Talking Heads

Origin: New York City, New York

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Genres: Alternative Pop-Rock, art rock, funk, indie rock, post-punk, psychedelic rock, World Beat

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Talking Heads were an American rock band formed in New York City in 1975.  The band comprised David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass) and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar).  As one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the 1980’s the group helped to pioneer new wave music by integrating elements of punk, art rock, funk and world music with avant-garde sensibilities.

In 2002 Talking Heads was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Four of the band’s albums appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of 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.  Talking Heads came in at #100 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

The Talking Heads came together as art school students involved in the 1970’s New York punk scene.  David Byrne attended the Rhode Island School of Design and Maryland Institute College of Art where he performed various offbeat acts and developed an interest in performing.  Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were also alumni of the Rhode Island School of Design.  There Byrne and Frantz formed a band called the Artistics.  As Frantz’s girlfriend Weymouth provided transportation for the band.  When The Artistics broke up the three moved to New York.

Tina Weymouth became the band’s bass player when they were unable to find one in New York.  Talking Heads played their first gig at CBGBs opening for the Ramones in June 1975.

The band chose the name Talking Heads after a friend found the name in TV Guide, which explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking at ‘all content, no action.’

Talking Heads released their debut album, Talking Heads: 77 to positive reviews that led to the band’s first hit single “Psycho Killer.”  The band’s second album More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978) ushered in their long-term collaboration with Brian Eno whose unusual style meshed with their artistic sensibilities.  Soon Talking Heads began to explore an increasingly diverse palette of musical directions from post-punk to psychedelic funk to African music.  More Songs About Buildings and Food included a cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” giving the band their first Billboard Top 30 hit.

By 1983 Talking Heads hit their commercial peak with the release of their album Speaking in Tongues, a commercial breakthrough that produced the band’s only American Top 10 hit, “Burning Down the House.”  The song’s striking video dominated the airwaves thanks to its heavy rotation on MTV.  The subsequent tour was documented in Jonathan Demme’s Stop Making Sense, which generated a live album of the same name.  The tour in support of Speaking in Tongues turned out to be their last.

Talking Heads released several more albums including their best selling LP Little Creatures (1985) which  offered a much more American pop-rock sound as opposed to previous efforts.  Talking Heads disbanded in 1991.

Prior to and after Talking Heads dissolution Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth formed the successful splinter group Tom Tom Club.  The Tom Tom Club continue to record and tour intermittently, although commercial releases have become sporadic since 1991.  Jerry Harrison released several solo albums and Byrne reconvened his collaboration with Brian Eno to release several solo albums that incorporated world music.

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, Andy Partridge of XTC and Michael Hutchence of INXS among others.  A subsequent tour followed.  Byrne took legal action against the rest of the band to prevent them from using the Talking Heads moniker.  Instead they opted to tour as The Heads.

The Talking Heads reunited briefly during their March 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction playing “Life During Wartime,” “Psycho Killer” and “Burning Down the House.”

By the time of their breakup Talking Heads had recorded everything from art-funk to polyrhythmic worldbeat explorations and simple, melodic guitar pop.  Along with other groups such as Devo, Ramones and Blondie they helped define a new wave genre in America.

Reference –

Talking Heads discography

Talking Heads: 77 (1977)

More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)

Fear of Music (1979)

Remain in Light (1980)

Speaking in Tongues (1983)

Little Creatures (1985)

True Stories (1986)

Naked (1988)

Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays the Talking Heads.  All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/

Check out Talking Heads performing “Burning Down the House.”