True Stories is the seventh album by the American music band Talking Heads, released in 1986. Despite having the same name as the film released that same year, which Talking Heads frontman David Byrne both directed and starred in, and despite the fact that every song on the album is featured in the film, it is not a true soundtrack album. Only three of its songs ("Wild Wild Life" "Love For Sale", and "City of Dreams", in film order) were used as-is in the movie; the rest were re-recorded by a variety of other artists for use in the film.
The album exists solely from Executive Meddling; despite Byrne's objections, Warner Bros. (who distributed the True Stories film and own Sire Records, onto whom Talking Heads were signed in the US and Canadanote ) demanded that Talking Heads record their own versions of the lyrical songs from the movie so as to capitalize on its potential box office sales. The incidental songs from the film were concurrently compiled on a soundtrack album titled Sounds from True Stories, released solely on LP and cassette and with no reissues past the original 1986 release. A proper True Stories soundtrack album wouldn't be put out for roughly 32 years, with True Stories, A Film by David Byrne: The Complete Soundtrack releasing alongside and as part of The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release of the film.
Regarding the Talking Heads album, True Stories continues the shift away from the eccentric Post-Punk that defined the band's 1977-1983 output, a change in sound that had been instigated by the previous album, Little Creatures. Put simply, the result is even more blatantly poppy than Little Creatures, doing away with the latter's Country Music influences (save for the penultimate track, "People Like Us") and presenting the most mainstream-friendly album that Talking Heads ever put out, though still retaining the quirkiness from the band's prior output. As a result, True Stories exists as the black sheep of the band's studio discography, having received middling to outright hostile reviews from critics. Fans are more kind to the album, agreeing that it's still a decent pop rock record on its own merits and — especially in hindsight — an amusing riff on 1980's materialism. However, nonetheless the general consensus is that True Stories is Talking Heads' artistic nadir.
At the same time however, the album also hints at the fascination with Latin music and culture displayed in Talking Heads' next and final album, Naked, as well as Byrne's solo albums Rei Momo and Uh-Oh. With the use of Gratuitous Spanish in "Papa Legba" and the Tejano influences visible in "Hey Now" and "Radio Head", the album preludes to the more expansive exploration of Latin rhythms and instrumentation that Byrne would implement throughout the turn of the decade. Thus, True Stories can be thought of as a transitional album, sitting between the country-influenced pop rock of Little Creatures and the Remain in Light-esque blend of Post-Punk & New Wave Music with Latin funk throughout Naked.
1986 Talking Heads album tracklist:
- "Love For Sale" (4:30)
- "Puzzlin' Evidence" (5:23)
- "Hey Now" (3:42)
- "Papa Legba" (5:54)
- "Wild Wild Life" (3:39)
- "Radio Head" (3:14)
- "Dream Operator" (4:39)
- "People Like Us" (4:26)
- "City Of Dreams" (5:06)
CD-Exclusive Bonus Track
- "Wild Wild Life (Extended Mix)" (5:30)
2018 film soundtrack tracklist:
LP OneSide A
- "Road Song" (3:19)
- "Freeway Son" (3:05)
- "Disco Hits!" (2:03)
- "Cocktail Desparado" (3:00)
- "Wild Wild Life" (3:40)
- "City Of Steel" (3:34)
- "Mall Muzak" (5:33)
- "Dream Operator (Featuring Annie McEnroe)" (4:18)
- "Love Theme From True Stories" (1:28)
- "Brownie's Theme" (2:26)
- "Dinner Music" (3:32)
- "Puzzlin' Evidence" (3:55)
LP TwoSide C
- "Glass Operator" (2:31)
- "Hey Now" (3:57)
- "I ❤ Metal Buildings" (1:39)
- "Love For Sale" (4:31)
- "Soy De Tejas" (2:45)
- "Buster's Theme" (2:35)
- "Festa Para Um Rei Negro" (2:19)
- "Radio Head (Featuring Esteban Jordan and Tito Larriva)" (3:49)
- "Papa Legba (Featuring Pops Staples)" (5:07)
- "People Like Us (Featuring John Goodman)" (4:28)
- "City Of Dreams" (5:08)
Note: CD releases are on a single disc
Peace of mind? It's a piece of tropes!
- Broken Record: David Byrne repeats "love" several times near the end of "Love For Sale".
- Cardiovascular Love: "I ❤ Metal Buildings" in the 2018 soundtrack album; also crosses over with Lucky Charms Title.
- Colon Cancer: The full title of the 2018 soundtrack album is "True Stories: A Film by David Byrne: The Complete Soundtrack."
- Conspiracy Theories: "Puzzlin' Evidence" plays off of the idea of a church preacher believing in every possible conspiracy he can think of regarding mass media and commercialism, as portrayed in the film.
- Covered in Gunge: The music video for "Love for Sale" features the band being coated in chocolate before being individually wrapped and sold as confectioneries. Tina seems to get the most of it, even acting as a chocolate bar model at one point.
- Epic Rocking: "Puzzlin' Evidence", "Papa Legba", and "City of Dreams" on the Talking Heads album, and "Mall Muzak", "Papa Legba", and "City of Dreams" on the 2018 soundtrack album.
- Floating Head Syndrome: John Goodman's disembodied upside-down head on the 2018 soundtrack album, also doubling as the cover for the film's Blu-ray. Interestingly, the angle of the shot and the fact that it's vertically inverted makes Goodman's portrait closely resemble David Byrne at first glance.
- Genre Roulette: The album shifts between Proto Punk, children's songs, pop, country, easy listening, and Tejano, among others, with pop rock being the glue holding everything together.
- George Lucas Altered Version: The Talking Heads album existed as this for the actual film soundtrack for more than three decades.
- Gratuitous Panning: The Talking Heads version of "Papa Legba" makes frequent use of this, among other things opening with a high-pitches, mechanical whirring moving between the left and right audio channels.
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Papa Legba" features the phrase "rompiendo la monotonia del tiempo," Spanish for "breaking the monotony of time," in one of its two different choruses. Oddly, the phrase doesn't include "estar" or any of its conjugations at the start, leaving it unclear who exactly is doing the breaking.
- In the Style of...: Word of God states that "Love for Sale" was an attempt at mimicking the style of The Stooges, while "Wild Wild Life" was intended as a pastiche of the kind of music commonly heard on MTV.
- "I Want" Song: The first and second verses of "Hey Now" pretty much sound like this, being written for a bunch of boys no older than 12.I want to bicycleI want to popsicleI want to space faceBuy me a cherry face now...I want to videoI want to rock and rollTake me to the shopping mallBuy me a rubber ball now
- It's All About Me: "Hey Now" also has the children singing, "I am the King of the World!" during their "I Want" Song.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Just the name of the band in big letters with alternating colors on the original 1986 album cover, mimicking the film's title logo (also displayed on the back cover of the album).
- New Sound Album: The Talking Heads album continued the trend toward straightforward pop rock mixed with Alternative Rock from Little Creatures. The World Music elements from previous albums were still there, namely in the form of light Tejano elements, but are de-emphasized in favor of Americana. David Byrne would later go on to describe the album's sound as "Tex-Mex."
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The film's scene for "Wild Wild Life", later repurposed as the song's music video when it was released as a single, had band members pretending to be popular musicians like Prince and Billy Idol.
- Record Producer: Talking Heads are credited with the role on the 1986 album, making it their third and final self-produced record. Their next album, Naked, would return to using an outside producer in the form of Peter Gabriel and U2 collaborator Steve Lillywhite.
- Shout Out:
- "Love for Sale" quotes several famous advertising slogans, such as Greyhound Lines' "Leave the Driving to Us" and Coca-Cola's "It's the Real Thing!"
- "Puzzlin' Evidence" name-drops CBS, ABC, Time, and Newsweek.
- The video for "Wild Wild Life" features a scene of Jerry Harrison miming a Prince impersonation, complete with goatee and frilly costume.
- The track name "Radio Head" might ring a bell to younger listeners, given that it served as the namesake of one of the most popular alternative rock bands of the mid-1990's. During his induction of Radiohead into the 2019 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, David Byrne expressed a longstanding lighthearted sense of bewilderment at the fact that they chose that particular song, bemusedly describing it as a Tex-Mex ditty that he never held in much regard.
- Special Guest: Meat Loaf in the video for "Wild Wild Life".
- Title-Only Chorus: "Hey Now".
- Updated Re Release: The 2005 remastered version adds two extra bonus tracks in the form of the film versions of "Papa Legba" and "Radio Head", making this the only official audio release of any music from the film (beyond "Love for Sale", "Wild Wild Life", and "City of Dreams") prior to the 2018 soundtrack release.
- Word Salad Lyrics: A mild example on "Hey Now"; whatever "space face" and "cherry face" means is never actually explained, though they respectively sound sorta like a children's attraction and a type of candy. The oddly disjointed nature of the lyrics in "Hey Now" tie in with the fact that the song appears in the film as a tune being sung by a crowd of young boys, and it's entirely likely that the song isn't supposed to make sense specifically because it's meant to be sung by literal children.