Talking Heads

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Talking Heads
Talking Heads band1.jpg
Talking Heads performing at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto in 1978
Background information
Origin New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active1975–1991 (Reunions in 1996 and 2002)
Labels Sire
Associated acts
Past members

Talking Heads were an American rock band formed in 1975 in New York City and active until 1991. [9] The band comprised David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar). Described by the critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine as "one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the '80s," [3] the group helped to pioneer new wave music by integrating elements of punk, art rock, funk, and world music with avant-garde sensibilities and an anxious, clean-cut image. [3]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

David Byrne Scottish-American musician

David Byrne is a Scottish-American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, artist, actor, writer and filmmaker who was a founding member, principal songwriter and lead singer and guitarist of the American new wave band Talking Heads (1975–1991).

The lead vocalist in popular music is typically the member of a group or band whose voice is the most prominent in a performance where multiple voices may be heard. The lead singer either leads the vocal ensemble, or sets against the ensemble as the dominant sound. In vocal group performances, notably in soul and gospel music, and early rock and roll, the lead singer takes the main vocal part, with a chorus provided by other band members as backing vocalists.


Former art school students who became involved in the 1970s New York punk scene, Talking Heads released their debut album, Talking Heads: 77 , to positive reviews in 1977. They collaborated with producer Brian Eno on a trio of experimental and critically acclaimed releases: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), Fear of Music (1979), and Remain in Light (1980). [3] After a hiatus, Talking Heads hit their commercial peak in 1983 with the U.S. Top 10 hit "Burning Down the House" and released the concert film Stop Making Sense , directed by Jonathan Demme. [3] They released several more albums, including their best-selling LP Little Creatures (1985), before disbanding in 1991. [10]

Art school educational institution with a primary focus on the visual arts

An art school is an educational institution with a primary focus on the visual arts, including fine art, especially illustration, painting, photography, sculpture, and graphic design. Art schools can offer elementary, secondary, post-secondary, or undergraduate programs, and can also offer a broad-based range of programs. There have been six major periods of art school curricula, and each one has had its own hand in developing modern institutions worldwide throughout all levels of education. Art schools have also created a variety of non-academic skills for many students as well.

<i>Talking Heads: 77</i> 1977 studio album by Talking Heads

Talking Heads: 77 is the debut studio album by American rock band Talking Heads. It was recorded in April 1977 at New York's Sundragon Studios and released on September 16 of that year by Sire Records. The single "Psycho Killer" reached number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Brian Eno English musician, composer, record producer and visual artist

Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, RDI is an English musician, record producer, and visual artist best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rock, pop, electronic, and generative music. A self-described "non-musician", Eno has helped introduce a variety of conceptual approaches and recording techniques to contemporary music, advocating a methodology of "theory over practice, serendipity over forethought, and texture over craft" according to AllMusic. He has been described as one of popular music's most influential and innovative figures.

In 2002, Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Four of their albums appear in Rolling Stone 's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and three of their songs ("Psycho Killer", "Life During Wartime", and "Once in a Lifetime") were included among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. [11] Talking Heads were also number 64 on VH1's list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". [12] In the 2011 update of Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", they were ranked number 100. [13]

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hall of fame located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, recognizes and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who have had some major influence on the development of rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983, by Ahmet Ertegun, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records. In 1986, Cleveland was chosen as the Hall of Fame's permanent home.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

Psycho Killer single

"Psycho Killer" is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band The Artistics in 1974, and as Talking Heads in 1975, with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77. In the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads (1992), Jerry Harrison wrote of the b-side of the single, an acoustic version of the song that featured Arthur Russell on cello, "I'm glad we persuaded Tony [Bongiovi] and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn't be the only one."


1971–1974: Before Talking Heads

From 1971 to 1972, David Byrne was a member of a duo named Bizadi with Marc Kehoe. He performed various offbeat acts and developed an interest in performing. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design in the 1970–1971 term, and the Maryland Institute College of Art in the 1971–1972 term.[ citation needed ] [14] .

Rhode Island School of Design Private art and design college in Providence, Rhode Island

Rhode Island School of Design is a private art and design college in Providence, Rhode Island. The college’s immersive model of art and design education emphasizes robust liberal arts studies and conceptually driven studio-based learning in full-time bachelor's and master's degree programs across 19 majors. It has consistently been ranked among the best educational institutions in the world for art and design.

The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is a private art and design college in Baltimore, Maryland. It was founded in 1826 as the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts, making it one of the oldest art colleges in the United States.

Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were also alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. There, Byrne and Frantz formed a band called "The Artistics" in 1973. [15] Weymouth was Frantz's girlfriend and often provided transportation for the band. The Artistics dissolved the following year, and the three moved to New York, eventually sharing a communal loft. [16]

Providence, Rhode Island Capital of Rhode Island

Providence is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Rhode Island and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It was founded in 1636 by Roger Williams, a Reformed Baptist theologian and religious exile from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He named the area in honor of "God's merciful Providence" which he believed was responsible for revealing such a haven for him and his followers. The city is situated at the mouth of the Providence River at the head of Narragansett Bay.

1975–1977: Early years

Tina Weymouth on bass in Minneapolis in 1978 Tina-Weymouth 1978.jpg
Tina Weymouth on bass in Minneapolis in 1978

Tina Weymouth became the band's bass player after they were unable to find one in New York City. Frantz encouraged Weymouth to learn to play bass by listening to Suzi Quatro albums. [17] They played their first gig as "Talking Heads" opening for the Ramones at CBGB on June 5, 1975. [9]

Suzi Quatro American glam rock musician

Susan Kay Quatro is an American rock singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actress. She was the first female bass player to become a major rock star.

Ramones American punk rock band

The Ramones were an American punk rock band that formed in the New York City neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens in 1974. They are often cited as the first true punk rock group. Despite achieving only limited commercial success initially, the band was highly influential in the United States and the United Kingdom.

CBGB Former New York City music club

CBGB was a New York City music club opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal in Manhattan's East Village. The club was previously a biker bar and before that was a dive bar. The letters CBGB were for Country, BlueGrass, and Blues, Kristal's original vision, yet CBGB soon became a famed venue of punk rock and new wave bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, Blondie, and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s onward, CBGB was known for hardcore punk.

In a later interview, Weymouth recalled how the group chose the name Talking Heads: "A friend had found the name in the TV Guide , which explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking as 'all content, no action'. It fit." [18] Later that year, the trio recorded a series of demos for CBS, but the band was not signed to the label. The band quickly drew a following and were signed to Sire Records in November 1976. They released their first single in February the following year, "Love → Building on Fire". In March 1977, they added Jerry Harrison, formerly of Jonathan Richman's band the Modern Lovers, on keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals. [19] During this time, Byrne asked Weymouth to audition three more times to keep her place in the band. [20]

The first Talking Heads album,, Talking Heads: 77 , received acclaim and produced their first charted single, "Psycho Killer". [21] Many connected the song to the serial killer known as the Son of Sam, who had been terrorizing New York City months earlier; however, Byrne said he had written the song years prior. [22]

1978–1980: Collaborations with Eno

More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978) was Talking Heads' first collaboration with producer Brian Eno, who had previously worked with Roxy Music, David Bowie, John Cale and Robert Fripp; [23] the title of Eno's 1977 song "King's Lead Hat" is an anagram of the band's name. Eno's unusual style meshed well with the group's artistic sensibilities, and they began to explore an increasingly diverse range of musical directions, from post-punk to psychedelic funk to African music. [2] [24] [7] This recording also established the band's relationship with Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas. More Songs About Buildings and Food included a cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River." This broke Talking Heads into the general public's consciousness and gave the band their first Billboard Top 30 hit. [7]

Talking Heads perform at El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; pictured: Harrison (left) and Byrne. Talkin'HeadsELMO.jpg
Talking Heads perform at El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; pictured: Harrison (left) and Byrne.

The Eno-Talking Heads experimentation continued with 1979's Fear of Music , which flirted with the darker stylings of post-punk rock, mixed with white funkadelia and subliminal references to the geopolitical instability of the late 1970s. [7] Music journalist Simon Reynolds cited Fear of Music as representing the Eno-Talking Heads collaboration "at its most mutually fruitful and equitable". [25] The single "Life During Wartime" produced the catchphrase "This ain't no party, this ain't no disco." [26] The song refers to the Mudd Club and CBGB, two popular New York nightclubs of the time. [27]

Remain in Light (1980) was heavily influenced by the afrobeat of Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti, whose music Eno had introduced to the band. It explored West African polyrhythms, weaving these together with Arabic music from North Africa, disco funk, and "found" voices. [28] These combinations foreshadowed Byrne's later interest in world music. [29] In order to perform these more complex arrangements, the band toured with an expanded group, including Adrian Belew and Bernie Worrell, among others, first at the Heatwave festival in August, [30] and later in their concert film Stop Making Sense . During this period, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz also formed a commercially successful splinter group, Tom Tom Club, influenced by the foundational elements of hip hop, [31] and Harrison released his first solo album, The Red and the Black . [32] Likewise, Byrne—in collaboration with Eno—released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts , which incorporated world music and found sounds, as well as including a number of other prominent international and post-punk musicians. [33] All were released by Sire.

Remain in Light's lead single, "Once in a Lifetime", became a Top 20 hit in the UK, but initially failed to make an impression in the USA. It grew into a popular standard over the next few years on the strength of its music video, which was named one of Time's All-TIME Best Music Videos. [35] [36]

1981–1991: Commercial peak and breakup

After releasing four albums in barely four years, the group went into hiatus, and nearly three years passed before their next release, although Frantz and Weymouth continued to record with the Tom Tom Club. In the meantime, Talking Heads released a live album The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads , toured the United States and Europe as an eight-piece group, and parted ways with Eno, [37] who went on to produce albums with U2. [23]

1983 saw the release of Speaking in Tongues , a commercial breakthrough that produced the band's only American Top 10 hit, "Burning Down the House". [38] Once again, a striking video was inescapable owing to its heavy rotation on MTV. [39] The following tour was documented in Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense , which generated another live album of the same name. [40] The tour in support of Speaking in Tongues was their last. [41]

I try to write about small things. Paper, animals, a house… love is kind of big. I have written a love song, though. In this film, I sing it to a lamp.

David Byrne, interviewing himself in Stop Making Sense [42]

Three more albums followed: 1985's Little Creatures (which featured the hit singles "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere"), [43] 1986's True Stories (Talking Heads covering all the soundtrack songs of Byrne's musical comedy film, in which the band also appeared), [44] and 1988's Naked . Little Creatures offered a much more American pop-rock sound as opposed to previous efforts. [45] Similar in genre, True Stories hatched one of the group's most successful hits, "Wild Wild Life", and the accordion-driven track "Radio Head", which became the etymon of the band of the same name. [46] Naked explored politics, sex, and death, and showed heavy African influence with polyrhythmic styles like those seen on Remain in Light. [47] During that time, the group was falling increasingly under David Byrne's control and, after Naked, the band went on "hiatus". [3]

Tina Weymouth, pictured here performing in 1986, and her husband Chris Frantz formed the side project Tom Tom Club. Tina weymouth tom tom club.png
Tina Weymouth, pictured here performing in 1986, and her husband Chris Frantz formed the side project Tom Tom Club.

It took until December 1991 for an official announcement to be made that Talking Heads had broken up. [3] On the break-up, Frantz said "We were shocked to find out about [Byrne's departure] via the Los Angeles Times. As far as we're concerned, the band never really broke up. David just decided to leave." [48] Their final release was "Sax and Violins", an original song that had appeared earlier that year on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World . During this breakup period, Byrne continued his solo career, releasing Rei Momo in 1989 and The Forest in 1991. [29] This period also saw a revived flourish from both Tom Tom Club ( Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom and Dark Sneak Love Action ) [49] and Harrison ( Casual Gods and Walk on Water ), who toured together in the summer of 1990. [50]

1992–2002: Post break-up and final reunion

Despite David Byrne's lack of interest in another album, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz, and Jerry Harrison reunited for a one-off album called No Talking, Just Head under the name The Heads in 1996. The album featured a number of vocalists, including Debbie Harry of Blondie, Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, Andy Partridge of XTC, Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes, Michael Hutchence of INXS, Ed Kowalczyk of Live, Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays, Richard Hell, and Maria McKee. [51] The album was accompanied by a tour, which featured Johnette Napolitano as the vocalist. Byrne took legal action against the rest of the band to prevent them using the name "Talking Heads", something he saw as "a pretty obvious attempt to cash in on the Talking Heads name". [52] They opted to record and tour as "The Heads". Likewise, Byrne continued his solo career.

Meanwhile, Harrison became a record producer of some note – his résumé includes the Violent Femmes' The Blind Leading the Naked , the Fine Young Cannibals' The Raw and the Cooked , General Public's Rub It Better , Crash Test Dummies' God Shuffled His Feet , Live's Mental Jewelry , Throwing Copper and The Distance To Here , No Doubt's song "New" from Return of Saturn , and in 2010, work by The Black and White Years and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. [53]

Frantz and Weymouth, who married in 1977, [54] had been recording on the side as Tom Tom Club since 1981. [31] Tom Tom Club's self-titled debut album sold almost as well as Talking Heads themselves, [55] leading to the band appearing in Stop Making Sense . They achieved several pop/rap hits during the dance-club cultural boom era of the early 1980s, [56] particularly in the UK, where they still enjoy a strong fan following today. Their best-known single, "Genius of Love", has been sampled numerous times, notably on old school hip hop classic "It's Nasty (Genius of Love)" by Grandmaster Flash and on Mariah Carey's 1995 hit "Fantasy". [57] They also have produced several artists, including Happy Mondays and Ziggy Marley. The Tom Tom Club continue to record and tour intermittently, although commercial releases have become sporadic since 1991. [55]

Weymouth, Frantz, and Harrison, are pictured here at SXSW in 2010 Talking Heads SXSW by Ron Baker.jpg
Weymouth, Frantz, and Harrison, are pictured here at SXSW in 2010

The band played "Life During Wartime", "Psycho Killer", and "Burning Down the House" together on March 18, 2002, at the ceremony of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [58] However, reuniting for a concert tour is unlikely. David Byrne states: "We did have a lot of bad blood go down. That's one reason, and another is that musically we're just miles apart." [59] Weymouth, however, has been critical of Byrne, describing him as "a man incapable of returning friendship" [59] and saying that he doesn't "love" her, Frantz, and Harrison. [17]


AllMusic stated that Talking Heads, one of the most celebrated bands of the 1970s and 1980s, [3] by their breakup "had recorded everything from art-funk to polyrhythmic worldbeat explorations and simple, melodic guitar pop". [3] Talking Heads' art pop innovations have had a long-lasting impact. [60] Along with other groups such as Devo, Ramones and Blondie, they helped define the new wave genre in the United States. [61] Meanwhile, the more worldly popularities like 1980's Remain in Light helped bring African rock to the western world. [62]

Talking Heads at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto in 1978 Talking Heads band3.jpg
Talking Heads at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto in 1978

Talking Heads have been cited as an influence by many artists, including Eddie Vedder, [63] Foals, [64] The Weeknd, [65] Vampire Weekend, [66] Primus, [67] Bell X1, [68] The 1975, [69] The Ting Tings, [70] Nelly Furtado, [71] Kesha, [72] St. Vincent, [73] and Radiohead, who took their name from the Talking Heads song "Radio Head" from the 1986 album True Stories . [74] [75] The Italian filmmaker and director Paolo Sorrentino, in receiving the Oscar for his film La Grande Bellezza in 2014, thanked Talking Heads among others as his sources of inspiration. [76]


Touring musicians


See also

Related Research Articles

<i>More Songs About Buildings and Food</i> 1978 album by Talking Heads

More Songs About Buildings and Food is the second studio album by American rock band Talking Heads, released on July 14, 1978 by Sire Records. It was the first of three albums produced by collaborator Brian Eno, and saw the band move toward a danceable style, crossing singer David Byrne's unusual delivery with new emphasis on the rhythm section composed of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz.

Tina Weymouth American musician

Martina Michèle Weymouth is an American musician, singer, songwriter, and author, best known as a founding member and bassist of the new wave group Talking Heads and its side project Tom Tom Club, which she co-founded with husband and Talking Heads drummer, Chris Frantz. In 2002, Weymouth was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Talking Heads.

<i>Remain in Light</i> 1980 studio album by Talking Heads

Remain in Light is the fourth studio album by American rock band Talking Heads, released on October 8, 1980 by Sire Records. It was recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia between July and August 1980 and produced by longtime collaborator Brian Eno. Following the release of their previous album Fear of Music in 1979, the quartet and Eno sought to dispel notions of the band as a mere vehicle for frontman and lyricist David Byrne. Drawing on the influence of Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, the band experimented with African polyrhythms, funk, and electronics, recording instrumental tracks as a series of looping grooves. The sessions incorporated a variety of side musicians, including guitarist Adrian Belew, singer Nona Hendryx, and trumpet player Jon Hassell.

<i>Fear of Music</i> 1979 studio album by Talking Heads

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Tom Tom Club American rock band

Tom Tom Club is an American new wave band founded in 1981 by husband-and-wife team Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz; both also known for being members of Talking Heads. Their best known hits include "Wordy Rappinghood", "Genius of Love", and a cover of The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk", all released on their 1981 debut album Tom Tom Club.

<i>Stop Making Sense</i> 1984 American film by Jonathan Demme

Stop Making Sense is a 1984 American concert film featuring a live performance by Talking Heads. Directed by Jonathan Demme, it was shot over the course of four nights at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December 1983, as the group was touring to promote their new album Speaking in Tongues. The film is the first made entirely using digital audio techniques. The band raised the budget of $1.2 million themselves.

Chris Frantz American musician

Charton Christopher Frantz is an American musician and record producer. He is the drummer for both Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, which he co-founded with wife and Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth. In 2002, Frantz was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Talking Heads.

<i>Speaking in Tongues</i> (Talking Heads album) 1983 studio album by Talking Heads

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<i>Once in a Lifetime</i> (Talking Heads album) Compilation album by Talking Heads

Once in a Lifetime is a three-CD box set by American post-punk/new wave band Talking Heads, released in the United States by Sire, Warner Bros, and Rhino in 2003. The set also includes a DVD containing an expanded version of the music video compilation Storytelling Giant. The discs are packaged in a wide horizontal book that recalls a CD longbox, featuring paintings by Russian artists Vladimir Dubossarsky and Alexander Vinogradov and with art direction by Stefan Sagmeister. Sagmeister would later work with David Byrne and Brian Eno on their 2008 collaborative album Everything That Happens Will Happen Today.

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Michael "Busta Cherry" Jones was an American musician. He is known for his work with Talking Heads and other punk and new wave bands.


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Further reading