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Music / Naked

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"From the age of the dinosaurs, cars have run on gasoline."
"If there is no Tiger in the mountains, the Monkey will be King."
Chinese proverb, quoted in the LP liner notes (as well as those of the 2005 remastered CD).

Naked, released in 1988, is the eighth and final album by American Alternative Rock band Talking Heads. It was the band's first and only album to be released through Fly Records, a vanity label briefly used between 1988 and 1990 for two studio albums, three singles, and a compilation of Brazilian folk songs put together by frontman David Byrne (which doubled as the debut release by his vanity label Luaka Bop). As with all of Talking Heads' albums since the Stop Making Sense live record in 1984, the Fly Records catalog was distributed by Sire Records in the United States & Canada and by EMI everywhere else until the rights to the band's post-1984 output outside of North America shifted to Parlophone Records in the wake of EMI's collapse.

Following the middling critical and fan reception of True Stories two years prior, the band decided to shake up their ever-malleable sound again, choosing to shift back to a worldbeat sound in response to the Ronald Reagan administration's increasingly isolationist foreign policy approach. The band recorded around 40 improvisational jam sessions and flew off to Paris to collaborate with a bevy of guest musicians; lyrics and melodies were then written and recorded by Byrne back in New York.

Produced by Steve Lillywhite (an in-demand producer at the time for his work with U2 and Peter Gabriel), the resultant album is a return to the formula fostered by Talking Heads' landmark 1980 album Remain in Light, combining Post-Punk & New Wave Music with African polyrhythms and the Latin funk instrumentation that Byrne developed an interest in during the latter half of the decade. The album was a moderate commercial success, reaching No. 19 on the Billboard album charts and going gold (sales of over 500,000 copies), the last Talking Heads album to receive any kind of sales certification by the RIAA going by release ordernote . However, where exactly Talking Heads would go from here would be a question that would ultimately remain unanswered; the band dissolved shortly after the album's release, first claiming to be on hiatus as Byrne, Harrsion, and Weymouth and Frantz (as the Tom Tom Club) each released their own projects, before eventually confirming their split at the end of 1991. Byrne would put out his solo sequel to Naked, Uh-Oh, just months later.

Naked produced two singles: "Blind" and "(Nothing But) Flowers". A promo single of "Mr. Jones" was also released, but was never made commercially available.


  1. "Blind" (4:58)
  2. "Mr. Jones" (4:18)
  3. "Totally Nude" (4:10)
  4. "Ruby Dear" (3:48)
  5. "(Nothing But) Flowers" (5:31)
  6. "The Democratic Circus" (5:01)
  7. "The Facts of Life" (6:25)
  8. "Mommy Daddy You and I" (3:58)note 
  9. "Big Daddy" (5:37)
  10. "Bill" (3:21)note 
  11. "Cool Water" (5:10)

No one ever said he was involved with tropes:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: Alluded to in the opening lines of "(Nothing But) Flowers".
  • After the End: The album as a whole uses this as a recurring motif, but it's most noticeable in "(Nothing But) Flowers", which describes the aftermath of an unspecified apocalyptic event that caused Earth to revert to a New Eden.
  • Album Title Drop: Done in "Totally Nude".
    I hang around
    Where the grass is greener
    Totally naked, baby
    Totally nude
  • All There in the Manual: The liner notes detail the process of making the album and the events that spawned its creation.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: Forced upon the narrator of "(Nothing But) Flowers", who has to resort to eating rattlesnakes for dinner.
  • Bo Diddley Beat: "Ruby Dear".
  • Boléro Effect: "Cool Water", which grows louder and angrier as the song progresses before abruptly stopping.
  • Book Ends: An odd example with Talking Heads: 77, the band's first album; both it and Naked were released in a year where the last and second-to-last digits were identical (1977 for Talking Heads: 77, 1988 for Naked). Both albums also make heavy use of red on their front covers (though this could be attributed more to red being a general Color Motif for David Byrne).
  • Bubblegloop Swamp: A photograph of one is featured on the back cover.
  • Call-Back: The line "we used to microwave, now we just eat nuts and berries" in "(Nothing But) Flowers" is one to "Animals" from Fear of Music, which features the line "they're living on nuts and berries" at multiple points.
  • Concept Album: Themes of After the End feature heavily throughout the album, with almost every song ("Mr. Jones" arguably being the sole exception) having a noticeably post-apocalyptic angle to its lyrics, even if it's not apparent at first glance.
  • Concept Video: The music video for "Blind" is one of few instances of this trope in Talking Heads' videography, depicting a malevolent monkey wrench's rise to power and eventual overthrowing.
  • Darker and Edgier: The album brings back the anxious, paranoid lyrical undercurrents that were present in Fear of Music and Remain in Light, with some tracks being quite dour musically as well; "Cool Water" is a standout example in both cases.
  • Digital Head Swap: David Byrne's scenes in the music video for "Blind" occasionally feature his band members' faces superimposed onto his own via videotape editing.
  • Downer Ending: "Cool Water", a dour, droning, minor-key piece about institutional discrimination.
  • End of an Age: The album unofficially marked the end of Talking Heads, as the band split right after its completion (though they wouldn't announce it until 1991; the single "Sax and Violins" was released just before this announcement, and as such is frequently considered the band's official Grand Finale).
  • Epic Rocking:
    • "The Facts of Life"; at 6:25, it's just barely beaten out by "The Great Curve" from Remain in Light (by one second) for the position of the longest song in Talking Heads' oeuvre.
    • The CD and cassette versions of the album are also longer than anything the band had put out before it, clocking in at 52:17.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: The music video for "Blind" ends this way, freezing on a shot of a baby clutching the shrunken-down, defeated monkey wrench in its fist.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Done In-Universe with "Mr. Jones", where the titular everyman is placidly ordinary back home but is treated as an A-list celebrity in the town where the song is set.
  • Ghibli Hills: The setting of "(Nothing But) Flowers", described in lush detail.
  • Good Old Ways: Implied in "Big Daddy", in which old-fashioned fishing proves to be a more viable means of living than monetary systems.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "Totally Nude" features the narrator embracing and advocating the New Eden lifestyle, only for this very concept to get flippantly torn to shreds two songs later.
  • Incredibly Long Note: Done courtesy of David Byrne on "The Facts of Life".
  • Lyric Video: Played with in the video for "(Nothing But) Flowers", which intersperses excerpts from the song lyrics atop footage of the band performing. In one instance, a "HEY!" is written on David Byrne's palm in black marker. Alongside Prince's music video for "Alphabet St." (also released in 1988), the one for "(Nothing But) Flowers" was considered highly innovative for its use of typographic overlays in this manner.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Appears on a number of songs throughout the album, but the singles "Blind" and "(Nothing But) Flowers" particularly stand out, contrasting upbeat melodies and bouncy instrumentation with lyrics about urban apocalypse and a guy getting increasingly fed up with his New Eden environment, respectively.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: "Ruby Dear":
    Angels and prostitutes
    They might look the same
  • Mythology Gag: In addition to being a Pink Floyd Shout-Out, the "Incredibly Long Note fading into a synth hum" effect in "The Facts of Life" also harks back to the same technique's usage in "Mind" off of Talking Heads' Fear of Music.
  • New Eden: Deconstructed in "(Nothing But) Flowers". While the narrator is at first happy at the garden paradise the Earth has become following an unspecified apocalyptic event, he quickly grows bored out of his damn mind, deprived of modern luxuries and longing for the days of "honky-tonks, Dairy Queens and 7-Elevens." By the end of the song, he outright begs to be freed from the Ghibli Hills he's become trapped in. Amusingly, "(Nothing But) Flowers" is placed just two songs after "Totally Nude", which at face-value embraces this trope.
  • New Sound Album: Well, more "New Old Sound Album", if that makes sense. Naked returns to Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues' signature blend of Post-Punk & New Wave Music with Afrobeat-inspired polyrhythms, but opts for instrumentation more strongly rooted in Latin funk, building off of the light Tejano influences on True Stories.
  • Performance Video: "(Nothing But) Flowers" meshes this together with a Lyric Video, featuring Talking Heads performing alongside Johnny Marr, Kirsty MacColl, and Yves N'Djock in a seafoam green room while the song lyrics appear atop the footage.
  • Product Placement: "(Nothing But) Flowers" name-drops Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, and 7-Eleven.
  • Record Producer: Steve Lillywhite, thus making Naked Talking Heads' first album to not be self-produced since Remain in Light eight years prior.
  • Re-Cut: LP versions of Naked knock some time off of "Totally Nude", "(Nothing But) Flowers", and "Big Daddy", and omit "Bill" altogether, due to the technical restrictions of the format compared to CDs and cassettes in the twilight of vinyl as a mainstream format. Not long after the album's release, major labels in the US would start phasing out LP releases altogether.
  • Special Guest: The album makes use of a wide number of guest musicians.
    • Johnny Marr, fresh off his work with The Smiths, plays guitar on "Ruby Dear", "(Nothing But) Flowers", "Mommy Daddy You and I", and "Cool Water".
    • "Dueling Banjos" writer Eric Weissberg performs pedal steel guitar on "Totally Nude" and "Bill", as well as dobro on "The Democratic Circus".
    • Bestselling Guinean kora player Mory Kanté performs the instrument on "Mr. Jones" and "The Facts of Life".
    • Level 42 collaborator Wally Badarou plays keyboard parts on "Blind" and "The Facts of Life".
    • Weather Report percussionist Manolo Badrena plays congas on "Mr. Jones" and "Mommy Daddy You and I" and general percussion parts throughout the rest of the album.
    • Lenny Pickett of the Saturday Night Live in-house band and Steve Elson of Broken English play saxophone on "Blind" and "Big Daddy". Earl Gardner, also of the SNL in-house band, plays trumpet on the same tracks.
    • Avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell performs the instrument on "Bill".
    • The Pogues accordionist James Fearnley plays the instrument on "Mommy Daddy You and I".
    • Kirsty MacColl provides backing vocals on "(Nothing But) Flowers" and "Bill"; she would later sing backup on a number of songs on David Byrne's solo album Rei Momo thanks to her work on this album.
    • Veteran Cameroonian guitarist Yves N'Djock plays the instrument on "Blind", "Totally Nude" and "(Nothing But) Flowers", appearing alongside Marr, MacColl, and Talking Heads in the latter's music video.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Totally Nude" derives its title from the Wallets song of the same name, as stated near the end of the liner notes.
    • "The Facts of Life" features an effect where an Incredibly Long Note sung by David Byrne is crossfaded into a synthesizer drone, mimicking a similar effect on "Sheep" by Pink Floyd.
    • Word of God says that the title character in "Mr. Jones" is supposed to be the same guy Bob Dylan sang about in "Ballad of a Thin Man".
  • Take That!:
    • The music video for "Blind" scathingly lampoons the 1988 American presidential election, depicting a sentient, malevolent monkey wrench being elected into public office and tormenting his audience. At the end of the video, the wrench is overthrown and tossed far into the distance, where it shrinks to a more conventional size and implicitly becomes stripped of its power and sentience. Tina Weymouth stated that the video is meant to be a parody of partisan politics in general, but the timing of its release indicates that it's directed particularly at the election.
    • "The Democratic Circus" is quite clear about its distaste towards the state of American politics at the tail end of the Ronald Reagan era, comparing it to a surreal carnival.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Blind", whose chorus uses the single-word title fourteen times each verse.
  • Updated Re-release: The 2005 remastered edition includes "Sax and Violins" as a bonus track.
  • Visual Pun: The music video for "Blind" runs on one, anthropomorphizing the monkey wrench that tends to be figuratively thrown into one's works. The music video additionally features a literal Bible-thumper and the wrench physically chewing off one of his aides' ears.
  • We Have Become Complacent: "(Nothing But) Flowers" claims that part of the reason why the world ended was because people simply didn't pay attention to it.
  • White Void Room: Inverted in the music video for "Blind", which occasionally cuts to footage of David Byrne singing and gesticulating at the camera in a solid black void, with the faces of his band members occasionally superimposed onto his own. While shirtless.
  • World Music: Talking Heads' second foray into the genre, incorporating distinctly Latin rhythms and instrumentation; frontman David Byrne would explore this further with his solo albums Rei Momo and Uh-Oh in 1989 and 1992, respectively, and would carry noticeable Latin influences in his following work.