Talking Heads – Talking Heads:77 (1977): Review

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Produced by Tony Bongiovi
Label – Sire

The New York CBGB’s scene of the mid 1970s introduced vital acts that would influence punk, pop and new wave for the remainder of the decade and beyond. Patti Smith, Television, The Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads all benefitted from residencies at the Manhattan club. Initially formed as The Artistics by Rhode Island art school students David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz, their mission to introduce the world to spiky art pop began with exhaustive preparation in front of a gradually increasing live following. Having honed their individual skills they signed to Sire records in 1977 as the renamed Talking Heads. The introduction of Modern Lover Jerry Harrison would complete the quartet and “Talking Heads:77” would be their eponymous debut collection. Produced by Tony Bongiovi the record remains an integral foundation for the new wave and everything that followed it. The sounds are upbeat, deliberately jerky with underlying emphasis on Frantz’s clever mix of simple rhythms mixed with dance and a hint at world rhythm exploration allied with Byrne’s choppy guitar and a vocal that’s narrative bordering on maniacal as he forces the falsetto. For all the angular lines and compulsive beats at the heart of the collection is Byrne’s pop savvy and a nod to the affection for sixties chart music. It’s fun, tight, and often barbed with a sense of sarcasm that would become a hallmark for the band’s future recordings.

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“Talking Heads:77” is best remembered for the edgy classic “Psycho Killer”, a song that Byrne feared may turn the band into a novelty act. It’s impact coincided with the serial killer, Son Of Sam (David Berkowitz) rampaging through the New York streets during the summer from 1976 through to his arrest in the summer of 1977. Byrne’s lyrics would often flow directly from his disconnected persona, and Weymouth would comment that his single minded outlook was narrowed by his drive for progress. He certainly held no prisoners and showed little empathy on the excellent “No Compassion” (“Go talk to your analyst, isn’t that what he’s paid for?”). Other notable songs are the frivolous, bouncy opener “Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town”, “New Feeling” and the tongue in cheek bow to authority on “Don’t Worry About The Government”.

Few albums will ever sound so radical without deserting the mainstream. “Talking Heads:77” is stuffed full of fun, interest and intelligence, and although not the definitive oeuvre, it’s still a darn fine first installment.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town (8)
2 – New Feeling (8)
3 – Tentative Decisions (8)
4 – Happy Day (8)
5 – Who Is It? (7)
6 – No Compassion (8)
7 – The Book I Read (8)
8 – Don’t Worry About The Government (7)
9 – First Week/Last Week…Carefree (8)
10 – Psycho Killer (9)
11 – Pulled up (9)

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5 responses to “Talking Heads – Talking Heads:77 (1977): Review

  1. JP – I probably need to seek it out then

    Geoff – I get that. His voice is a problem with some listeners for sure (my wife for example), but I think it befits the music and is relatively in tune.

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