The Sunday Dozen: Talking Heads

Chris Franz, Jerry Harrison, David Byrne, Tina Weymouth.

Rock music was changing in the mid-Seventies. I was never a punk guy even though I saw and hated the final Sex Pistols show. I nearly got in an altercation with some creep with safety pins in his nipples. He should have heeded this venerable admonition: Keep your shirt on.

In 1977, I first heard Talking Heads and decided things would turn out okay. They had some of the punk spirit of the day but with better songs and musical chops.

It’s a pity that the original band is unlikely to ever regroup but there are hard feelings, especially towards David Byrne. It’s not my fight so I’m staying out of it.

I’ve used six Talking Heads tunes as the theme song for Saturday Odds & Sods. That’s way up there. I don’t know where there is but it’s there somewhere. I’ll skip the Gertrude Stein reference since I like Oakland.

This was a tough one. It could have easily been a Top Twenty but the purpose of the Dozens is to boil a band’s work down to its essence.

Again, the list is in chronological order and reflects my personal taste.

The first time I heard Psycho Killer I knew I was in the presence of musical originals. Its use of French confirmed the whole New Wave thing.

I listened to Fear Of Music obsessively at a low point in my life. I had to decide where to relocate after the death of my first wife. Cities was my theme song until I decided to move to New Orleans for law school. It still reminds me of that time in my life.

In many ways, Life During Wartime was the theme song of a generation: “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.”

I’m going to get some shit from my friend Kevin for only including Once In A Lifetime from Remain In Light on this list.  I *love* Remain In Light but it works better as an album than a collection of songs. That’s a compliment, Kevin.

Slippery People has a great groove and lyrics. What’s not to love about a song covered by The Staples Singers?

This is the live version of Girlfriend Is Better from Stop Making Sense. Tina Weymouth steals the show with her thunderous bass. Nothing is better than that.

And She Was is my favorite Talking Heads single and video.

Walk It Down is one of the sleeper songs on this list. They lay down a groove funky enough for The Meters.

People Like Us shows the musical range of the band. It reminds me, in a good way, of Bob Willis and the Texas Playboys. If only the movie True Stories were as good as the music.

 City Of Dreams is a flat-out gorgeous album closing anthem. It was a close call between it and Road to Nowhere, but I went with the lesser known song.

Blind was my theme song when I did a summer law clerkship with NASA at Stennis Space Center. I worked on a case involving the Randolph-Shepard Act. The law gives preference to blind vendors at federal buildings and facilities. We called it the Blind Vendors Case, which meant I walked around singing this insanely catchy tune for weeks; Blind, blind, blind.

 (Nothing But) Flowers. Swell song, swell video, swell sentiments.

Our lagniappe song this week is Al Green’s Take Me To The River, which Talking Heads assumed co-ownership of in 1978.