Talking Heads ¦ Remain In Light

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Remain in Light is the fourth studio album by the American rock band Talking Heads, released on October 8, 1980, by Sire Records. Produced by Brian Eno, his third album with the band, the audio was recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas and Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia during July and August 1980.

After the release of Fear of Music in 1979, Talking Heads and Eno sought to dispel notions of the band as a mere vehicle for frontman and songwriter David Byrne. Drawing influence from Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, they blended African polyrhythms and funk with electronics, recording instrumental tracks as a series of looping grooves. The sessions incorporated a variety of side musicians, including guitarist Adrian Belew, singer Nona Hendryx, and trumpet player Jon Hassell.

Byrne struggled with writer's block, but adopted a scattered, stream-of-consciousness lyrical style inspired by early rap and academic literature on Africa. The artwork was conceived by bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, and crafted with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's computers and design company M&Co. The band hired additional members for a promotional tour, and following its completion, they went on a year-long hiatus to pursue side projects.

Remain in Light was acclaimed by critics, who praised its sonic experimentation, rhythmic innovations, and cohesive merging of disparate genres. The album peaked at number 19 on the US Billboard 200 and number 21 on the UK Albums Chart, and spawned the singles "Once in a Lifetime" and "Houses in Motion". It has been featured in several publications' lists of the best albums of the 1980s and of all time, and is often considered Talking Heads' magnum opus. In 2017, the Library of Congress deemed the album "culturally, historically, or artistically significant",[2] and selected it for preservation in the National Recording Registry.[3]


In January 1980, the members of Talking Heads returned to New York City after the tours in support of their 1979 critically acclaimed third album, Fear of Music, and took time off to pursue personal interests. Singer David Byrne worked with Brian Eno, the record's producer, on an experimental album, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.[4] Keyboardist Jerry Harrison produced an album for soul singer Nona Hendryx at the Sigma Sound Studios branch in New York City; Hendryx and the studio were used during the Remain in Light recording on Harrison's advice.[5]

Drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth, a married couple, discussed leaving Talking Heads after Weymouth suggested that Byrne was too controlling.[6] Frantz did not want to leave, and the two took a long vacation in the Caribbean to ponder the state of the band and their marriage. They became involved in Haitian Vodou religious ceremonies, practised native percussion instruments, and socialised with the reggae rhythm section of Sly and Robbie.[5]

Frantz and Weymouth ended their holiday by purchasing an apartment above Compass Point Studios in Nassau, the Bahamas, where Talking Heads had recorded its second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food.[5] Byrne joined the duo and Harrison there in early 1980.[7] The band members realized that it had been solely up to Byrne to craft songs even though they were performed as a quartet. They had tired of the notion of a singer leading a backup band; the ideal they aimed for, according to Byrne, was "sacrificing our egos for mutual cooperation".[8] Byrne also wanted to escape "the psychological paranoia and personal torment" he had been writing and feeling in New York.[9] Instead of writing music to Byrne's lyrics, Talking Heads performed instrumental jams, using the Fear of Music song "I Zimbra" as a starting point.[7]

Eno arrived in the Bahamas three weeks after Byrne. He was reluctant to work with the band again after collaborating on the previous two albums. He changed his mind after being excited by the instrumental demo tapes.[7] The band and Eno experimented with the communal African way of making music, in which individual parts mesh as polyrhythms.[8] Afrodisiac, the 1973 Afrobeat record by Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, became the template for the album.[9] Weymouth said that the beginnings of hip-hop music made Talking Heads realize that the musical landscape was changing.[10] Before the studio sessions began, the band's friend David Gans told them that "the things one doesn't intend are the seeds for a more interesting future". He encouraged them to experiment, improvise and make use of "mistakes".[11]

Recording and production

A balding man speaking into a microphone is standing in front of an abstract painting containing blotches of orange and lime green and corrugated lines.
Brian Eno, here photographed in 2007, produced Remain in Light using stylised methods and sonic experiments.

Recording sessions started at Compass Point Studios in July 1980. The album's creation required additional musicians, particularly percussionists.[12] Talking Heads used the working title Melody Attack throughout the studio process after watching a Japanese game show of the same name.[13] Harrison said the ambition was to blend rock and African genres, rather than simply imitate African music.[14] Eno's production techniques and personal approach were key to the record's conception. The process was geared to promote the expression of instinct and spontaneity without overtly focusing on the sound of the final product.[15] Eno compared the creative process to "looking out to the world and saying, 'What a fantastic place we live in. Let's celebrate it.'"[10]

Sections and instrumentals were recorded one at a time in a discontinuous process.[16] Loops played a key part at a time when computers could not yet adequately perform such functions. Talking Heads developed Remain in Light by recording jams, isolating the best parts, and learning to play them repetitively. The basic tracks focused wholly on rhythms and were all performed in a minimalist method using only one chord. Each section was recorded as a long loop to enable the creation of compositions through the positioning or merging of loops in different ways.[17] Byrne likened the process to modern sampling: "We were human samplers."[18]

After a few sessions in the Bahamas, engineer Rhett Davies left following an argument with the producer over the fast speed of recording. Steven Stanley, who since age 17 had engineered for musicians such as Bob Marley, stepped in to cover the workload.[17] Frantz credited him with helping create "Once in a Lifetime", which was released as a single.[19] A Lexicon 224 digital reverb effects unit, obtained by engineer and mixer Dave Jerden, was used on the album.[20] The machine was one of the first of its kind and able to simulate environments such as echo chambers and rooms through interchangeable programs.[21] Like Davies, Jerden was unhappy with the fast pace at which Eno wanted to record sonically complicated compositions, but did not complain.[17]

The tracks made Byrne rethink his vocal style and he tried singing to the instrumental songs, but sounded "stilted". Few vocal sections were recorded in the Bahamas.[13] The lyrics were written when the band returned to the U.S., in New York City and California.[22] Harrison booked Talking Heads into Sigma Sound, which focused primarily on R&B music, after convincing the owners that the band's work could bring them a new type of clientele. In New York City, Byrne struggled with writer's block.[13] Harrison and Eno spent their time tweaking the compositions recorded in the Bahamas, while Frantz and Weymouth often did not show up at the studio. Doubts began to surface about whether the album would be completed. The recording sessions sped up only after the recruitment of guitarist Adrian Belew at the request of Byrne, Harrison and Eno. He was advised to add guitar solos to the Compass Point tracks, making use of a Roland guitar synthesiser.[23] Belew ended up performing on the tracks that would become "Crosseyed and Painless", "The Great Curve", "Listening Wind" and "The Overload": in 2022, he recalled that "all of my parts were done in one day".[24]

Byrne recorded all the tracks, as they were after Belew had performed on them, to a cassette and looked to Africa to break his writer's block. He realized that, when African musicians forget words, they often make up new ones. He used a portable tape recorder and tried to create onomatopoeic rhymes in the style of Eno, who believed that lyrics were never the center of a song's meaning. Byrne continuously listened to his recorded scatting until convinced that he was no longer "hearing nonsense".[25] After he was satisfied, Harrison invited Nona Hendryx to Sigma Sound to record backing vocals for the album. She was advised extensively on her vocal delivery by Byrne, Frantz, and Weymouth, and often sang in a trio with Byrne and Eno.[26] The voice sessions were followed by the overdubbing process. Brass player Jon Hassell, who had worked on parts of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, was hired to perform trumpet and horn sections.[27] In August 1980, half of the album was mixed by Eno and engineer John Potoker in New York City with the assistance of Harrison, while the other half was mixed by Byrne and Jerden at Eldorado Studios in Los Angeles.[28]

Music and lyrics

Casual portrait of John Dean sitting in his office with his feet on the desk
The testimony of Watergate scandal conspirator John Dean was one of several inspirations for the lyrics on Remain in Light.

Remain in Light features new wave,[29][30][31] post-punk,[32][33][34] worldbeat,[35] dance-rock,[36][37] art pop,[38][39] art rock,[40][41] avant-pop,[42] and different types of funk, specifically afrofunk[36][43] and psychedelic funk.[44] Critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the album a "dense amalgam of African percussion, funk bass and keyboards, pop songs, and electronics."[45] It contains eight songs with a "striking free-associative feel", according to psychoanalyst Michael A. Brog, in that there is no long-lasting coherent thought process that can be followed in the stream-of-consciousness lyrics. David Gans instructed Byrne to be freer with his lyrical content, advising him that "rational thinking has its limits".[15]

Byrne included a bibliography with the album press kit along with a statement that explained how the album was inspired by African mythologies and rhythms. The release stressed that the major inspiration for the lyrics was John Miller Chernoff's African Rhythm and African Sensibility,[46] which examined the musical enhancement of life in rural African communities.[47] Chernoff travelled to Ghana in 1970 to study native percussion and wrote about how Africans have complicated conversations through drum patterns.[48] One song, "The Great Curve", exemplifies the African theme with the line "The world moves on a woman's hips", which Byrne used after reading Robert Farris Thompson's book African Art in Motion.[22] He also studied straight speech, from John Dean's Watergate testimony to the stories of African American former slaves.[49]

Like the other tracks, album opener "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)" borrows from "preaching, shouting and ranting".[9] The expression "And the Heat Goes On", used in the title and repeated in the chorus, is based on a New York Post headline Eno read in the summer of 1980, while Byrne rewrote the song title "Don't Worry About the Government" from Talking Heads' debut album, Talking Heads: 77, into the lyric "Look at the hands of a government man".[25] Although the unorthodox guitar solo has often been credited to Adrian Belew, it was in fact performed by Byrne via the manipulation of the sample-and-hold function on a Lexicon Prime Time delay.[24]

The "rhythmical rant" in "Crosseyed and Painless"—"Facts are simple and facts are straight. Facts are lazy and facts are late"—is influenced by old school rap, specifically Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks", given to Byrne by Frantz. "Once in a Lifetime" borrows heavily from preachers' diatribes.[49] While some critics deemed the song "a kind of prescient jab at the excesses of the 1980s", Byrne disagreed with the categorization and commented that its lyrics were meant to be taken literally: "We're largely unconscious. You know, we operate half awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven't really stopped to ask ourselves, 'How did I get here?'."[10]

Byrne has described the album's final mix as a "spiritual" piece of work, "joyous and ecstatic and yet it's serious"; he has pointed out that, in the end, there was "less Africanism in Remain in Light than we implied ... but the African ideas were far more important to get across than specific rhythms".[14] According to Eno, the record uniquely blends funk and punk rock or new wave music.[9] None of the compositions include chord changes, relying instead on the use of different harmonics and notes.[25] "Spidery riffs" and layered tracks of bass and percussion are used extensively.[13]

The first side contains the more rhythmic songs, "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)", "Crosseyed and Painless", and "The Great Curve", which include long instrumental interludes.[50] "The Great Curve" contains extended guitar solos by Belew, the first contributions that he made during his day in the studio.[23] Despite their electronic qualities, they were developed and performed prior to Belew owning a guitar synthesizer, and were achieved by him playing his Fender Stratocaster through a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amplifier plus four effects pedals (a Big Muff, an Alembic Strat-o-Blaster reverb unit, an unidentified equalizer and an Electric Mistress flanger).[24]

The second side features more introspective songs.[50] "Once in a Lifetime" pays homage to early rap techniques and the music of the Velvet Underground.[10] The track was originally called "Weird Guitar Riff Song" because of its composition.[49] It was conceived as a single riff before the band added a second, boosted riff on top of the first. Eno alternated eight bars of each riff with corresponding bars of its counterpart.[13] "Houses in Motion" incorporates long brass performances by Hassell, while "Listening Wind" features Arabic music elements and Belew adding textural content via the Electric Mistress and "(bending) the sound up and down while working a delay and the volume control on my guitar".[24] The final track on the album, "The Overload", features "tribal-cum-industrial" beats created primarily by Harrison and Byrne,[50] plus Belew's "growling guitar atmospherics".[24]

Packaging and title

Black-and-white aerial shot of four planes (with white stars on each wing and the body) flying in formation adjacent to each other over clouds.
Grumman Avengers, used by the US Navy, in which Weymouth's father had served, inspired the initial cover art, later used on the back of the LP sleeve after the album name change.

Weymouth and Frantz conceived the cover art with the help of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Walter Bender and his ArcMac team (the precursor to the MIT Media Lab).[27][51] Using Melody Attack as inspiration, the couple created a collage of red warplanes flying in formation over the Himalayas.[27] The planes are an artistic depiction of Grumman Avenger planes in honor of Weymouth's father, Ralph Weymouth, who was a US Navy Admiral.[47] The idea for the back cover included simple portraits of the band members. Weymouth attended MIT regularly during the summer of 1980 and worked with Bender's colleague, Scott Fisher, on the computer renditions of the ideas. The process was tortuous because computer power was limited in the early 1980s and the mainframe alone took up several rooms.[27] Weymouth and Fisher shared a passion for masks and used the concept to experiment with the portraits. The faces (except for eyes, noses and mouths) were blotted out with blocks of red colour. Weymouth considered superimposing Eno's face on top of all four portraits to insinuate his egotism—Eno wanted to be on the cover art—but decided against it.[52]

The rest of the artwork and the liner notes were crafted by the graphic designer Tibor Kalman and his company M&Co.[51][52] Kalman was a fervent critic of formalism and professional design in art and advertisements.[53] He offered his services for free to create publicity, and discussed using unconventional materials such as sandpaper and velour for the LP sleeve. Weymouth, who was skeptical of hiring a designing firm, vetoed Kalman's ideas and held firm on the MIT computerized images. The designing process made the band members realize that the title Melody Attack was "too flippant" for the music, and they adopted Remain in Light instead.[52] Byrne has said, "Besides not being all that melodic, the music had something to say that at the time seemed new, transcendent, and maybe even revolutionary, at least for funk rock songs." The image of the warplanes was relegated to the back of the sleeve and the doctored portraits became the front cover. Kalman later suggested that the planes were not removed altogether because they seemed appropriate during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979–81.[50]

Weymouth advised Kalman that she wanted simple typography in a bold sans serif font.[50] M&Co. complied, with Kalman coming up with the idea of inverting the "A"s in "TALKING HEADS".[54] Weymouth and Frantz decided to use the joint credit acronym C/T for the artwork, while Bender and Fisher used initials and code names because the project was not an official MIT venture.[50] The design credits read "HCL, JPT, DDD, WALTER GP, PAUL, C/T".[47] The final mass-produced version of Remain in Light had one of the first computer-designed record jackets.[10] Psychoanalyst Michael A. Brog has called its front cover a "disarming image, which suggests both splitting and obliteration of identity", and which introduces the listener to the album's recurring theme of "identity disturbance"; he has said, "The image is in bleak contrast to the title with the obscured images of the band members unable to 'remain in light'."[11]

Talking Heads and Eno originally agreed to credit all songs in alphabetical order to "David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth" after failing to devise an accurate formula for the split,[52] but the album was released with the label credit: "all songs written by David Byrne & Brian Eno (except "Houses In Motion" and 'The Overload", written by David Byrne, Brian Eno & Jerry Harrison)".[12] Frantz, Harrison, and Weymouth disputed the credits, especially for a process they had partly funded.[19] According to Weymouth, Byrne told Kalman to doctor the credits on Eno's advice.[47] Later editions credit all band members.[55] Frantz said, "we felt very burned by the credits dispute".[19]

Promotion and release

A guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboardist are performing a song live in concert.
Talking Heads hired five additional musicians for the Remain in Light promotional tours.

Brian Eno advised Talking Heads that the music on Remain in Light was too dense for a quartet to perform.[28] The band expanded to nine musicians for the tours in support of the album. The augmenting members recruited by Harrison were Belew, Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, bassist Busta "Cherry" Jones, Ashford & Simpson percussionist Steven Scales, and backing vocalist Dolette MacDonald.[4] The larger group performed soundchecks in Frantz's and Weymouth's loft by following the rhythms established by Worrell, who had studied at the New England Conservatory and Juilliard School.[56]

The expanded band's first appearance was on August 23, 1980, at the Heatwave festival in Canada in front of 70,000 people; Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times called the band's new music a "rock-funk sound with dramatic, near show-stopping force".[57] On August 27, the expanded Talking Heads performed a showcase of tracks to an 8,000-person full house audience at the Wollman Rink as well as approximately another 10,000 seated on the grass outside the walls in New York City's Central Park.[58] The Canada and New York gigs were the only ones initially planned, but Sire Records decided to support the nine-member band on an extended tour.[4] After the promotional tour, the band went on hiatus for several years, leaving the individual members to pursue a variety of side projects.[45]

Remain in Light was released worldwide on October 8, 1980, and received its world premiere, airing in its entirety, on October 10 on WDFM.[59] According to writer David Sheppard, "it was received as a great cultural event as much as a vivid art-pop record."[39] Unusually, the album's press release included a bibliography submitted by Byrne and Eno citing books by Chernoff and others to provide context for how the songs were conceived. While the publicity shaped the album's critical reputation, not everybody was on board. “I didn't read those books,” said an incensed Weymouth.[60]

Remain in Light was certified Gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association in February 1981 after shipping 50,000 copies,[61] and by Recording Industry Association of America in September 1985 after shipping 500,000.[62] Over one million copies have been sold worldwide.[63]

Critical reception

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[65]
Christgau's Record GuideA[66]
The Irish Times[67]
Rolling Stone[69]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[70]
Spin Alternative Record Guide10/10[71]

The album attained widespread acclaim from media outlets. Ken Tucker of Rolling Stone felt it was a brave and absorbing attempt to locate a common ground in the early 1980s' divergent and often hostile musical genres; he concluded, "Remain in Light yields scary, funny music to which you can dance and think, think and dance, dance and think, ad infinitum."[73] Robert Christgau, in The Village Voice, called the record one "in which David Byrne conquers his fear of music in a visionary Afrofunk synthesis—clear-eyed, detached, almost mystically optimistic".[74] Michael Kulp of the Daily Collegian wrote that the album deserved the tag "classic" like each of the band's three previous full-length releases,[75] while John Rockwell, writing in The New York Times, suggested that it confirmed Talking Heads' position as "America's most venturesome rock band".[76] Sandy Robertson of Sounds praised the record's innovation,[77] while Billboard wrote, "Just about every LP Talking Heads has released in the last four years has wound up on virtually every critics' best of list. Remain in Light should be no exception."[78]

AllMusic's William Ruhlmann wrote that Talking Heads' musical transition, first witnessed in Fear of Music, came to full fruition in Remain in Light: "Talking Heads were connecting with an audience ready to follow their musical evolution, and the album was so inventive and influential."[64] In the 1995 Spin Alternative Record Guide, Jeff Salamon praised Eno for reining in any excessive appropriations of African music.[71] In 2004, Slant Magazine's Barry Walsh labeled its results "simply magical" after the band turned rock music into a more global entity in terms of its musical and lyrical scope.[79] In a 2008 review, Sean Fennessey of Vibe concluded, "Talking Heads took African polyrhythms to NYC and made a return trip with elegant, alien post-punk in tow."[32]

Accolades and legacy

Remain in Light was named the best album of 1980 by Sounds, ahead of the Skids' The Absolute Game, and by Melody Maker,[80][81] while The New York Times included it in its unnumbered shortlist of the 10 best records issued that year.[82] It figured highly in other end-of-year best album lists, notably at number two, behind The Clash's London Calling, by Christgau,[83] and at number six by NME.[84] It featured at number three—behind London Calling and Bruce Springsteen's The River—in The Village Voice's 1980 Pazz & Jop critics' poll, which aggregates the votes of hundreds of prominent reviewers.[85]

"So they congregated in a Nassau studio with Brian Eno and created a record without precedent ... Both daringly experimental and pop-accessible, Remain in Light may be the Talking Heads' defining moment."[86]

Pitchfork's Ryan Schreiber in 2002

In 1989, Rolling Stone named Remain in Light the fourth-best album of the 1980s.[87] In 1993, it was included at number 11 in NME's list of The 50 Greatest Albums Of The '80s,[88] and at number 68 in the publication's Greatest Albums Of All Time list.[89] In 1997, The Guardian collated worldwide data from renowned critics, artists, and radio DJs, which placed the record at number 43 in the list of the 100 Best Albums Ever.[90] In 1999, it was included by Vibe as one of its 100 Essential Albums Of The 20th Century.[91] In 2000 it was voted number 227 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[92] In 2002, Pitchfork featured Remain in Light at number two behind Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation in its Top 100 Albums Of The 1980s list.[86] In 2003, VH1 named the record at number 88 during its 100 Greatest Albums countdown,[93] while Slant Magazine included it in its unnumbered shortlist of 50 Essential Pop Albums.[94] Rolling Stone placed it at number 129 in its December 2015 issue of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time", higher than three other Talking Heads releases.[16] In 2006, Q ranked Remain in Light at number 27 in its list of the 40 Best Albums of the 80s.[95] In 2012, Slant listed the album sixth on its list of the "Best Albums of the 1980s".[96] In 2020, Rolling Stone included Remain in Light in its "80 Greatest albums of 1980" list, praising the band for fusing "new Wave, world beat, funk, and more, which resulted in the most danceable record of their career."[97] The same year, Rolling Stone ranked it number 39 on its updated list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[98]

The English band Radiohead credited Remain in Light as a major influence on their 2000 album Kid A.[99] The guitarist Jonny Greenwood had assumed Remain in Light was composed of loops, but later learnt from Harrison that Talking Heads had played the parts repetitively. Greenwood said: "It's played the same exact thing for five minutes, which is really interesting. And that's why it's not exhausting to listen to because you're not hearing the same piece of music over and over again. You're hearing it slightly different every time. There's a lesson there."[100]

In 2018, the Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo released a song-for-song cover of Remain in Light (produced by Jeff Bhasker and released on his Kravenworks label). She described herself as a longtime fan of the song "Once in a Lifetime" and wanting to pay tribute to the album by emphasizing its inspiration from African music.[101][102]

In 2022, Harrison and Belew united for three concert dates in honor of the album's 40th anniversary, where they played all of Remain in Light plus several more Talking Heads songs. In 2023 they expanded the project to a full North American tour.[103][104]

Track listing

All lyrics are written by David Byrne, except "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)" and "Crosseyed and Painless", written by David Byrne and Brian Eno; all music is composed by Byrne, Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison and Tina Weymouth

Side one
1."Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)"5:49
2."Crosseyed and Painless"4:48
3."The Great Curve"6:28
Side two
1."Once in a Lifetime"4:19
2."Houses in Motion"4:33
3."Seen and Not Seen"3:25
4."Listening Wind"4:43
5."The Overload"6:25


Those involved in the making of Remain in Light were:[50][51][55]

Talking Heads

  • David Byrne – lead vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass, percussion, vocal arrangements
  • Jerry Harrison – keyboards, guitars, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tina Weymouth – keyboards, bass, percussion, backing vocals
  • Chris Frantz – keyboards, drums, percussion, backing vocals

Additional musicians



Weekly sales chart performance of Remain in Light
Chart (1980/81)Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[105]25
Canadian Albums Chart[106]6
New Zealand Albums Chart[107][dead link]8
Norwegian Albums Chart[107][dead link]28
Swedish Albums Chart[107][dead link]26
UK Albums Chart[108]21
US Billboard 200[4]19
Weekly chart performance for Remain in Light
Chart (2023)Peak
Croatian International Albums (HDU)[109]10
Hungarian Physical Albums (MAHASZ)[110]23
Year-end chart performance for Remain in Light
Chart (1981)Position
US Billboard 200[111]87

Certifications and sales

Sales certifications for Remain in Light
RegionCertificationCertified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[112]Gold50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[113]Gold100,000
United States (RIAA)[114]Gold500,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also


  1. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (1995). The Great Rock Discography. p. 809. ISBN 9780862415419.
  2. ^ Cataldo, Jennie (November 8, 2018). "Talking Heads' 'Remain in Light'". The World. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  3. ^ "National Recording Registry Picks Are "Over the Rainbow"". Library of Congress. March 29, 2017. Retrieved March 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Rees, Dafydd; Crampton, Luke (1991). Rock Movers & Shakers. Billboard Books. p. 519. ISBN 0-8230-7609-1.
  5. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 165.
  6. ^ Bowman 2001, p. 164.
  7. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 167.
  8. ^ a b Pareles 1982, p. 38.
  9. ^ a b c d Helmore, Edward (March 27, 2009). "The business is an exciting mess". The Guardian. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  10. ^ a b c d e Karr, Rick (March 27, 2000). "Once In A Lifetime". National Public Radio. Retrieved August 25, 2009.
  11. ^ a b Brog, p. 167
  12. ^ a b Talking Heads (1980). Remain in Light (LP sleeve). London: Sire Records.
  13. ^ a b c d e Bowman 2001, p. 169.
  14. ^ a b Pareles 1982, p. 39.
  15. ^ a b Brog, p. 166
  16. ^ a b Rolling Stone staff (November 12, 2003). "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. p. 126.
  17. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 168.
  18. ^ Lewis, John (November 2007). "The Making Of ... Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads". Uncut.
  19. ^ a b c Marszalek, Julian (June 3, 2009). "Tom Tom Club's Chris Frantz On David Byrne, Brian Eno And Lee 'Scratch' Perry". The Quietus. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  20. ^ Droney, Maureen (2003). Mix Masters Platinum: Engineers Reveal Their Secrets to Success. Berklee Press. p. 51. ISBN 0-87639-019-X.
  21. ^ "1978 Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb". Mix. September 2006. Retrieved April 30, 2015.
  22. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 374.
  23. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 170.
  24. ^ a b c d e Bosso, Joe (October 25, 2022). ""It's Still a Record That Stands up Today, Very, Very Well:" Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison Talk 'Remain in Light'". GuitarPlayer. Retrieved October 26, 2022.
  25. ^ a b c Bowman 2001, p. 171.
  26. ^ Bowman 2001, p. 175.
  27. ^ a b c d Bowman 2001, p. 176.
  28. ^ a b Bowman 2001, p. 179.
  29. ^ Jackson, Josh (September 8, 2016). "The 50 Best New Wave Albums". Paste. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  30. ^ Kaufman, Gil (November 1, 1996). "Phish Take on Remain in Light for Halloween". MTV News. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  31. ^ Cateforis, Theo (2011). Are We Not New Wave?: Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s. University of Michigan Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-472-03470-3.
  32. ^ a b Fennessey, Sean (September 2008). "Talking Heads: Remain In Light". Vibe. p. 104.
  33. ^ Reynolds, Simon (2013). Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture. Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-136-78317-3.
  34. ^ "The Top 100 Post-Punk Albums". Treble. October 22, 2018. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
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Further reading

External links


Veröffentlichungen von Talking Heads die im OTRS erhältlich sind/waren:

The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads ¦ More Songs About Buildings And Food ¦ Speaking In Tongues ¦ Once In A Lifetime: The Best Of Talking Heads ¦ Remain In Light ¦ The Best Of Talking Heads ¦ Little Creatures ¦ Stop Making Sense ¦ Talking Heads: 77 ¦ Fear Of Music

Talking Heads auf Wikipedia (oder andere Quellen):

Talking Heads war eine US-amerikanische Rockband, die 1975 in New York City gegründet wurde und bis 1991 bestand. Die Band wird zu den bekanntesten und erfolgreichsten Vertretern der US-amerikanischen Post-Punk- und New-Wave-Szene der 1980er Jahre gezählt, ihr Stil war auch von Pop, Funk und Weltmusik geprägt.


Anfänge 1975–1977

Talking Heads in Toronto (1978)

Die Kunststudenten David Byrne, Tina Weymouth und Chris Frantz lernten sich Mitte der 1970er Jahre auf der Rhode Island School of Design kennen. Byrne und Frantz entdeckten ein gemeinsames Interesse an Musik und gründeten die wenig erfolgreiche Band The Artistics. Byrne brach jedoch 1974 sein Studium ab und zog nach New York. Frantz und Weymouth folgten ihm wenig später.

Inspiriert von der Musikszene im Umfeld des Musik-Clubs CBGB in der Lower East Side Manhattans gründeten sie die Talking Heads. Der Name der Band entspringt dem TV-Politformat Talking Heads, das Fernsehbilder von Journalisten zeigt, deren Unterkörper nicht zu erkennen sind: man sieht nur sprechende Köpfe. Ihren ersten Auftritt hatten sie im Vorprogramm der Ramones. Die drei traten mit anderen Bands der Punk- und New-Wave-Bewegung wie Blondie auf.

Schon während dieser Zeit unterschieden sie sich auffallend vom Erscheinungsbild anderer Punk- und New-Wave-Bands. So verzichteten sie zunächst aufs Styling und kleideten sich unprätentiös im Stile durchschnittlicher College-Studenten. Ebenso wenig trugen sie die Attitüde der aggressiven, jugendlichen Rebellen zur Schau. In der Besetzung als Trio nahmen sie 1975 einige Demoaufnahmen in den CBS-Studios auf, darunter schon viele Stücke, die später auf ihrem Debütalbum erscheinen sollten. Im Jahr 1977 schließlich erweiterten sie ihre Besetzung um den damaligen Architekturstudenten Jerry Harrison, der bereits bei Jonathan Richmans Band The Modern Lovers gespielt hatte.

Die frühe Musik der Talking Heads ist geprägt von einfachen Figuren und Rhythmen, die jedoch oft gebrochen werden und so oft sehr unruhig wirken. Ihre Musik ist auf ein einfaches Gerüst reduziert und sparsam mit Gitarre, E-Bass, Schlagzeug und gelegentlichen Keyboard-Einwürfen instrumentiert. Die jeweiligen Songs werden zwar raffiniert, aber schnörkellos und einprägsam auf den Punkt gebracht. Zusammen mit dem nervös, hektisch und überspannt wirkenden Gesang David Byrnes ergibt sich eine lebhafte, aber auch irritierende Musik. Direkte musikalische Vorbilder sind nur schwer zu benennen. Mit ihrer Vorliebe, in scheinbar naiver Weise Songs über vermeintlich banale Themen zu schreiben, lässt sich ein Einfluss von Jonathan Richman erkennen. Bereits in frühen Aufnahmen der Talking Heads ist der Einfluss traditioneller Musikstile wie etwa Rhythm and Blues und Country-Musik zu hören, wenngleich diese oft in ironisch gebrochener Form auftreten.

Im Jahr 1977 veröffentlichten die Talking Heads ihr schlicht 77 betiteltes Debütalbum. Bemerkenswert sind bereits hier die Themen der meist von Byrne geschriebenen Songs: Oft singt er von scheinbar banalen Allerweltsthemen wie Gebäuden, Erziehung oder Essen. Dies geschieht aber immer auf eine distanzierte Art, bei der meist nicht zu erkennen ist, ob die Person David Byrne mit dem Ich-Erzähler der Songs identisch ist oder ob er lediglich in eine Rolle schlüpft. Die Bedeutung der Songs bleibt daher oft unscharf oder ergibt sich erst aus dem Blickwinkel des jeweiligen Hörers. Im Song Don’t Worry About The Government zeichnet Byrne das Bild eines sorgenfreien, idyllischen Lebens, wie es scheinbar der Lebenswirklichkeit des Sängers entspricht. Die Melodie des Liedes erinnert an ein Kinderlied. Im Stück Psycho Killer schlüpft Byrne jedoch in die Rolle eines offensichtlich geistig verwirrten, möglicherweise schizophrenen Mannes, der mitten im Song unvermittelt vom Englischen ins Französische fällt. Diese doppelbödige Haltung sollte über Jahre für viele Songs der Talking Heads prägend bleiben. Sie gewinnen dadurch einen ausgesprochen vielschichtigen Charakter. Auch in späteren Songs ist die Grundstimmung einer gewissen Entfremdung von der Welt und sich selbst und der Frage nach der eigenen Identität ein immer wiederkehrendes Thema.

Die erste LP der Talking Heads wurde zwar von der Kritik gelobt, war aber nur ein bescheidener Publikumserfolg. Die Band blieb vorerst ein Insider-Tipp.

Mit Brian Eno 1978–1980

Live in Toronto (1978)
Tina Weymouth (1978)

Den Themen ihrer Songs entsprechend betitelten die Talking Heads ihr 1978 erschienenes zweites Album konsequenterweise More Songs About Buildings and Food. Mit diesem Album begann auch eine Zusammenarbeit mit dem britischen Produzenten Brian Eno. Die Platte knüpft sowohl musikalisch als auch textlich an 77 an. Sie ist aber deutlich aufwendiger instrumentiert und produziert. Auch deutet sich hier bereits ein Interesse der Talking Heads an afroamerikanischer Musik, vor allem Funk, an. Die auf dem Album enthaltene Cover-Version des Al-Green-Stücks Take Me to the River wurde ein kleiner Hit. In dem im Country-Stil gehaltenen Stück The Big Country nimmt David Byrne die Rolle eines Beobachters ein, der die „heile Welt“ der „einfachen Leute“ Amerikas beschreibt, jedoch – ohne dies in irgendeiner Weise zu begründen – für sich selbst das Fazit zieht: „Ich würde dort nicht leben wollen, selbst wenn man mich dafür bezahlte!“ („I wouldn’t live there if they paid me!“)

Auf dem nachfolgenden Album Fear of Music aus dem Jahr 1979 treten die Einflüsse der Black Music offen zutage. Die Musik wird fast durchgehend von einem dominierenden Funkrhythmus getragen, die Intensität deutlich gesteigert. Insgesamt wird das musikalische Spektrum erweitert und reicht von den fast afrikanisch anmutenden Rhythmen des Stückes I Zimbra – der Vertonung des Lautgedichtes Gadji beri bimba des Dadaisten Hugo Ball – über hektische Funkstücke (Memories Can’t Wait) bis zu – vordergründig betrachtet – verträumten Balladen (Heaven). Die Stücke tragen meist lakonische Titel wie Mind, Cities, Paper oder Air. Besonders deutlich wird Enos Einfluss auf Drugs.

Die Themen Entfremdung und Orientierungslosigkeit werden auch auf Fear of Music präsentiert. Allerdings werden sie nicht in Form einer schwülstigen „Weltschmerzlyrik“ verarbeitet, sondern aus einem distanziert ironischen Blickwinkel dargestellt, etwa mit Zeilen wie „I changed my hairstyle so many times now / I don’t know what I look like“ („Ich habe meine Frisur jetzt so oft verändert / ich weiß nicht wie ich aussehe“) aus dem Stück Life During Wartime.

Mit dem 1980 veröffentlichten Album Remain in Light verdichteten die Talking Heads ihre Musik noch weiter. Die Besetzung wurde um zahlreiche Musiker und mehrere Background-Sängerinnen erweitert. Einflüsse afrikanischer Musik, vor allem des Afrobeat von Fela Kuti, treten offen in Erscheinung. Die Musik wird mit einem Teppich von Perkussion unterlegt, über dem sich ein hochkomplexes Gewebe aus verschiedenen Instrumentalstimmen entfaltet. Das Ergebnis ist ein dichter und vibrierender Wall of Sound, in dem die eigentliche Struktur der Songs zugunsten eines intensiven Gesamtklanges in den Hintergrund rückt. Auch der Gitarrensound von Gastgitarrist Adrian Belew (einem späteren Bandmitglied der Gruppe King Crimson) verleiht dem Talking-Heads-Sound neue, psychedelische Nuancen. Die Texte David Byrnes sind auf dieser Platte eher kryptisch und entziehen sich noch mehr als zuvor einer eindeutigen Interpretation. Aber auch hier erzeugt Byrne durch teilweise paradoxe Texte die Stimmung der Orientierungslosigkeit. Exemplarisch hierfür ist das Stück Once in a Lifetime mit Zeilen wie „You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack / And you may find yourself in another part of the world / (…) / And you may ask yourself – Well … how did I get here?“

Remain in Light gilt heute vielen als ein musikalischer Meilenstein der 1980er Jahre, der viele Nachahmer gefunden hat. Zunehmend kam es jedoch zu Spannungen innerhalb der Band: Der Einfluss Brian Enos, der auf Remain in Light als Co-Autor einiger Songs aufgeführt wird, und dessen enges Verhältnis zu David Byrne wurde von den anderen Bandmitgliedern zunehmend mit Argwohn betrachtet.

Nach Remain in Light veröffentlichten die Talking Heads eine Doppel-LP mit Liveaufnahmen aus den Jahren 1977 bis 1980, die einen lebhaften Abriss der Bandgeschichte bis zu diesem Zeitpunkt bietet. Danach legte die Band eine Pause ein, während der die einzelnen Mitglieder sich eigenen Projekten außerhalb der Band widmeten. David Byrne nahm unter anderem mit Brian Eno das Album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts auf, Jerry Harrison veröffentlichte eine Solo-LP, und Tina Weymouth und Chris Frantz gründeten die Band Tom Tom Club und hatten einige kleinere Hits.

Kommerzieller Durchbruch 1983 und 1984

Erst 1983 erschien mit Speaking in Tongues das nächste Studioalbum, das nicht mehr von Brian Eno produziert wurde. Es ist anders als sein Vorgänger transparenter und klarer produziert. Die Wall of Sound ist klar erkennbaren Strukturen gewichen. Die Musik wird von harten, tanzbaren Funkrhythmen dominiert. Der Titel der Platte bezieht sich auf die von David Byrne verfassten Texte der Songs. Er kombinierte hierbei collagenartig Worte oder Phrasen, die oft in keinerlei Sinnzusammenhang stehen. So ergibt sich der Eindruck, dass der Sänger „in Zungen“ spricht. Der Sinn vieler Songs bleibt dadurch unbestimmt und ist damit der Interpretation des Hörers überlassen. Die fast schon programmatisch zu nennende Zeile „Stop Making Sense“ aus dem Song Girlfriend Is Better sollte später sogar als Titel eines Konzertfilmes und einer Live-LP der Talking Heads dienen. Das Stück Burning Down the House von Speaking in Tongues war in Szene-Diskotheken ein Hit. Das Album ist neben seiner musikalischen Qualität auch aufgrund seines künstlerischen Covers bedeutend. Robert Rauschenberg setzte sich intensiv mit dem Konzept der Gestaltung auseinander und entwarf nicht einfach eine Plattenhülle für die Band, sondern gestaltete ein Druckkunstwerk, das direkt auf eine durchsichtige Vinylscheibe aufgebracht wurde und seine volle Wirkung erst bei Drehung der Scheibe entfaltete. Man nimmt an, dass die Schwierigkeiten bei der Produktion dieses Kunstwerks mit zu der langen Produktionszeit des Albums beitrugen. 50.000 Scheiben wurden mit diesem Originalkunstwerk bedruckt, alle weiteren Platten wurden mit einer von David Byrne angepassten, vereinfachten Version hergestellt.[1]

Die Talking Heads waren bis dahin eine Band, die zwar von Kritikern hoch gelobt, aber von einem nur verhältnismäßig kleinen Teil des Publikums geschätzt wurde. Größere Hits und Verkaufszahlen hatte die Band bis 1984 jedoch nicht zu verbuchen. Erst der 1984 erschienene Konzertfilm Stop Making Sense unter der Regie von Jonathan Demme und der gleichnamige Soundtrack machten die Talking Heads schlagartig populär. Der Film ist eine lebhafte und mitreißende Dokumentation einer Reihe von Auftritten der Band. Es wird auf Backstage-Szenen, begleitende Interviews und sonstiges Beiwerk vollständig verzichtet, so dass der Zuschauer das Gefühl bekommt, eine sorgfältig choreografierte Performance unmittelbar mitzuerleben.

Großen Anteil daran hat nicht zuletzt David Byrnes ebenso charismatische wie irritierende Bühnenpräsenz. Auch die parallel erschienene Platte wurde ein kommerzieller Erfolg. Einige der darauf enthaltenen Aufnahmen, wie das von David Byrne solo, nur von einer akustischen Gitarre und einer billigen Rhythmusbox begleitete Psycho Killer, Once in a Lifetime und Life During Wartime wurden auf den Tanzflächen und auf Studentenpartys zu beliebten Hits – ein für Liveaufnahmen eher ungewöhnliches Phänomen —, denn diese „Balladen der Talking Heads geben uns wieder, was die Ballade ihrem ursprünglichen Sinne nach immer war: Ball, Tanz, Fest“.[2] Bezeichnend für diese späte Anerkennung beim breiten Publikum ist, dass die Original-Studioaufnahmen dieser Songs zu diesem Zeitpunkt bereits mehrere Jahre alt waren – ohne dass sie damals Beachtung gefunden hätten. Das Stück Slippery People wurde für die berühmte Gospelgruppe The Staple Singers noch im gleichen Jahr ein Hit.

Die filmische Dokumentation ihrer Liveauftritte stellte gleichzeitig aber auch deren Ende dar: David Byrne verlor das Interesse an Konzerten, so dass es zu keinen weiteren öffentlichen Auftritten der Band mehr gekommen ist.

Spätwerk 1985–1991

In den Augen vieler Fans und Kritiker hatten die Talking Heads hiermit ihren künstlerischen Zenit erreicht. Das folgende Album Little Creatures ist musikalisch deutlich näher am Pop-Mainstream der damaligen Zeit orientiert als frühere Alben der Band. Es fand beim breiten Publikum entsprechend größeren Zuspruch. Mit der Single Road to Nowhere verzeichneten die Talking Heads sogar ihren größten Chart-Erfolg.

Die Talking Heads veröffentlichten danach noch zwei weitere Studioalben, mit schwindendem Erfolg. True Stories (1986) enthält Songs des Soundtracks des gleichnamigen Filmes von David Byrne, jedoch – anders als im Film – von den Talking Heads eingespielt und gesungen. Stilistisch orientierte sich die LP an verschiedenen Formen von Americana, vor allem Country-Musik. Naked (1988) wurde in Frankreich mit Hilfe einer Reihe von Gastmusikern aufgenommen und zeigt lateinamerikanische und afrikanische Einflüsse. Kommerziell waren beide Alben erfolgreich.

Im Dezember 1991 erklärte David Byrne die Talking Heads ohne Rücksprache mit den übrigen Bandmitgliedern für aufgelöst. Dieser Umstand führte dazu, dass das Verhältnis von Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison und Tina Weymouth einerseits und David Byrne andererseits empfindlich gestört wurde und sich die ehemaligen Bandmitglieder noch Jahre später mit gegenseitigen Vorwürfen überzogen. Frantz, Harrison und Weymouth, die fortan in der Band The Heads (eine Anspielung auf den Namen ihrer alten Gruppe) spielten und 1996 das – sowohl künstlerisch als auch kommerziell enttäuschende – Album No Talking Just Head veröffentlichten, hatten einen Rechtsstreit mit Byrne auszutragen, da dieser den Gebrauch des neuen Bandnamens untersagen lassen wollte. Darüber hinaus gab es auch Streitfälle über Tantiemenrechte. Byrne veröffentlicht seither Soloalben, Jerry Harrison arbeitet inzwischen als Produzent, das Ehepaar Frantz und Weymouth musiziert als Tom Tom Club. Anfang 2002 kam es noch einmal zu einer einmaligen Reunion der vier Musiker, als sie aus Anlass ihrer Aufnahme in die Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gemeinsam einige Songs spielten.

Anlässlich der Wiederaufführung des restaurierten Konzertfilms Stop Making Sense im Jahr 2023 fanden die vier früheren Bandmitglieder für Interviews wieder zusammen, schlossen eine Reunion jedoch aus.


Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison (2010)



JahrTitelHöchstplatzierung, Gesamtwochen, AuszeichnungChartplatzierungenChartplatzierungen[11]
(Jahr, Titel, Plat­zie­rungen, Wo­chen, Aus­zeich­nungen, Anmer­kungen)
1977Talking Heads: 77UK60
(1 Wo.)UK
(29 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 16. September 1977
Produzenten: Lance Quinn, Talking Heads, Tony Bongiovi
1978More Songs About Buildings and FoodUK21

(3 Wo.)UK

(42 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 7. Juli 1978
Produzenten: Brian Eno, Talking Heads
1979Fear of MusicUK33

(5 Wo.)UK

(30 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 3. August 1979
Produzenten: Brian Eno, Talking Heads
1980Remain in LightUK21

(17 Wo.)UK

(27 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 8. Oktober 1980
Produzent: Brian Eno
1983Speaking in TonguesDE10
(14 Wo.)DE
(2 Wo.)AT

(12 Wo.)UK

(51 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 1. Juni 1983
Produzenten: Talking Heads
1985Little CreaturesDE9

(38 Wo.)DE
(24 Wo.)AT
(18 Wo.)CH

(65 Wo.)UK

(77 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 10. Juni 1985
Produzenten: Talking Heads
1986True StoriesDE13
(10 Wo.)DE
(8 Wo.)AT
(7 Wo.)CH

(9 Wo.)UK

(29 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 15. September 1986
Produzenten: Talking Heads
(15 Wo.)DE
(8 Wo.)AT
(11 Wo.)CH

(15 Wo.)UK

(21 Wo.)US
Erstveröffentlichung: 15. März 1988
Produzenten: Steve Lillywhite, Talking Heads

grau schraffiert: keine Chartdaten aus diesem Jahr verfügbar


  • David Bowman: fa fa fa fa fa fa The Adventures of Talking Heads in the 20th Century. Bloomsbury, London 2001, ISBN 0-7475-5836-1.


Commons: Talking Heads – Sammlung von Bildern, Videos und Audiodateien


  1. Abigail Cain: The Story behind Robert Rauschenberg’s Iconic Talking Heads Album Cover., 18. August 2016, abgerufen am 25. März 2017 (englisch).
  2. Natias Neutert: Talking Heads. In: Konkret 1985, S. 62.
  3. Christian Gerhardts, Martin Klinkhardt, Steffen Gerlach: Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back., 2010, abgerufen am 17. Mai 2023.
  4. Peter Gabriel Ltd.: Scratch My Back 5 years on., 15. Februar 2015, abgerufen am 1. Mai 2023 (britisches Englisch).
  5. Thomas Schrage: Peter Gabriel - And I'll Scratch Yours - Zweiter Teil; Verspätung: drei Jahre., 2013, abgerufen am 17. Mai 2023.
  6. Peter Gabriel Ltd.: And I’ll Scratch Yours - Released 23rd September, 2013., 23. September 2013, abgerufen am 17. Mai 2023 (britisches Englisch).
  7. IMDB: Talking Heads auf
  8. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Talking Heads in der Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  9. 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone, 2. Dezember 2010, abgerufen am 8. August 2017 (englisch).
  10. Hanns-Georg Rodek: „Hologramm für den König“: Tom Hanks’ beste Rolle bisher – Trailer und Kritik zum Filmstart. In: 25. April 2016, abgerufen am 7. Oktober 2018.
  11. Chartquellen: DE AT CH UK US