This past September marked the 39th anniversary of the release of Talking Heads’ landmark debut album Talking Heads 77. This just barely counts as an excuse for me to make a Talking Heads essentials playlist…so I did just that.
I am actually hesitant to call this an “essentials” list. I didn’t include the obvious hits like “Psycho Killer,” “Burning Down The House,” “Once In A Lifetime” etc. because:
1) you probably already know them and,
2) a list of a band’s top hits doesn’t always give a clear picture of what a band really sounded like throughout their career (although if a greatest hits collection is in fact what you’re after, Sand In The Vaseline is actually a really good Talking Heads singles/hits album).
The songs I decided to include aren’t necessarily even my personal favorites. More than anything this is a list designed to give any prospective fan a better view of Talking Heads’ full range of sound over the course of their career without having to listen to the band’s entire discography –although, with this playlist clocking in at an hour and thirty minutes you may decide that you’d be better off devoting that time to a run through of their first two albums, plus ten minutes into Fear of Music.
The opening tracks from The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads, 77, and More Songs About Buildings And Food showcase Talking Heads’ ability to write interesting hooks largely within traditional pop song structure, tight instrumental performance, and David Byrne’s many odd yelps and shouts. Fear Of Music, Remain In Light, and Speaking In Tongue, on the other hand, were at the band’s critical commercial peak, and exemplify experimental production, polyrhythmic song structures and an expanded band lineup. From there we move to Little Creatures, True Stories, and Naked, which all feature disparate sounds, but are oft neglected. And I close out the list with the Stop Making Sense version of “This Must Be The Place” because in my opinion, it is the best song in the world.
Talking Heads made a wide variety of different sounding music over the span of their career, and hearing all of their songs back to back really brings this to light. So grab a snack, hang out, and enjoy the songs of Davie and the gang.