Four former art school students formed a band in New York City in 1975, and in ’77, they released Talking Heads: 77. Bassist Tina Weymouth explained what ‘Talking Heads’ meant: “A friend had found the name in the TV Guide, which explained the term used by TV studios to describe a head-and-shoulder shot of a person talking as ‘all content, no action’. It fit.”
Talking Heads had incredible content, like songs about a psycho killer, worrying about the government, ‘the book I read’, having no compassion–– you know, standard rock fare stuff.
Instantly Talking Heads drew attention as one of the freshest new wave bands and became mainstays at CBGB.
After the release of their second album More Songs About Buildings And Food, I saw them at the Tomorrow Club in downtown Youngstown, Ohio. I was a writer for the Youngstown State University ‘Jambar’ newspaper and smooth talked my way into reviewing the concert and meeting the band.
I am bad with faces, and to identify the band members I relied on their portrait shots from their first album. I met three of the band members at the soundcheck–– two men, one woman. I instantly deduced the woman was Tina Weymouth, pretty good gumshoe work there! The two young guys were clean cut, as were all three male members in the band portrait.
I asked the first guy if he was “David By-run?”
“No,” he said, “I’m Jerry Harrison.”
I asked the second guy if he was “David By-run?”
“No, I’m Chris Frantz. David Byrne is coming later,” he said.
“Oh,” said I, registering the singer’s name was pronounced “Burn” not “By-run.” The three band members were nice enough not to walk away in disgust from this punk kid reporter pestering them.
When I met Byrne that night, he was aloof with a faraway look in his eyes. He was shy and introverted and spoke about as much as a mime. David Byrne was on his own wavelength. His lyrics reflected that sensibility. No one wrote lyrics or songs like Talking Heads.
That night at the concert, the band played tight. Byrne stuck to a three-foot circumference around his microphone. He played guitar and delivered his lyrics exactly as recorded on the band’s albums. The epitome of “All content. No action.”
Imagine my surprise when I saw the movie Talking Heads Stop Making Sense, the best concert film ever IMHO. Byrne is a masterful showman (the big suit? Come on!). The band is tight, fun, and fluid. Content finally had action. I would pick that album as my favorite since they play cool renditions of some of their greatest songs, but that pick would be too easy.
Instead, I’ve selected 1983’s Speaking in Tongues, with the band’s only legitimate hit, Burning Down The House. This disc includes Making Flippy Floppy, Slippery People, Girlfriend is Better (where the phrase “Stop making sense” is used), Swamp, I Get Wild/Wild Gravity, This Must Be The Place (Na?ve Melody) and more. The sound is
I’m telling you, that ‘David By-run’ is something else. And if you haven’t heard it, Remain In Light is a close second for me as their best work.