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Talking Heads

"Take Me to the River," "Once in a Lifetime," "Burning Down the House"

Talking Heads

David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth met at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early 1970's. Byrne and Frantz formed a band called The Artistics, and Weymouth, Frantz's girlfriend, often drove them from gig to gig. The Artistics dissolved after about a year, and in 1974 the three moved to New York City, where they shared a communal loft and concentrated on making music. Weymouth learned how to play bass, and the trio became the Talking Heads, with Byrne as guitarist and vocalist and Frantz on drums. The band got its break in 1975, when it opened for the Ramones at the New York City punk club CBGB. The line-up was completed in 1976, when Jerry Harrison, formerly of Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers, joined the group as keyboardist. The band spent much of 1976 touring Europe with the Ramones, was signed by Sire Records in 1977, and released Talking Heads that same year.

The Talking Heads began their collaboration with producer Brian Eno with their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), in which they began to explore an increasingly diverse range of musical directions, from post-punk to new wave to psychedelic funk. This album produced their first hit, "Take Me to the River," which peaked at #26 on the Billboard chart.

Fear of Music (1979) featured a rhythm section and introduced African-styled polyrhythms to the band's already experimental music, and many of its songs referred to the geopolitical stability of the day. The most notable song was "Life During Wartime," which introduced the phrase this ain't no party, this ain't no disco into the pop lexicon.

African-influenced music was joined by Arabic influences in 1980's Remain in Light, which also featured a horn section. The album's lead single, "Once in a Lifetime," broke the Top-20 in the United Kingdom but faltered in the United States until after its video premiered. To better accomodate the complex arrangements featured in Remain in Light, the band toured with an expanded line-up that included keyboardist Bernie Worrell (formerly of Parliament and Funkadelic), guitarist Adrian Belew (who had played with Frank Zappa and David Bowie), bassist Busta Cherry Jones, percussionist Steven Scales, and vocalists Nona Hendryx (formerly of Labelle) and Dollette McDonald.

After the Remain in Light tour, the Talking Heads went on hiatus while its members pursued other projects. Byrne scored music for films and stage and released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which incorporated world music, 'found' sounds, and included a number of other prominent international and post-punk musicians. Harrison released his first solo album The Red and the Black. Frantz and Weymouth got married during this period, and also formed the commercially successful Tom Tom Club.

The Talking Heads broke its hiatus in 1982, releasing The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, a compilation of live performances featuring every one of the band's various line-ups. The band also toured the United States and Europe, as an 8-person group.

By the time the Talking Heads returned to the studio in 1983 it had parted ways with Brian Eno. The resulting album, Speaking in Tongues, became the band's first platinum album, and featured its highest-ever charting single, "Burning Down the House," which peaked at #9 on the Billboard chart. The extensive tour that followed, which included former Brothers Johnson guitarist Alex Weir, was documented in Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense (1984), which generated a live album of the same name. The band went back to its core line-up following the tour.

Little Creatures (1985), featuring the singles "And She Was" and "Road to Nowhere," was the band's second, and last, platinum album. This was followed by True Stories (1986), in which the band covered all of the soundtrack songs used in the movie of the same name, which was directed by Byrne. Naked (1988) featured guest performances by assorted African and Caribbean musicians living in Paris, where the album was produced. Naked ended up being the Talking Heads' last album, as Byrne and Harrison took time to pursue more solo projects and Frantz and Weymouth continued their success with Tom Tom Club. In 1991, Byrne publicly announced that the Talking Heads had disbanded, much to the surprise of Harrison, Frantz, and Weymouth.

In 1996, Harrison, Frantz, and Weymouth reunited to record No Talking Just Head, after which Byrne sued them for using the Talking Heads name. The four had reconciled by 1999, when they came together to promote the 15th anniversary of Stop Making Sense. They came together one last time in 2002, when they performed at the ceremony marking their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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This page was last updated on 06/26/2018.