48. David Byrne (Talking Heads)

David Byrne is a guitarist and singer/songwriter from Dumbarton, Scotland. His family moved to Toronto, Ontario, and then to Baltimore, Maryland by the time he was eight or nine years old. He was drawn to music at an early age, and learned how to play several instruments as a child. After graduating from high school, he attended the Rhode Island School of Design where he met Chris Frantz and his girlfriend, Tina Weymouth. Although the trio of friends were interested in many art forms, a decision was made to try music. They moved to New York City and formed the Talking Heads in 1975. In 1977 they added Jerry Harrison, and their first of eight albums, Talking Heads ’77, including the surprise smash hit “Psycho Killer”, earned them immediate popularity and established them in the new wave music community.

Byrne officially left the band in 1991 to continue his prolific foray into music and art. He now resides in New York City, and is notable activist for bicycles as a primary means of transport.


Wikipedia Biography of Talking Heads

David Byrne (b. 1952), singer, primary songwriter, guitar
Chris Frantz (b. 1951), drums, vocals, songwriter
Tina Weymouth (b. 1950), bass, vocals, songwriter
Jerry Harrison (b. 1949), keyboards, guitar, vocals

David Byrne’s Journal
Unofficial Dutch David Byrne Website

Talking Heads ’77

I played basketball in college, but was also an engineering student, and gravitated towards the partying, nerdy kids. The Talking Heads, along with The Cars and Elvis Costello, are the bands that most influenced my dorm room circle of friends. The second side of the first album, Talking Heads ’77, and its five energetic songs, still sounds fresh. It is by far their most important album — how can critics possibly see More Songs About Buildings And Food as their best? “Psycho Killer” was mind expanding; I had never heard words like this before:

“You start a conversation you can’t even finish,
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed,
Say something once, why say it again?”

“Pulled Up” is a personal favorite, the climactic end to one of rock’s great album sides:

“Mommy, Daddy, come and look at me now,
I’m a big man in a great big town,
Years ago who would believe it’s true,
Goes to show what a little faith can do.

I was complaining, I was down in the dumps,
I feel so strong now that you pulled me up!”

His lyrics are not only smart and melodic; he also has a sense of humor, a rare commodity in music, where many of the artists thrive on pain. In addition, Byrne has aged gracefully. The best way to appreciate him are the live performances available on YouTube. Compared to some of his peers who started as new wave artists and branched out into more complex arrangements and songs, his music is unpretentious and geared towards his unusual sense of dance. If Mom were still around to see these free form dance numbers, we would feel a kinship and appreciation for him.

“Pulled Up” from Berkeley in 1979:

“Naive Melody” performed on Jules Holland in 2004 with a full string section:

“Life During Wartime” (“this ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco”) from the Talking Heads’ chart-busting concert video Stop Making Sense:

“Miss America” and “I Zimbra” from the superb Sessions At West 54th Street program in 1998:

Finally, the late-era Talking Heads smash “And She Was” from the Austin City Limits program, complete with a simple introduction that clarifies the song’s meaning.

My appreciation for this unusual musician grew dramatically. Curiously, I rank him as one of the great modern dance musicians of the last forty years. He is a brilliant, dancing fool. A key to understanding Byrne’s musical evolution is his study of Brazilian pop music. He compiled several Brazil Classics compilations; the first two volumes are well represented in my collection.

Talking Heads Songs:

Psycho Killer, Talking Heads ✭✭✭✭
Pulled Up, Talking Heads ✭✭✭✭

And She Was, Talking Heads ✭✭✭
Take Me To The River, Talking Heads ✭✭✭
(Nothing But) Flowers, Talking Heads ✭✭✭
Psycho Killer (Live), Talking Heads ✭✭✭
The Book I Read, Talking Heads ✭✭✭

Don’t Worry About The Government, Talking Heads ✭✭
This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), Talking Heads ✭✭
Life During Wartime, Talking Heads ✭✭
Pulled Up (Live), Talking Heads ✭✭
Once In A Lifetime, Talking Heads ✭✭
Once In A Lifetime (Live), Talking Heads ✭✭
Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town, Talking Heads ✭✭
First Week / Last Week…. Carefree, Talking Heads ✭✭

Artists Only, Talking Heads
The Big Country, Talking Heads
Mr. Jones, Talking Heads
Burning Down The House (Live), Talking Heads
Happy Day, Talking Heads
Who Is It?, Talking Heads
Love – Building On Fire, Talking Heads

David Byrne Songs:

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Live), David Byrne ✭✭✭
And She Was (Live), David Byrne ✭✭✭
Miss America, David Byrne ✭✭✭

Dirty Old Town, David Byrne ✭✭
Strange Overtones, David Byrne & Brian Eno ✭✭

Loco De Amor, David Byrne
Make Believe Mambo, David Byrne

Related Songs:

From Brazil Classics 1:

Ponta De Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma), Jorge Ben ✭✭✭✭
Um Canto De Afoxé Para O Bloco De Ilê (Ilê Ayê), Caetano Veloso ✭✭✭
O Leãozinho, Caetano Veloso ✭✭✭
Caçada, Chico Buarque ✭✭✭
Caramba! … Galileu Da Galileia, Jorge Ben ✭✭✭
Só Quero Um Xodó, Gilberto Gil ✭✭
Quilombo, O El Dorado Negro, Gilberto Gil ✭✭

From Brazil Classics 2:

Pregões Do Rio, Moleque De Rua ✭✭✭
Hoje Eu Quero Sair Só, Lenine ✭✭
Curiosidade, Tom Zé ✭✭
Imagem, Arnaldo Antunes ✭✭
What Is This?, Carlinhos Brown
Rios, Pontes & Overdrives, Chico Science & Naçāo Zumbi

O Fole Roncou, Luiz Gonzaga ✭✭

Take Me To The River, Al Green ✭✭✭✭

2 thoughts on “48. David Byrne (Talking Heads)

  1. gregbrady101thingsin1001days August 6, 2012 / 1:19 AM

    I have to confess Mr. Byrne and the Talking Heads are not a great love of mine, however, there is a track that’s lesser known by Byrne, a collaboration with Selena, that’s quite nice. He co-wrote the track, a gentle samba called “God’s Child”. You may want to check it out. It appears on Selena’s album but I believe it’s also appeared on some compilations.

    • theperfectipodcollection August 15, 2012 / 5:22 AM

      Hi Greg,

      Different subject. Studying the Kinks this month, and having a grand time. I thought I’d mention my ranking at #30, whereas the statistically significant http://www.acclaimedmusic.net rates them as #33. In other places, my ranking differs greatly, but here we are right in line. “Victoria” by the Kinks is one the most underrated songs of all time. Thanks for turning me on to your great site.

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