While I sit back and enjoy the intricacies of Cut Copy‘s new release Zonoscope, my thoughts drift back to the rise of new wave and the scene whence contemporary pop music takes many of its cues from. In my daze, I find I have scrolled through the iTunes to Talking Heads and that my pointer finger is twitching upon the cursor. Halfway through Zonoscope‘s Take Me Over and amidst shades of Men At Work, I find I have fallen back 2 decades to one of my favourite tracks…
David Byrne formed the band in the mid-1970s with fellow musicians Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, and (later) Jerry Harrison. Initially formed as The Artistics by the 3 young design students in Rhode Island, the trio moved to New York, where their sound became the most notorious embodiment of new wave: blending funk, rock‘n‘roll, and punk into an avant-garde fusion that contained international music structures and musical experimentation. The new band name was applied as a satirical appraisal of rhetoric in the media. Their first studio album was produced by Tony Bongiovi released in 1977 on Sire Records; tentatively titled Talking Heads: 77. Bongiovi did not produce any subsequent albums (although he produced a re-release of single Psycho Killer in 1984 with Gary Goetzman). The next 3 releases emerged under the stewardship of Brian Eno; recording taking place between New York and The Bahamas. Eno thus worked tirelessly with the band to complete their seminal works Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues. The band had initially played independent venues around SoHo before gaining frequent gigs at CBGB‘s after an initial opening for the Ramones in 1975. In their 1979 single Life During Wartime they lampooned said club, while confronting the notion of a bohemian New York in the face of rising poverty and societal isolation.
The band is renowned for not just its influence in music and upon many, many musicians of the past 35 years; but also in the breadth of its album art. Talking Heads have consistently released artworks that were created by notable artists of the period; and also by unknown artists in an eclectic range of styles. A casual glance as titles such as the Psycho Killer and This Must be The Place singles, Little Creatures, Fear Of Music and Sand In The Vaseline albums all provide a fascinating snapshot of the artwork typical of the period (or genre).
The highlight of their career in many respects was in their 1985 release of Road to Nowhere. This is the track that has me spurning the band‘s moderate contemporary.
Talking Heads broke up by 1991. David Byrne has sinced toured sporadically: such as Melbourne in 2009.