The House" reaching the top-ten on the pop chart. Director Jonathan Demme filmed the band during the L.A. stop of their tour to promote this album which became the popular 1984 concert film, "Stop Making Sense" with a live soundtrack album also released.

Talking Heads would release three more albums but tension between Byrne and the other members continued to escalate. After "Naked" in 1988, the band decided to take a break before officially announcing the end of Talking Heads in 1991. They all would go on to work on solo projects with the most notable being Frantz and Weymouth (who married in 1977 and remain together to this day) who formed Tom Tom Club in 1980 and had a hit with "Genius of Love" which has been heavily sampled over the years. Talking Heads were inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

Enjoy two of my favorites songs from Talking Heads:

"Life During Wartime" - Talking Heads (1979) mp3

"Burning Down The House" - Talking Heads (1983) mp3

After seeing the movie trailer for "Stop Making Sense", I need to put it on Netflix queue:

Finally, take a look at the animated music video for the Tom Tom Club's classic "Genius of Love":


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