The name of this band was Talking Heads…and anyone who saw Stop Making Sense can vouch that they were one of the most jaw-dropping live bands that ever existed. They weren’t half bad on record either, with a handful of classics to their credit. Never before or since has anyone combined the deep-thinking jitters of the New York underground with the rhythm thrills of vintage funk.
Their debut album’s standout track “Psycho Killer” has already been released, so this week’s Heads package picks up the chronological story. From their 1978 sophomore disc More Songs About Buildings & Food comes “Take Me to the River” a key track for a number of reasons: It was one of the band’s first collaborations with Brian Eno, the acclaimed UK producer/artist (trivia note: Eno loved Talking Heads so much that he wrote a tribute song for them whose title was an anagram for their name—“Kings Lead Hat”). It was also the band’s first flirtation with soul, on a song they borrowed from Memphis R&B master Al Green.
Flash forward a mere two years, and the band gets funky with a vengeance: Still working with Eno, they launch an expanded Heads on Remain in Light with added keyboards, percussion and vocals—some of their new mates are drawn from George Clinton’s P-Funk crew. “Crosseyed & Painless,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and “Girlfriend is Better” all come from this period and are full of great moments for your rhythm section. At this point the Heads’ live shows got more theatrical, with a proudly off-the-wall sense of humor. Check Stop Making Sense for details, and check “Girlfriend is Better” if you wonder where they got the title.
The last phase of Talking Heads was the quietest: They brought out their acoustic guitars again, turned back into a quartet and developed an interest in pure American folk music. Unfortunately they also stopped touring, so the last three Heads albums were never played live. “And She Was” is one of the gems from that era, a back porch-sounding number that somehow makes alien abduction sound like a perfect topic for a folk song.