follow us in feedly
32 minutes of Talking Heads playing CBGBs in 1975
01:47 pm


Talking Heads

In 1975 the art-rock combo known as Talking Heads played its first gigs in New York City. In June they opened for the Ramones at CBGBs; by September they were the subject of an admiring account by John Rockwell in the New York Times. They took October off and then played a trio of gigs on the Thanksgiving weekend. December was busier, with 5 shows at CBGBs and 1 at Max’s Kansas City.

The second of those CBGBs shows took place on December 6, 1975, and Metropolis Video captured the full set on a video lasting 32 minutes.

In his excellent Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever, Will Hermes mistakenly identifies the clip as being recorded two weeks later, during the “CBGB Christmas Festival” weekend (it happens, nailing down shit like this is tricky):

Talking Heads played two nights at CBGB in late December. In a blurry black-and-white clip that later surfaced on YouTube, David Byrne appears to be doing a mic check, but instead of the usual “one-two” he sputters “Uh. Uh, uh” over and over, like an autistic kid in a lock groove. Tina Weymouth stands stock-still, her bass nearly the size of her torso, her hands draped over the top, waiting. She wears a dress shirt under a pullover, her hair in a blond bob. She resembles Olga Korbut, the era’s famous teenage Olympic gymnast. Byrne looks equally neat and preppy, dress shirt open at the neck, sleeves rolled up. Chris Frantz, behind his drum kit in the rear, wears a similar light-colored shirt; his head is cut off in the framing.

Three of the songs played that night ended up on their debut album Talking Heads 77. Hearing Byrne’s somewhat adenoidal rendition of ? and the Mysterians’ “96 Tears” is a special treat.
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Storytelling Giant,’ offbeat Talking Heads video compilation from the 1980s
12:55 pm


Talking Heads

When MTV ran the world in the 1980s and a few years after, it was de rigueur for bands to release VHS video compilations. The Police had one, Duran Duran had one, ZZ Top had one, you know Madonna had one. Typically, They Might Be Giants decided to name theirs Video Compilation.

Talking Heads were unquestioned pioneers of the music video form, so it would be only proper for them to release such an item. The band’s last studio album was Naked in 1988, the same year that Storytelling Giant, their video comp, came out. The band would wait until 1991 until announcing that they had broken up, but it seems likely that everyone knew the writing was on the wall, so Storytelling Giant can be seen as a quasi-conscious capper to their career as music video artists.

Here’s the (slightly bizarre) writeup of the compilation from the back of the VHS box:

“Storytelling Giant” is a work composed of all ten Talking Heads videos made over the past decade. They are connected by random, unrehearsed, spontaneous footage of real people talking. None of the people are actors, and all of them are wearing their own clothes. Many of them know nothing of the Talking Heads, and sometimes they tell stories that have nothing to do with the band’s music. Yet, somehow, their stories bring the Talking Heads music into another place. A place of giant lizards. . . A place where little girls sit on clouds. A place where everyone has enough to eat. . . And the government provides hairdressers if you can’t afford one. A giant man walks into a bar. He begins to wrestle with three nuns. A man with a toupée stops them, and they begin to speak.

The compilation is very effective in that cerebral Talking Heads way—the interstitial spoken-word bits are interesting but generally short—most of the time you’re hearing a bit out of context and you’re never really supposed to know what they’re talking about, it’s all about generating arbitrary connections. 

A few notes about the videos. I’d forgotten that John Goodman is in the video for “Wild Wild Life.” That song is off of True Stories, and Goodman’s rendition of “People Like Us” is probably the high point of that movie, so that makes sense. Interesting to see him here, before he became famous.

The most pleasant surprise on this compilation, for my money, is “And She Was,” which was directed by Jim Blashfield, who has mentioned Terry Gillam’s cutouts as an influence. That makes total sense—the video kind of a 1980s version of the “Eleanor Rigby” sequence from Yellow Submarine using moving cutouts, and it’s dated extremely well in my opinion. I didn’t realize that Jim Jarmusch had directed a Talking Heads video, but there’s a reason for that, “The Lady Don’t Mind” is one of the less interesting videos here.
More after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Talking Heads talk sex and drugs, 1979
12:13 pm


Talking Heads
Oui Magazine

In the August 1979 issue of Oui Magazine, there appeared a revealing single-page interview with all four members of Talking Heads conducted by Scott Cohen. According to the intro, the interview took place at the group’s loft in Long Island City, which is where the basic tracks for Fear of Music were laid down in late April and early May of the same year. So the timing on that works pretty well; this interview probably occurred right around the recording sessions, and the album came out the same month as the interview.

Although the magazine wasn’t his creation, Oui ended up being Hugh Hefner’s attempt to compete with the more explicit Penthouse. (Interestingly, the group didn’t merit inclusion on the cover, which touted instead their interview with Gregg Allman.) In that spirit, Cohen’s interview is kind of rude and frank, the questions have the flavor of ones that Howard Stern might ask. Here is a representative sample, with one Q and A for each member of the band:

Oui: Which Talking Head has the biggest microphone?
Jerry: My microphone is about eight inches long and two inches wide. Everyone in the band is about the same size.

Oui: As the Talking Heads get better, do you get laid more?
David: About 25 percent more.

Oui: As the Talking Heads get better, did you get higher?
Chris: Yes, but basically there seems to be something inadequate about drugs in that they’re so temporary. I wish they were better, longer lasting and more beneficial in a permanent way.

Oui: Do you wish your tits were bigger?
Tina: No, I think my tits are perfect, by themselves. I don’t wish they were bigger. I wish one was exactly the same size as the other. They usually aren’t. I wish they both were the same size as my big one.

In the interview, Tina Weymouth does the most talking, probably for the simple reason that she’s a woman and it’s more fun for a porn mag to put her on the spot and make her say things like “I like cock,” even though she meant more like a linguistic thing.

In an issue of Sounds a bit later, Weymouth said (a little hilariously) that “she was out of her head after a party when the tape recorder was switched on, and when she saw the interview in print she didn’t know whether to be more annoyed about being taken advantage of or about the fact that Oui had left all the best bits out, about butt-fucking and so on.”

I think I’d probably feel the same way….....

Here it is. Click for a larger view:


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Check out the earliest known Talking Heads recordings, 1975
‘Once in a Lifetime’: Talking Heads’ mind-scrambling concert video

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Fear of Music: Amazing early Talking Heads doc from 1979

A loft in Manhattan, New York, 1979: Talking Heads are working on their latest album Fear of Music. A TV crew from England are present making a documentary for the UK arts series The South Bank Show. They interview and film the band at work—writing, rehearsing and recording songs. At times, listening to Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison and David Byrne talk they all make it seem what they’re doing is really quite ordinary, almost mundane. Frantz says he considers his life quite normal when not on tour. He gets up early rather than sleeping all day and going to the clubs at night. Byrne, who sounds at times like Andy Warhol—nervous, shy—discusses his thoughts about dressing like ordinary working people in ordinary everyday work clothes, though he soon discovered keeping up with ordinary fashions was expensive. Tina Weymouth points out the band plays under full house lights and eschew spotlights on solos. They are earnest, conscientious, and make it sound as if what they are doing, what they are creating, is quite workaday when in truth this talented quartet are producing something very, very extraordinary.

As the documentary develops, the disparity between their artistic aspirations and their personal points of view of what they’re all about becomes apparent—with Frantz musing on whether it’s good old rock ‘n’ roll or actually art that they are producing. History’s jury has already returned the verdict on that—a unanimous decision in favor of art—great art.

Weymouth, Frantz and Byrne first played under the name The Artistics. They had an idea of “combining conceptual and performance art with popular music (their sound earned them the nickname The Autistics).” Then a friend suggested the name “Talking Heads” lifted from the TV Guide—which appealed as it had no genre defining angle. Dressed in button down shirts, sensible shoes and corduroy in amongst the ripped T-shirts, leather jackets of New York’s punk clubs, Talking Heads was a vision of the future, belonging to no genre or scene, ultimately. This became more than evident through the eight studio albums the band produced between 1977 and 1988.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
I’m with the Band(s): Intimate photographs of punk legends at CBGBs

Whether it’s the Left Bank, or Bloomsbury, or Sun Records in Memphis, the Cavern Club in Liverpool, or London’s King’s Road, there is always one location that becomes the focus for a new generation of artists, writers and musicians. In New York during the 1970s, this creative hub could be found in a venue called CBGBs where different bands came to play every night spearheading the punk and new wave movement and bringing about a small revolution which changed everything in its wake.

Amongst the musicians, writers and artists who played and hung out at Hilly Kristal’s club at 315 Bowery were conceptual artists Bettie Ringma and Marc H. Miller. Bettie had come from from Holland to the US, where she met Miller—a writer and photographer whose passion was for telling “stories with pictures, with ephemera and with a few carefully chosen words.” Together they started collaborating on various multi-media and conceptual artworks.

In late 1976, Marc and Bettie were drawn to the irresistible pull of creative energy buzzing out of CBGB’s. Most nights they went down to the venue and started documenting the bands and artists who appeared there:

Our first photograph of Bettie with the movers and shakers at CBGB was taken during our very first visit to the club in late 1976. Standing alone by the bar was one of Bettie’s favorite performers, the poet-rocker Patti Smith. At home at CBGB and a wee bit tipsy, Patti was more than happy to oblige our request for a picture with Bettie. Soon we were CBGB regulars, checking out the different bands and slowly adding to our collection of pictures.

Marc and Bettie’s original idea of creating “Paparazzi Self-Portraits” at this Bowery bar developed into the portfolio Bettie Visits CBGB—a documentary record of all the bands, musicians, artists and writers who hung out at the venue, with photographs becoming:

...a reflection of the new aesthetic emerging at CBGB, a contradictory mix of high and low culture energized by fun and humor, the lure of fame and fortune, and a cynical appreciation of the power of a good hype.

More of Marc and Bettie’s work from this punk era can be seen here.

Patti Smith was hanging around at the bar, but no one was taking pictures of her because she was super-shy. She posed with me and then just went away: some musicians are like that, they’re not into socialising. They’re just artists.


Debbie Harry is a really great singer. She had a very different style from what was emerging there at that time. She was not shy, but she was very aloof: you can see that in the picture, hiding half her face behind her hair. It wasn’t something she needed, because she was very pretty, she was the frontwoman. But it gave her safety.


I just love the Ramones. When their music starts I can’t sit still, I just have to start hopping and dancing, and I’m 71 now. We saw them live about 10 times: we would go out of our way to see them perform.

More of Marc and Bettie’s work after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
When the Staple Singers covered Talking Heads on Soul Train
09:39 am


Talking Heads
Soul Train
Staple Singers

By the time Pops Staples sang “Papa Legba” in David Byrne’s movie True Stories, the relationship between the Staple Singers and Talking Heads was already well-established. In 1984, the Staples had a minor hit with their cover of Speaking in Tongues’ “Slippery People,” on which Byrne played guitar, and which they promoted with an appearance on Soul Train. I prefer it to the original.

Biographer Greg Kot writes that the idea for the single came from a producer the two groups shared. From Kot’s I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staple Singers, and the Music That Shaped the Civil Rights Era:

When the songwriting-production team of Gary Goetzman and Mike Piccirillo persuaded the Staples to record “Slippery People,” they enlisted Byrne to play guitar. “Gary was a producer on Stop Making Sense and he was instrumental in helping me get [the 1986 Byrne-directed movie] True Stories off the ground,” Byrne says. “He produced records as well as movies, and he and his production partner had the idea to find contemporary material that the Staples could cover that would also sound like something they might have written. ‘Slippery People’—just the title alone sounds like a song they could have written. Musically, it was definitely influenced by gospel—its very gospel call-and-response chorus made it a natural fit for them.”

Byrne’s Gumby-like dance moves for Stop Making Sense had been in part inspired by the way worshippers in Southern sanctified churches responded when filled with the Holy Spirit, their bodies writhing and undulating while speaking in tongues. “David’s inspiration was seeing people in church, and that’s what I connected with,” Mavis Staples says. “My head went off into the Bible.”

With Byrne’s chattering guitar skipping atop a grid of percolating percussion, the Staples’ version of “Slippery People” cast Pops in the role of the preacher and Mavis as the congregation responding to his sermon. She sounds like she’s scatting in tongues, a brilliant jazzy take on Deep South church tradition.

The single rose to number 22 on the R&B chart and anchored the group’s 1984 Turning Point album as part of a two-album deal with Private I Records, a subsidiary of CBS Inc.


Then 70, Pops talks about emerging from retirement and the success of “Slippery People” in the post-performance interview with Don Cornelius below. On their next LP, the Staple Singers interpreted “Life During Wartime,” with less exciting results—the production makes me picture Chevy Chase behind the wheel of a convertible with a dog in the passenger seat, but I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind.

Slippery People (club version):

Live on Soul Train:

Thank you Adam Payne!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
So Radiohead named itself after ... Ned Ryerson from ‘Groundhog Day’? The truth revealed!

It’s common knowledge that Radiohead got its name from a song written by David Byrne called “Radio Head” that appears in the movie True Stories. What’s less well known is that Byrne wrote that song about Stephen Tobolowsky, a familiar character actor and raconteur whose signature role is Ned Ryerson in the classic 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

This remarkable happenstance was revealed on Tobolowsky’s recent appearance on the Nerdist podcast hosted by Chris Hardwick. The story is told around the 40-45 minute stretch of that episode.

So what’s going on? Let’s start with the premise that Stephen Tobolowsky claims to be more than a little bit psychic. Add to it the fact that Tobolowsky is credited as one of the co-writers of True Stories, along with the playwright Beth Henley. So if nothing else, Tobolowsky and Byrne were hanging out a bit during the mid-1980s, while they toiled on this movie. (In the Nerdist interview, by the way, Tobolowsky says that Byrne threw out most of Tobolowsky’s contributions as a writer.)

In his college years, Tobolowsky more or less stumbled on psychic powers of considerable potency, if the stories he tells are to be believed at all. As he puts it, he developed the ability to “hear” or “read” people’s “tones,” that is, to intuit a whole lot of private and even situational information about a person just by being in the same room with him or her. One story involves blurting out that a quasi-mentor of his was living under an assumed name and that his initials were actually “M.L.” or “M.K.” (they were “M.K.,” in the event). He tells a couple more stories of that level of mind-boggling ability—stories that, if true, would cause quite a few skeptics to give up the argument entirely. Tobolowsky continues:

So my girlfriend Beth at the time thought, “We have a real money-making thing here! ... You know, we’ll have people pay a quarter or a dollar and have you read their tones.” She would round up people, bring ‘em in to the green room or whatever, and you would think it would be funny, but I would go, like, “Ah, you just got an inheritance and you want to know how you’re going to spend that money,” and they would get up and cry, and everyone would have these creepy, creepy, creepy feelings.

Beth loved me for it, and she thought, “This is so cool, what are my tones?” and I said, “I gotta quit doing this, because this is way creepy, and I don’t really like it.” So—while that nineteen furious days that we were working on True Stories, Beth says, “Tell David. Because David wants to put all these true stories in his movie, Stephen. Tell him the true story about you hearing tones.” And I said, “No, baby, no, I don’t want—” “No, tell him the story about you hearing tones.”

So I sat and told David the story of me hearing tones. And he looked and says, “You’re kidding!” And I said, “No, David, that’s really the story but I don’t do it anymore, I don’t like to do it anymore, it was too creepy, and I don’t like to do it anymore.”

So anyway—sure enough, a year later, David has written into True Stories a character that hears tones, and he wrote the song, that day he came over and played “Wild Wild Life,” he says, “Here is a song that I wrote for you, Stephen.” And we put it in the thing, and it was “Radio Head.”

[Hardwick gasps.]

“I’m pickin’ up somethin’ good…. Radio Head….”

So Radiohead got their name from the song David Byrne wrote based on my psychic experiences when I was in college!

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Making Flippy Floppy: The Talking Heads exercise ‘infomercial’ you never asked for
05:06 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
02:05 pm


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.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Houses in Motion: Astonishing ‘new’ 1980 Talking Heads concert surfaces
04:58 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
10:34 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
02:44 pm


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.


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Once in a Lifetime’: Talking Heads’ mind-scrambling concert video
11:41 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”

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Zen rockers: Talking Heads performing at CBGB in 1975
Remain in Light: Talking Heads live in Rome, 1980

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Talking Head David Byrne’s lost ‘Talking Heads’ video project from 1975
10:05 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…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 2  1 2 >