September marks the forty-fifth anniversary of a significant debut by the Talking Heads. “I think that Talking Heads were one of the first groups who tried not to be about a fantasy that was bigger than life, but tried to be about being strong within a life that was ultimately real,” guitarist/ keyboard player Jerry Harrison points out here In the Studio. A casual perusal of the Talking Heads’ discography on AllMusic.com reveals more stars than a Texas sky on a clear night. Jeff Gold’s sumptuous coffee table tome 101 Essential Rock Records devotes two whole pages to their debut Talking Heads ’77, which contained the riveting tension of “Psycho Killer”.
“One of the things that I think Talking Heads stood for,” muses keyboard player/ guitarist Jerry Harrison, “was sticking to your guns, doing what you did best, and where it took you and whatever success it brought you, then that’s what happened. And I think that was inspiring to people. There’s often been a fantasy aspect to rock and roll where the artists try to be bigger than life. They try to look like pirates; they try to look like juvenile delinquents. All of these images where they try and look like ‘I’m the sexiest person alive’. And one of the problems with this is a lot of the musicians believe their own press, and believe this about themselves. I think it’s a reason why some get involved in drug excess, & get involved in trying to live this fantasy that a lot of people have about rock and roll.”
“And I think it’s quite demeaning for the audience,” continues Harrison. “The audience goes to a show, and maybe your girlfriend seems like she’s more attracted to the lead singer than to you anymore because he seems sexier. It’s a facade, & now you want to vicariously live that fantasy for yourself.”
In 2002, their first year of eligibility, the Talking Heads were elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No wonder: the following year many of those same music industry people responsible for the Rock Hall recognition would place no less than four Talking Heads albums onto Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 500 Albums of All Time list, including Stop Making Sense at #345.
Singer/songwriter David Byrne and keyboard/guitarist Jerry Harrison join me In the Studio for Talking Heads’ terrific cover of Al Green/ Teenie Hodges’ “Take Me to the River” from More Songs About Buildings and Food; the pulsing pre-9/11 domestic terrorism in “Life During Wartime”; the MTV video classic “Once in a Life Time”;”Burning Down the House” and “Girlfriend is Better” from the brilliant 1983 breakthrough Speaking in Tongues ; the essential multi-media film by Jonathan Demme and soundtrack album Stop Making Sense in September 1984; “And She Was” from June 1985’s two million seller Little Creatures; and “Wild Wild Life” from True Stories. – Redbeard