Talking Heads

  • New wave band formed in 1975 from New York, New York. Members of the group were David Byrne (lead vocals, guitars), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass guitars) and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitars). All contributed to songwriting, with Byrne the primary lyricist.
  • Byrne played guitar, accordion and violin before high school, and was in several bands. Byrne, Frantz and Weymouth all attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where they met. Byrne transferred to another school, but dropped out after a year, and moved back to Providence in 1973 to form a band with Frantz, named The Artistics. After a year, the band stopped performing, and Byrne and Frantz moved to New York City, along with Frantz’ girlfriend Weymouth.
  • While in New York, they wanted to perform again, but they couldn’t find a bass guitar player. Frantz encouraged Weymouth to learn how to play. They performed their first gig as Talking Heads in June 1975 at CBGB in NYC, opening for The Ramones. They chose the name after seeing it in TV Guide, describing the term as a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking, with ‘all content, no action.” They soon recorded some demo songs, which initially did not lead to a recording contract. Their popularity at clubs grew, and by late 1976 they were signed to a contract.
  • Their first single was released in early 1977. Titled Love → Building on Fire, it was eccentric and odd, early new wave, with Byrne’s usual funky, edgy, bizarre vocals – certainly too strange for Top 40 radio in 1977. It was clear that they needed a guitarist, and Harrison was added to the group in March that year. By late summer, their debut album was released, Talking Heads: 77. It managed to have 1 single make the Hot 100 chart – Psycho Killer peaked at #92. Many thought that it was written in response to the Son of Sam serial killer, who had been terrorizing New York City prior to its release, but in fact, the song was written 4 years earlier and had been performed when Byrne and Frantz were with The Artistics.
  • Critics raved about the album (Rolling Stone ranks it #291 on the Greatest Albums list – one of four Talking Heads album to make the list). They followed it with 1978’s More Songs About Buildings and Food, and the single from the album, Take Me To The River, cracked the top 40. It’s an interesting new wave cover song of an Al Green’s classic. This album was their first with producer Brian Eno, who would produce 3 albums for the group, and who was an important contributor to the art/psychedelic funk and afrobeat sound of the band.
  • The next 2 albums – Fear of Music and Remain In Light – sold well as albums, reaching #21 and #19 respectively on the Billboard 200 album chart, but singles did not sell well. Over time, as the band’s reputation grew, songs from these albums became favorites among their fans – particularly Once In A Lifetime. The video for this song received much airplay on MTV, considered by many to be one of the best of all time.
  • The band went on hiatus for nearly 3 years, and then re-emerged with their first platinum selling album in 1983 – Speaking In Tongues. It contained their highest charting single, Burning Down the House – it reached #9 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Dance Club charts. Its iconic video was constantly played on MTV, which no doubt helped its sales. Their concert tour to support the album was their last tour as a group. It was documented in a film titled Stop Making Sense, and a live album of the same name was released in 1984 – it was certified double platinum in sales.
  • 1985’s Little Creatures was the last album that was commercially successful. It was their best selling album, with over 2 million copies sold in the U.S. The album peaked at #20 on the album chart, and the single And She Was reached #11 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Compared to their earlier albums, it sounded more pop-rock than new wave, although Byrne’s unique vocals continue to give it that Talking Heads sound.
  • Their final 2 albums – True Stories and Naked – were primarily under the control of Byrne. The song Wild Wild Life was their last to chart on the Hot 100 chart, at #25. As usual, the video was notable, winning the MTV Music Video award in 1987 for Best Group Video.
  • They went on hiatus again in 1988, and by 1991, an announcement finally was made that they had broken up. The band reunited in 1996 with Byrne for one album, calling themselves The Heads, while Byrne continued a solo career. They finally played together once, during their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
  • To me, Talking Heads was one of the best New Wave bands ever. Their sound, and especially their videos, had a artistic flair to them that made them cool. Here is their super cool video for Burning Down The House. 

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