Hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Talking Heads released its debut album, conveniently titled Talking Heads: 77. Of course, I was five years old in 1977, so it’s not as if I’ve been a fan of the band for that long.
This sound feels unique and new even today, let alone four decades ago. David Byrne and his bandmates were truly trendsetting artists.
I’m curious to see how this vote goes. Stevie Wonder, an unquestioned musical genius and living legend, against Talking Heads, one of alternative music’s most innovative and influential bands.
This isn’t a tough call for me. I appreciate Stevie Wonder’s music more than I like it (don’t tell Michelle Obama!). Talking Heads, on the other hand, works for me on every level.
I’m currently digging into the albums of 1990, and I’m not very impressed with the selection.
Today’s Random iTunes Weekend selection is a reminder that 1980 was a much stronger year. So strong that Talking Heads’ Remain in Light managed only the third slot on my personal list of favorite 1980 albums.
Only Billy Joel’s Glass Houses (#2) and Elvis Costello’s Get Happy! (#1) topped it, and the Billy Joel pick is a sentimental one. Remain in Light probably deserves the second spot.
I may only own five albums from 1980, but fortunately they’re very good ones. In fact, in my #3 slot is an album that shows up on just about every list of the best albums of the entire decade.
Remain in Light is Talking Heads’ fourth album, and their first to embrace the African rhythms that would become a hallmark of their future work. Unlike their previous efforts, David Byrne didn’t deliver these songs to the band intact. They were conceived during jam sessions driven by the Heads’ excellent rhythm section of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz.
Talking Heads’ 1983 album Speaking in Tongues was the band’s commercial breakthrough, to whatever extent a band this idiosyncratic can break through. The single ‘Burning Down the House’ became the group’s only top ten hit.
Speaking in Tongues followed the critically lauded but less accessible Remain in Light, and these two records form the band’s creative high point.