Talking Heads may have risen to prominence in Manhattan during the punk uprising of the ‘70s, but they were anything but conventional punks. Proving that accessibility and intelligence needn't be mutually exclusive, their primary sound was largely stripped-back and minimalist, playfully revolting against the guitar-led grain of their CBGB’s peers. Byrne’s abstract, intellectual lyrics and twitchy vocals create an alien strangeness, a snapshot of modernity just as vivid four decades later.
In 1984, Talking Heads released a concert film called Stop Making Sense, shot over the course of four nights at Hollywood's Pantages Theater during their Speaking in Tongues LP tour. In a joyous alliance of new wave, funk and Byrne’s visionary imagination, the band are at their creative peak - and evidently peak of physical fitness - as they roll through songs from Speaking in Tongues and reimagine old favourites like “Once in a Lifetime” and “Psycho Killer”.
“Life During Wartime” from Stop Making Sense (1984):
In this video of “Life During Wartime” from Stop Making Sense, the 9-piece band are an unstoppable force of euphoric, propulsive energy as they mirror Byrne’s demented stagecraft. Watch as he whips himself into a frenzy, jogs in place, runs around the stage, pushed and pulled at the complete mercy of the music.
“Life During Wartime” is from the Talking Heads’ third album, Fear Of Music (1979). The album marked the turning point for the band, introducing Brian Eno’s production that pioneered the stark sound we know and love them for. With its African-infused rhythmical sections and Byrne’s misanthropic lyrics, it was a genre-bending, trailblazing infusion of intellect and pure joy.
With seemingly limitless creativity and an overwhelming ambition to transform the world around him, Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne is the quintessential art-rock cult hero. From his introduction to the world as a new wave architect of the '70s to his extensive solo catalogue, he has proved himself a master across various media, including film, photography, opera, fiction, and non-fiction. His album, Grown Backwards turned 15 in March 2019 and was released on vinyl for the first time. Check out this visual history of the album Pitchfork said: "fits alongside the best of his career."
Buy David Byrne's catalogue on vinyl here.
Delve further into the completely unique catalogue of the revolutionary art-school punks with our I Like: Talking Heads playlist on Spotify:
Listen to more Talking Heads on Apple Music: