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Talking Heads Biography

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Talking Heads In-depth Biography

At the start of their career, Talking Heads} were all nervous energy, detached emotion, and subdued minimalism. When they released their last album about 12 years later, the band had recorded everything from art-funk} to polyrhythmic worldbeat} explorations and simple, melodic guitar pop}. Between their first album in 1977 and their last in 1988, Talking Heads} became one of the most critically acclaimed bands of the '80s, while managing to earn several pop} hits. While some of their music can seem too self-consciously experimental, clever, and intellectual for its own good, at their best Talking Heads} represent everything good about art-school punks.

And they were literally art-school punks. Guitarist/vocalist David Byrne}, drummer Chris Frantz}, and bassist Tina Weymouth} met at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early '70s; they decided to move to New York in 1974 to concentrate on making music. The next year, the band won a spot opening for the Ramones} at the seminal New York punk} club CBGB}. In 1976, keyboardist Jerry Harrison}, a former member of Jonathan Richman}'s Modern Lovers}, was added to the lineup. By 1977, the band had signed to Sire Records} and released its first album, Talking Heads: 77}. It received a considerable amount of acclaim for its stripped-down rock & roll}, particularly Byrne}'s geeky, overly intellectual lyrics and uncomfortable, jerky vocals.

For their next album, 1978's More Songs About Buildings and Food}, the band worked with producer Brian Eno}, recording a set of carefully constructed, arty pop} songs, distinguished by extensive experimenting with combined acoustic and electronic instruments, as well as touches of surprisingly credible funk}. On their next album, the Eno}-produced Fear of Music}, Talking Heads} began to rely heavily on their rhythm section, adding flourishes of African-styled polyrhythms. This approach came to a full fruition with 1980's Remain in Light}, which was again produced by Eno}. Talking Heads} added several sidemen, including a horn section, leaving them free to explore their dense amalgam of African percussion, funk} bass and keyboards, pop} songs, and electronics.

After a long tour, the band concentrated on solo projects for a couple of years. By the time of 1983's Speaking in Tongues}, the band had severed its ties with Eno}; the result was an album that still relied on the rhythmic innovations of Remain in Light}, except within a more rigid pop}-song structure. After its release, Talking Heads} embarked on another extensive tour, which would turn out to be their last; it's captured on the Jonathan Demme}-directed concert film Stop Making Sense}. After releasing the straightforward pop} album Little Creatures} in 1985, Byrne} directed his first movie, True Stories}, the following year; the band's next album featured songs from the film. Two years later, Talking Heads} released Naked}, which marked a return to their worldbeat} explorations, although it sometimes suffered from Byrne}'s lyrical pretensions.

After its release, Talking Heads} were put on "hiatus"; Byrne} pursued some solo projects, as did Harrison}, and Frantz} and Weymouth} continued with their side project, Tom Tom Club}. In 1991, the band issued an announcement that they had broken up. Five years later, the original lineup minus Byrne} reunited as the Heads} for the album No Talking Just Head}. Then in 1999, all four worked together to promote a 15th-anniversary edition of Stop Making Sense}. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

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