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Making Flippy Floppy: The Talking Heads exercise ‘infomercial’ you never asked for
02:06 pm


Talking Heads

The title of this post pretty much says it all. Is it corny? Yes. Did it make me laugh? Yes. Do I wish something like this really existed? Yes. Should national treasure Richard Simmons make this thing? Most definitely.

With thanks to Jeff Albers!

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Psycho Chicken’: Plucked-up Talking Heads parody, 1979
11:05 am


Talking Heads
The Fools

The Fools were big in Boston. Their 1979 single “Psycho Chicken,” a goofy take on Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” made them local heroes in Beantown but their attempts to break out of the novelty tune ghetto were pretty much fruitless.

As parody songs go, Psycho Chicken is well-executed and funny. The song was filled with dirty bits that were “clucked out” for radio play. “I plucked him once, why pluck him again” could have gone the route of inter-species weirdness so romantically depicted in John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. But getting plucked is funnier.

Lead vocalist Mike Girard has written a book about his adventures being a Fool in Psycho Chicken & Other Foolish Tales. The Fools are still playing and touring.

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Houses in Motion: Astonishing ‘new’ 1980 Talking Heads concert surfaces
01:58 pm


Talking Heads


“The big difference between us and punk groups is that we like KC and the Sunshine Band. You ask Johnny Rotten if he likes KC and the Sunshine Band and he’ll blow snot in your face.

—Chris Frantz

For me, the apex of the Talking Heads’ career was, hands down, Remain in Light and the subsequent tour with the expanded “Afro-funk orchestra”  line-up featuring future King Crimson guitar god Adrian Belew wringing all kinds of impossible noises out of his guitar. When the band released their (excellent) Chronology DVD in 2011, it included a clip of an astonishing 1980 performance of “Crosseyed and Painless” taped at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, probably one of the few mid-sized concert halls of that era to have installed a multi-camera video system. Where there’s one number, there tends to be, you know, an entire show, as I and many other Talking Heads fans mused upon seeing that tantalizing excerpt and now the whole thing was posted recently at the Talking Heads page at Music Vault.

0:00:00 - Psycho Killer
0:05:45 - Warning Sign
0:11:34 - Stay Hungry
0:15:25 - Cities
0:20:10 - I Zimbra
0:24:41 - Drugs
0:29:23 - Once In A Lifetime
0:35:11 - Animals
0:39:28 - Houses In Motion
0:45:56 - Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
0:53:05 - Crosseyed And Painless
0:59:30 - Life During Wartime
1:04:56 - Take Me To The River
1:11:02 - The Great Curve

David Byrne - lead vocals, guitar
Jerry Harrison - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Tina Weymouth - bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals
Chris Frantz - drums, vocals
Adrian Belew - lead guitar, vocals
Bernie Worrell - keyboards
Busta Cherry Jones - bass
Steve Scales - percussion
Dolette McDonald - vocals

This setlist is as good as any Talking Heads show ever got and the build up to the synapse-burning finale of “The Great Curve” makes this my favorite long form Talking Heads show (I’d take this over Stop Making Sense any day, they’d already peaked by then.) This is so… fresh and joyful sounding. Timeless. If this doesn’t provide you with some sort of MASSIVE eargasm, you simply don’t like music. Or maybe you fear it?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
It’s not easy being David Byrne: Kermit the Frog covers ‘Once in a Lifetime’

Here’s Kermit the Frog covering “Once in a Lifetime,” wearing the David Byrne oversized suit from Stop Making Sense and faithfully reproducing Byrne’s spastic movements from the video.

I can’t decide if Kermit’s endlessly reasonable (never truly frantic) voice actually fits this material—does it matter?—but it’s a hoot either way. This appeared on Muppets Tonight in 1996, and the voice of Kermit is provided by Steve Whitmire in this instance.

And it leads into a perfect Statler & Waldorf parting shot. Of course! 



Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Check out the earliest known Talking Heads recordings, 1975
07:34 am


Talking Heads

Talking Heads
In 1975, David Byrne, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz recorded these fascinating demos for CBS; that the Talking Heads would have to wait until late 1976 before Seymour Stein signed them to Sire should tell you what CBS thought of these tracks. Byrne and Frantz had been making music as The Artistics as far back as 1972 at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 1974 the two of them plus Weymouth headed to New York, where they shared an apartment and soon began doing gigs at CBGB’s. Sometime in 1976 they snagged Jerry Harrison, recently of The Modern Lovers, to be their keyboard player.

According to Ian Gittins in his book Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime: The Stories Behind Every Song, “Psycho Killer” was the first song that Byrne ever wrote, in 1974. I didn’t know that, but I feel like I “knew” it just by listening to Talking Heads: 77.

These have been available for a while now; you can find them on Discogs as a “Not on Label” LP. You’d have to say these sound remarkably good, wouldn’t you? I could listen to this all day.

Playlist track listing:
Psycho Killer
[deleted video]
Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That
With Our Love
Stay Hungry
Tentative Decisions
Warning Sign
I’m Not in Love
No Compassion

Of these, “Psycho Killer,” “Tentative Decisions,” and “No Compassion” appeared on Talking Heads: 77, and “Stay Hungry,” “With Our Love,” “Warning Sign,” and “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” appeared on More Songs About Buildings and Food. The “fan club” limited edition release of 500 copies features several more songs: “Sugar On My Tongue,” “I Want To Live,” “The Girls Want To Be With The Girls,” “Who Is It,” “The Book I Read,” and “Love—> Building On Fire.”

via Open Culture
Thanks to Will Kreth!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Unreleased Talking Heads track recorded live at CBGB’s show, 1976
11:44 am


Talking Heads

Talking Heads
Talking Heads, fresh-faced and downright cherubic.

When this song was recorded, Talking Heads were still a three-piece band—keyboardist Jerry Harrison had yet to join—and though the track lacks just about anything that would allow one to guess it was Talking Heads, David Byrne’s voice is unmistakable when he announces “This is an instrumental; we call it ‘Theme,’ but then we just keep it to ourselves.” The group opened for Television for that show.

Other than that, you can hear bits and pieces of the band that would become Talking Heads, but this is still pretty amateurish stuff. I, for one, find it comforting. It’s nice to be reminded that even Talking Heads weren’t always Talking Heads.


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‘Once in a Lifetime’: Talking Heads’ mind-scrambling concert video
08:41 am


Talking Heads

Once in a Lifetime
In 1984, the same year that Stop Making Sense was released, another meticulously crafted Talking Heads concert movie made its debut as well. I refer to Once in a Lifetime, a 69-minute piece of experimental television that surely startled the great piebald tapestry of viewers tuning in to Britain’s Channel 4 that night.

From the perspective of today, Once in a Lifetime (some sources call it Talking Heads vs. the Television or Talking Heads vs. Television) is very much a document of its moment, as filtered through the cheerfully experimental sensibility of David Byrne (although Geoff Dunlop was the director). It elevates quick-cutting montage using heterogenous sources to the non plus ultra of confrontational video art. This was 1984, the high-water mark of MTV; other directions were not considered. It would have been obscurely baffling and disappointing if a movie like this had not used aggressively random splicing.

Once in a Lifetime opens with barrage of video content and a few voiceover musings by Byrne before getting to the footage of a Talking Heads show at Wembley, which is amusingly described in an early scroll as a place where a “Horse of the Year Show” might occur—this might be the last foray into actual humor in the movie.

As far as I can tell, the Wembley footage was shot in 1982—anybody know? Did anybody reading this attend?

What makes the movie remarkable is the band’s willingness to have its performances messed with. None of the songs are presented straight—all feature some form of montage or visual comment. The strategies for each song are largely dictated by the song’s content. For instance, “Life During Wartime” is puncutated with footage of urban strife, in the form of police sirens, drug use, and automated weaponry. “Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)” features an unwitting ancitipation of “Road to Nowhere” in the form of a lengthy take of a dusty southwestern horizon receding from the camera. “Once in a Lifetime” weaves in ample footage of American evangelists; it struck me for the first time that Byrne’s famous forehead-slapping gesture is an obvious reference to evangelical ritual (I know, I’m an idiot). Testament to the Heads’ commitment to experimentation, the live rendition of “Once in a Lifetime” gives way to perhaps 20 seconds of the music video (you’ve surely seen that before).

Implicit in this mode of presentation is an imperative of showing UK audiences what vulgar America is “really” like, so a premium is placed on material not available overseas, such as the evangelical footage, the TV commercials, the news coverage, and so on. For “Mind,” the chorus of which is, let’s recall, “I need something to change your mind,” the accopanying montage is all about good old American hucksterism, particularly billboard advertisements and the patter of late-night TV commericals. While listening to “Big Business,” the viewer sees images evoking technology, industrialization, and the assembly line.
Once in a Lifetime montage
The boldest stroke is probably “Psycho Killer,” an ingenious montage folding together perhaps twenty different versions of the song, each with its specific venue, camera quality, sound quality, outfits, and so on. They seldom stay with any version for more than about a line, but the result is not unpleasurable. For “My Big Hands (Fall Though the Cracks),” Byrne busts out a megaphone. “Swamp” features a series of stills of Byrne’s face, often distorted through video or computerized effects, and ends with a freeze frame of Byrne’s singing, hot red visage—a clear reference to nuclear annihilation. 

The video is a must-see for any Talking Heads fan—I’ve emphasized the experimentation but you also hear a dozen songs (nine Talking Heads numbers, three from Byrne’s The Catherine Wheel score), and that’s always a good thing. But the emphasis on the avant-garde nature of the proceedings tends to undermine the “concert” aspect of the movie. Early on Byrne says in a voiceover, “When the performance is successful, something sort of transcendent happens that has to do with the audience and the musicians losing their egos and immersing themselves in sort of one identity or whatnot. It need only happen in a performance for maybe thirty seconds or so, and that justifies the whole thing.”

I take Byrne at his word, but to judge solely from Once in a Lifetime, it’s sheer poppycock.

Song list:
“Life During Wartime”
“Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)”
“Once in A Lifetime”
“Big Business”
“I Zimbra”
“Slippery People”
“Psycho Killer”
“My Big Hands (Fall Though the Cracks)”
“What A Day That Was”
“Crosseyed And Painless”

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Talking Head David Byrne’s lost ‘Talking Heads’ video project from 1975
07:05 am


Talking Heads
David Byrne

Oh what a time it must have been on Manhattan’s Bond Street in the mid-1970s. Bond Street connects Broadway and the Bowery exactly where CBGB’s used to be, and a lot of cool folks used to live there when it was still considered a pretty sketchy part of town—before NYU moved in. Today Bond Street is mostly known for very expensive co-ops.

David Byrne used to live at 52 Bond Street back in the day, just a few steps away from CBGB’s. He crashed with an old RISD buddy of his, an artist named Jamie Dalglish. Dalglish was and is a painter but at that time he was obsessed with video. In 1975 he had the idea of a video art project that would consist entirely of interviews. The idea was that Dalglish would compile hours and hours of footage of his artist friends talking with Byrne—but Byrne would be offscreen the entire time. The name of the project was “Talking Heads.”

As David Bowman relates in his book on Talking Heads (meaning the band, not the video project):

But back in 1974, Dalglish spent most of his energy on ideas about video as a replacement for language. At year’s end, Dalglish would undertake a massive seven-and-a-half-hour video consisting of more talking than images. It would be composed of fifteen static shots of fifteen different people sitting in a chair listening to David Byrne.

David was talking—jabbering actually—performing a stream-of-consciousness dialogue off-camera. Tina said, “The tape was David spouting off what other people thought. Memorizing anecdotes and advertisements from TV. Things that he’d heard other people say.”


This video disappeared years ago and has become the Holy Grail of Talking Heads research. Dalglish is convinced that Talking Heads manager Gary Kurfirst has it. Kurfirst says he doesn’t know what Dalglish is talking about.

I’m not a private detective or anything, but to me it sure sounds like those tapes are lost for good, fellas.

As Byrne blandly tells it in his 2012 book How Music Works, “In the mid-seventies I was offered room and board in New York by a painter, Jamie Dalglish, who let me sleep on his loft floor in return for help renovating the place. This was on Bond Street, almost right across from CBGB, where Patti Smith would read occasionally while Lenny Kaye accompanied her on guitar.” And that’s the last we ever hear about Dalglish—and no word at all about Dalglish’s “Talking Heads” video project.

Here’s a little more about Bond Street, taken from a 2007 article in the New York Observer—the whole thing is worth a read:

My other neighbors included a struggling and somewhat unstable artist, an ex of David Byrne’s, and a lesbian novelist who would later publish to considerable acclaim but who then worked at a rickety table I could see out my window, where she’d gently masturbate with one hand and hunt-and-peck type with the other. Our doormen were typically prone and pungent skid-row types. There were several Bowery hotels, a.k.a. flophouses, nearby, but no Bowery Hotel, and certainly no trendy restaurants.

The only semblance of uptown chic arrived with visitors slumming at CBGB. Which may be why, after Talking Heads shows, David Byrne would escape to visit my downstairs neighbor, a fellow Rhode Island School of Design grad, [this is almost certainly Dalglish—Ed.] while Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, who shared a cold-water loft on Chrystie Street, would come to my place for hot showers and quick pick-me-ups.

The full “Talking Heads” videos appear to be lost, but you can see four short snippets to get a taste of the whole thing. Here Byrne and artist Jeff Koons discuss authenticity in music, working in a key reference to The Bob Newhart Show:

David Byrne / Jeff Koons:

After the jump, Byrne talks with Jeff Turtletaub, Chris Frantz, and Vito Acconci…

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Talking Heads: Previously unheard version of ‘Psycho Killer’ featuring Arthur Russell on cello

Talking Heads perform a previously unheard version of “Psycho Killer” featuring Arthur Russell on cello. Superb.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Pseeco Keeler: Awkward Talking Heads performance on French TV, 1978

H/T Dazed & Confused and Chris Frantz!

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The Catherine Wheel: David Byrne’s criminally underrated funk opera masterpiece
10:46 am


Talking Heads
David Byrne
Twyla Tharp

Hidden in plain sight in the midst of his prodigious creative output, there is an unfairly overlooked gem in David Byrne’s discography that I feel is an absolutely monumental masterpiece of late 20th century music, one right up there with Talking Heads’ Remain in Light and his seminal collaboration with Brian Eno, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. I refer to the seamless funk opera score Byrne created for choreographer, Twyla Tharp in 1981, The Catherine Wheel. Unless you were a big Talking Heads or are David Byrne completest, chances are this one might have passed you by.

The Catherine Wheel is, to my mind, the third spoke (see what I did there) of a deeply psychedelic African-influenced polyrhythmic trilogy along with the above-mentioned Remain in Light and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts—all three were easily in my top ten “tripping soundtracks” as an acid-gobbling teenager and all three would still be on my Desert Island Discs list as a middle-aged rock snob. If you’re a fan of the two better-known albums, but have not heard The Catherine Wheel, well, you’ll be in for a profound treat, but especially if you drop some acid beforehand (I’d encourage it, no really!).

Musicians heard on the album include Jerry Harrison, the powerful drummer Yogi Horton, percussionist John Chernoff, Adrian Belew, P-Funk’s resident Minimoog genius Bernie Worrell and Brian Eno. It’s mind-blowing to me that there’s not a deluxe 2-CD set of the album that would include the 12” mixes and live Talking Heads performances of songs from the score, but I feel like this incredible piece of music has always gotten short shrift from whatever major label currently owns it. (The Catherine Wheel is one of the greatest “fuck albums” of all time, too. That’s how they should market it, if you ask me. I toyed with the obnoxious linkbait title of “David Byrne, of all people, recorded the ultimate fuck album” but thought better of it).

Above, Talking Heads performing “Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)” at Wembley Arena in 1982.
After the jump, much more including the full Twyla Tharp ballet as it aired on BBC and PBS in 1983…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Marie Osmond’s Dada freakout on ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ TV show

In 1993, Rough Trade records put out Lipstick Traces, a “soundtrack” to the book by Greil Marcus. It’s one of my favorite CDs of all time, with tracks by The Slits, Essential Logic, The Raincoats, The Mekons, Buzzcocks, The Gang of Four, Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers, Situationist philosopher Guy Debord and others. It’s an amazing collection, but one track in particular stands out from the rest, a recitation by none other than Marie Osmond, of Dada poet Hugo Ball’s nonsensical gibberish piece from 1916, “Karawane.”

Hugo Ball was a follower of anarchist philosopher Mikail Bakunin and became one of the founders of the Zurich nightclub, Cabaret Voltaire, the nexus of the Dada art movement. He would go onstage dressed like this and basically, uh, do avant garde things:
Ball’s unusual costumes were later ripped off by David Bowie, and then Klaus Nomi after him. Another of Ball’s Dada poems, “Gadji beri bimba” was adapted into the Talking Heads number “I Zimbra” on 1979’s Fear of Music album.

Here’s the story behind this, I think you’ll agree, most excellent clip. From the Lipstick Traces liner notes:

As host of a special (Ripley’s Believe It or Not) show on sound poetry, Osmond was asked by the producer to recite only the first line of Ball’s work; incensed at being thought too dumb for art, she memorized the lot and delivered it whole in a rare “glimpse of freedom.”

Believe it or not...

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Pseeco Keeler: Awkward Talking Heads performance on French TV, 1978
12:32 pm


Talking Heads

An odd (semi) lip-sync of “Psycho Killer” on French television in 1978 sees the Talking Heads furiously strumming their guitars—including drummer Chris Frantz!—which are not even plugged in.

David Byrne looks as if he is about to burst out laughing any second here. Serge Gainsbourg and Andy Gibb were both on this same show.

Thank you, Adrianna!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Zen rockers: Talking Heads performing at CBGB in 1975
12:21 pm

Pop Culture

Talking Heads

Seven months after their first gig at CBGB (an opening slot in June of 1975 for The Ramones), Talking Heads were videotaped performing a set at the legendary club.

1. Psycho Killer
2. Tentative Decisions
3. With Our Love
4. I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That
5. I’m Not in Love
6. 96 Tears
7. No Compassion

When we were performing at CBGB’s alongside Television, The Ramones, Patti Smith, and Blondie, there was never any doubt in my mind that something unforgettable was going on. To me it was obvious that history was in the making; in no small part thanks to Hilly Kristal who owned CBGBs and gave these bands a stage to play on when no one else would.” Chris Frantz.

David Bynre, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz still finding their feet as a band but the essence that made them great is all there.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Talking about Talking Heads

Andy Zax, who lovingly prepared Talking Heads’ oeuvre for CD re-issue a few years back (including the stellar 5.1 surround mixes) in conversation with novelist Jonathan Lethem about his new “33 1/3” series book on Talking Heads’ Fear of Music for The Los Angeles Review of Books podcast.

Jonathan Lethem is a novelist, critic, and professor of English at Pomona College. His new book Fear of Music (reviewed tomorrow for the Los Angeles Review of Books by Evan Kindley) is the latest in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series of monographs on individual record albums. Andy Zax is an L.A.-based writer and record producer who, in the mid 2000s, prepared Talking Heads’ entire catalog (including Fear of Music) for CD reissue. In this podcast, they discuss the ins and outs of this highly unsettling record (the band’s third), air some rare ephemera from the archives, and share some reminiscences of adolescence. Produced by Oliver Wang.

It’s two articulate guys sitting around bullshitting about music, so if that’s your kind of thing, listen below:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Fear of Music: Talking Heads live in Austin, TX, 1979
01:15 pm


Talking Heads

Another great vintage Talking Heads concert, this one an energetic outing at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, TX on September 9, 1979 during the Fear of Music tour.

The set list: 
Artists Only
Stay Hungry
The Book I Read
Warning Sign
Love - Building On Fire
Found A Job
Memories Can’t Wait
Psycho Killer

There’s more great live Talking Heads footage on the recently released Talking Heads: Chronology DVD.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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