Left to right: Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison, David Byrne.
"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around"
—Talking Heads, Life During Wartime.
"Singing is a trick to get people to listen to music for longer than they would ordinarily."
Talking Heads was an American rock band formed in 1974 in New York City
and active until 1991. The band comprised vocalist/guitarist David Byrne
, drummer Chris Frantz, bassist Tina Weymouth (married to Frantz), and guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison. Auxiliary musicians also frequently made appearances in concert and on the group's albums.The new wave musical style of Talking Heads combined elements of punk rock, avant-garde, pop, funk, afrobeat and art rock.
Frontman and songwriter David Byrne contributed whimsical, esoteric lyrics to the band's songs, and emphasized their showmanship through various multimedia projects and performances. The band worked with famous Record Producer Brian Eno
on all their albums between 1978-1980, whose influence steered them towards their Signature Style
dominated by incredibly dense, hypnotic funk grooves over which Byrne would improvise his vocals. They parted ways with Eno after their masterpiece Remain in Light
and continued with a Lighter and Softer
sound for the rest of their career, to increasing dissatisfaction from fans and critics. In 1986, they made a movie called True Stories
, starring Face of the Band
David Byrne as the narrator. (Ironically, the film itself falls under the trope Talking Heads
In 2002, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Four of the band's albums appeared on Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and the Channel 4 100 Greatest Albums poll listed one album (Fear of Music
) at number 76. Their concert film Stop Making Sense
is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of the genre.
- After the End: "(Nothing But) Flowers".
- Animated Music Video
- Anti-Love Song: "I'm Not in Love".
- Ax-Crazy: The narrator of "Psycho Killer".
- The Band Minus the Face: No Talking Just Head, a 1996 album by The Heads (the band minus Byrne), with a different vocalist on each of the tracks. Byrne sued them so they couldn't tour under the name.
- Bo Diddley Beat: "Ruby Dear".
- Bowties Are Cool: "Once in a Lifetime".
- Breakup Breakout: David Byrne has had a successful solo career since the band's breakup, while Jerry Harrison has become a successful Record Producer, and Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz founded the Tom Tom Club.
- Captain Obvious: Lots of lovable instances in the lyrics. Works in a weird, unexplainable way. Are you aware, for example, that "there is water at the bottom of the ocean"?
- Cloudcuckoolander: David Byrne comes across as one.
- Control Freak: The other band members claim Byrne was this throughout the band's history, and caused the band to break up by being this. He admitted as much on the DVD commentary to Stop Making Sense.
- Conveyor Belt Video: "And She Was"
- Cool Old Guy and Cool Old Lady: The members of Talking Heads have all graduated to these.
- Darker and Edgier: Fear of Music.
- Epic Rocking: The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads features the live version of "Born Under Punches" clocking in at 8:25 with the band performing the song and milking every minute for what it's worth. "The Great Curve" and "Houses In Motion" on the same album are both over six minutes and show the best parts of the "Remain In Light" album and the best parts of the band in their prime.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Weymouth, Frantz, and Byrne were all students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and had started another band together (The Artistics) there before moving to New York and (after a little while) becoming Talking Heads.
- Fake Guest Star: Bernie Worrell, a funk musician known for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic, was never an official member of the band, but performed with them for virtually their entire existence, and is usually regarded as the de facto fifth member.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "No Compassion"
- Funk: An important influence on their style. To underscore this, the backing musicians who accompany them on their Stop Making Sense album/concert movie are all funk musicians affilliated with Parliament-Funkadelic (except for Alex Weir, who was part of The Brothers Johnson).
- Flyover Country: "The Big Country".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: "And She Was", one of their biggest hit singles, is about a drug trip.
- Gratuitous French: "Psycho Killer".
- Happily Married: Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.
- Heavy Meta: "Electric Guitar".
- I Am the Band: Byrne is a notorious example.
- Iconic Outfit: Byrne's gigantic suit from Stop Making Sense, which "Weird Al" Yankovic later parodied in his spoof of them, "Dog Eat Dog".
- Idiosyncratic Album Naming: Their live The Name of This Band is Talking Heads stems from Byrne announcing the next songs as "The name of this song is [insert song title here]".
- It was also named that way because David Byrne was frustrated by people adding a 'The' to the band's name when there wasn't supposed to be one.
- Insufferable Genius: David Byrne is this in a way.
- In the Style of...: "The Overload" is in the style of Joy Division, but because Talking Heads had never listened to the band, it was based on what the music press wrote about them. Impressively, it's not far-off from how Joy Division actually sounded, although when the Heads finally heard Joy Division they were disappointed — they thought the Manchester band was a lot more conventional than they'd been led to imagine.
- Jerk Ass: The other members, notably Tina Weymouth as described below, think David Byrne is one. Byrne thinks the other members have been this to him as well.
- Large Ham: Byrne, resulting in such gems as "Don't you miss it! Don't you miss it! Some of you people just about missed it!" and "And you may say to yourself, 'My God, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?'".
- The other members have occasionally had large ham tendencies, such as Chris Frantz during Stop Making Sense and Jerry Harrison throughout the music video for Wild Wild Life.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Highlighted in "Life During Wartime".
- Marionette Motion
- Military Brat: Both Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. Her dad was an admiral; she says that "Don't Worry About the Government" is inspired in part by that.
- Milking the Giant Cow: In the video for "Once in a Lifetime," David Byrne does this while shouting 'My God, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?'", going along with the Large Ham tendencies noted above.
- Mind Screw: Seen And Not Seen.
- The Movie: True Stories, directed by David Byrne.
- Mundane Made Awesome: Who else but Byrne could write lyrics about civil servants and buildings with such conviction?
- My God, What Have I Done?: Trope Namer.
- New Sound Album: Remain In Light and Little Creatures. Lampshaded by David Byrne in the first appearance of the expanded touring band, saying "We don't sound like we used to."
- Non-Appearing Title: "Life During Wartime" and "New Feeling", among others.
- Notable Music Videos: Once in a Lifetime, Burning Down the House, Wild, Wild Life.
- Occidental Otaku: David Byrne's staging for Talking Heads' 1983 tour, as captured in Stop Making Sense, was inspired by Kabuki and Noh theater, including the famous big suit and the stagehands dressed in black visible to the audience.
- Self-Deprecation: The name of More Songs About Buildings and Food was the result of writer's block when it came to choosing the title of the album.
Tina Weymouth: When we were making this album [Fear of Music] I remembered this stupid discussion we had about titles for the last album. At that time I said, 'What are we gonna call an album that's just about buildings and food?' And Chris said, 'You call it more songs about buildings and food.'
- Shout-Out: A spectacularly obscure one in the video for "Once In A Lifetime" — During his time at the Rhode Island School of Design, David Byrne worked at a "New York System" hot dog stand in Providence. The up-the-arm chopping motion from his weird, twitchy dancing exactly matches the procedure for putting toppings on a row of short, chili-soaked hot dogs.
- The fighter planes depicted on Remain in Light's back cover are a reference to Tina Weymouth's Military Brat family background. (The planes in question are Grumman Avengers used by the Navy.)
- Spell My Name Without A The: There is no "the" in "Talking Heads". Referred to in the title of their live album The Name of This Band is Talking Heads.
- The Seventies, The Eighties
- The Southpaw: David Byrne is left-handed, but plays guitar right-handed.
- Spinoff: Frantz and Weymouth's Tom Tom Club.
- Surreal Music Video
- Textless Album Cover: More Songs about Buildings and Food.
- Title Only Chorus: "Blind" whose chorus uses the single word title fourteen times each verse.
- Tsundere: Tina Weymouth was reportedly obsessed with Byrne in the band's early days (some people have even claimed she was in love with him), and now takes the opportunity to publicly badmouth him every chance she gets.
- While all members have their grudges against Byrne (although Byrne's relationship with Jerry Harrison is apparently on better terms than his relationship with Chris or Tina), she was the most outspoken about it (being asked why they wouldn't reform, she described Byrne as a man "incapable of returning friendship").
- According to Byrne, Tina Weymouth would write scathing letters to him in the 1990's, but then by the end of each letter would ask why he didn't want to work with her or the other members of the band anymore.
- Utopia: Deconstructed with "Nothing But Flowers", where the singer is utterly bored by the paradisical garden world he's stuck in.
- Villain Song: "Psycho Killer"
- Wanderlust Song: Road To Nowhere may or may not be this.
- Word Salad Lyrics: David Byrne is fond of these. "Burning Down The House", for example, is just a list of phrases that fit the rhythm he had composed and loosely fit together thematically.
Same as it ever was. Waldorf:
Same as it ever was. Statler:
Yeah... Both, in unison: Terrible!
Doh ho ho ho...