Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

TALKING HEADS Part 1 – Thoughts On An Artist

Talking Heads were not an important band in my musical upbringing. Their first album was released when I was 11, but none of their music was featured on the radio stations I was listening to until 2 years later, when “Life During Wartime” started getting some airplay. A year after that, “Once In A Lifetime” followed suit. I enjoyed both songs, but never enough to seek out their albums. At that time I was still listening to the “old guys” (Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Yes) as well as more current hard rock bands (Van Halen, Rainbow, Triumph). The new artists at the time who caught my ear were acts like The Cars, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Joe Jackson and Cheap Trick (my first concert). Many of them were considered “new wave” but they really just continued the tradition of excellent songwriting & playing that I had enjoyed in the 70s.

I was never a big fan of punk, although I enjoyed some Clash songs and got to see The Ramones in concert in 1980 (they were great). As a young musician who played in rock bands and symphony orchestras, I didn’t understand the concept of playing music when you didn’t know how to play an instrument. I’ve since come around to this concept, and I can appreciate some of the early punk bands, but I rarely feel it in my gut the way I do with my favorite artists. Talking Heads were often lumped in with the punk crowd, probably because they came to prominence at America’s “punk central,” CBGB’s. But while other bands turned up the volume & played fast, Talking Heads had a different approach. They seemed like art-school nerds, and at least a couple of them were pretty good at their respective instruments. You wouldn’t think that would go over well with the punk crowds at the time, but it did. The band Television was similarly not a true punk band, as they could really play, but the punk crowds still embraced them. I’ll cover their brief discography here in the future.

The only Talking Heads album I owned through their peak years of the early to mid 1980’s was the live LP, Stop Making Sense. This acted as a greatest hits collection, a way for me to avoid buying the individual albums & still have many of their best songs. In 1988 I bought the Naked LP after hearing a couple of great horn-infused songs (“Blind” and “Mr. Jones”) on the radio. Several years later I got the 2-CD anthology Sand In The Vaseline: Popular Favorites, and that was the extent of my Talking Heads collection for more than a decade. I never felt like I was missing anything by not having most of their albums, since I had access to the majority of their key songs.

In 2005, they released a box set (called Talking Heads, but known as the “Brick”) that included all eight of their studio albums in DualDisc format: One side is a CD and the other a DVD. The DVD side allows the listener to hear the albums in surround sound if you’re equipped for it, and fortunately I am. I’ll be listening to the CDs, in good old stereo, as well as the surround sound mixes, making comparisons and getting to know the albums better in the process.

The only other connection I have to Talking Heads is that my college cover band played several of their songs: “And She Was,” “Wild Wild Life” and their version of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River.” At the time I probably thought the latter was an original song. When I later became an Al Green fan I appreciated what Talking Heads brought to the song, while acknowledging how great the original version was. I look forward to more discoveries as I explore their catalog. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section. Thanks for reading.

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