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Home / Classics / Talking Heads

The "black" beat of the new wave

Experimenting new bizarre contaminations between styles and rhythms, David Byrne's Talking Heads have become one the most influent bands of the entire new wave. Thier music introduced into the rock songs all the obsessive beats of the black music



- Talking Heads: 77 (1977)

- More Songs About Buildings

   And Food (1978)

- Fear Of Music (1979)

- Remain In Light (1980)

- The Name Of The Band Is

   Talking Heads (1982)

- Speaking In Tongues (1983)

- Stop Making Sense (1984)

- Little Creatures (1985)

- True Stories (1986)

- Naked (1988)

- Sand in the Vaseline

   (anthology, 1992)

- Once in a Lifetime (anthology, 1992)

- Bridges To Babylon (1997)


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Blixa Bargeld

Talking Heads are one the white bands most influenced by the rhythms and the sounds of the black music. They were born in 1975, when the drummer Chris Frantz (1951, Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, USA) and the singer, guitarist and keyboardist David Byrne (1952, Dumbarton, Scotland) - both former members of The Artistics or The Autistics - engaged Frantz's girlfriend, Tina Weymouth (1950, Colorado, California, USA) as bass guitar player. This trio formed the nucleus of the future Talking Heads debuting the same year in the famous CBGB's of New York as the Ramones' supporter band. It was the beginning of the new wave explosion and the CBGB's became the temple of this genre thanks to the perfomances of artists such as Patti Smith, Television and Blondie. Unlike their companions, Talking Heads showed very soon a peculiar interest for searching on rhythms and for the ethnic music.

The single "Love Goes To Building Fire" (1977) was recorded with a new guitarist and keyboardist, Jerry Harrison (1949, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA) former member of the Modern Lovers (until 1974) and the Elliott Murphy's band. This line up supported the Ramones on their first English tour. Coming back to USA they released Talking Heads: '77 (September 1977), a bizarre debut that pointed out two of the main features of the band: the nervous singing of Byrne and simple songs based on a few, strong chords: "Uh Oh", "Love Comes To Town", "New Feeling", "Don't Worry About The Government" but mainly the dark "Psycho Killer" are the best examples of a new genre, both irreverent and neurotic. 


During the English tour Talking Heads met Brian Eno who proposed them to produce their second album, More Songs About Buildings And Food (July 1978). The work was an interesting synthesis between the Eno's sounds experiments and the Byrne's music formula, always involved in Arab and African rhythms. The brilliant cover of Al Green's "Take Me To The River" won them the first single on the USA Top 30 and a growing interest by the audience.


Their following album Fear Of Music (August 1979) is another search on experimental rhythms ("I Zimbra", "Life During Wartime", "Air", "Drugs" e "Memories Can't Wait"). The songs are disarticulated and nervous, many years ahead of their contemporaries. A style that was destined to become one of the most influent of the Eighties. 


During a group's crisis, Byrne cut a new record (later published on February 1981): the extraordinary and futuristic My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts (with Brian Eno), an experiment on rhythms, new electronic music, samplings and ethnic sounds that anticipated the following Talking Heads's album, called Remain In Light (October 1980), one of the best works of the American band. Before cutting it, Byrne and his band recorded some stuff on tape, than they over-cut the tracks, producing brand new sounds with peculiar African accents on rhythms.

During the following tour, Talking Heads hosted some important musicians on stage such as Adrian Belew (Frank Zappa, David Bowie, King Crimson), Nona Hendryx (former-Labelle), Bernie Worrell of the Parliament/Funkadelic and Busta Cherry Jones. The hit single "Once In A Lifetime" dragged the album to a great success.


In the meantime, their label (Sire) published the double live The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads (March 1982). In the same time, the collaboration with Brian Eno stopped and the band's members started their own parallel solo careers. Byrne got deep into electronic music, world-music, visual arts and soundtracks (composing the music for the pièce of Twyla Tharp "The Catherine Wheel"); Harrison published the album "The Red And The Black"; Frantz and Weymouth founded Tom Tom Club, that released two great disco hits such as "Wordy Rappinghood" and "Genius Of Music".


Talking Heads came back with Speaking In Tongues (June 1983), not as brilliant as the previous ones but very successful in the States thanks to the funky-oriented singles "Swamp" and "Burning Down The House". Their sound got more banal, using extravagances as a way of communication more than a way of experimenting. And the band recorded the shocking film-concert Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme. A film that strengthened the international fame of David Byrne. Stop Making Sense (1984) was partly reproduced on the homonymous soundtrack that anticipated the success of the following album, Little Creatures (June 1985). Also this time they reduced many of their original ambitions but multiply their earns, thanks to the great single "Road To Nowhere" and the dragging "And She Was".


On the second half of the Eighties Talking Heads were one of the most important avant-garde of the new electronic pop. A role confirmed with the visionary film "True Stories", directed by David Byrne who also composed the movie's soundtrack. Two years later the album Naked (March 1988) was published in Paris and produced by Steve Lillywhite. But it was a new delusion: nothing more than a continuation of the previous work with no surprises at all. Rock sounds rule, as the hit singles "Mr. Jones" and "Blind" confirm.

David Byrne was even more focused on his solo career, while Jerry Harrison became a successful producer. So Talking Heads decided to disband after recording their last, beautiful song: "Sax And Violins" (1991) for the soundtrack of the movie "Until The End Of The World" directed by Wim Wenders (also featuring U2 and Peter Gabriel). The Talking Heads recordings of that session were included (together with their classic hits) in the double anthology Popular Favorites 1976-1992: Sand In The Vaseline (1992), that ended up their musical career. 


In 1996 Weymouth, Frantz and Harrison (without Byrne) tried to unite again and recorded Just Talking No Heads but it was a flop, while David Byrne went on with his solo not always brilliant career.

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