Who Is It? The Best of Talking Heads 1977-1988

Jonathan Demme’s recording of Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense was most likely my first encounter with the music of the group. I’m sure it was played on BBC2 late one night at the end of the 1980s and I can distinctly remember being captivated by the way that the concert started with a single performer playing a guitar and beatbox and built up to a super-sized group dancing around the stage. It was weird and the performers looked like they were having the time of their lives. I watched the documentary again a few weeks ago and it is still a delight.

Most of my interest in Talking Heads is their earlier music of the later 1970s and very early 1980s. Like most other groups the more popular they became the less interesting I find their music. I also feel that their last couple of albums suffered from that 1980s curse, over-production.

I like the simplicity and oddness of their early songs. Its the lyricism of conventional life and the instance of not writing love songs that I find so engaging. Once again, the influence of Brian Eno is clear. Then their  discovery of Fela Kuti’s guitar rhythms and funky electronica around 1980 is incredibly compelling. 1983’s Speaking in Tongues also has some tremendous songs but I have little interest in Little Creatures (1985) and their subsequent two albums.

Here’s my (imaginary) best of track listing which I’ve put on iTunes here: Who Is It? The Best of Talking Heads 1977-1988.

No Compassion –  Talking Heads 77  – 4:49
Who Is It? – Talking Heads 77  – 1:44
First Week / Last Week…. Carefree – Talking Heads 77  – 3:21
Love – Building On Fire – Talking Heads 77 – 2:57
Warning Sign – More Songs About Buildings and Food – 3:54
I’m Not In Love – More Songs About Buildings and Food – 4:34
Stay Hungry – More Songs About Buildings and Food – 2:39
I Zimbra – Fear of Music – 3:08
Paper – Fear of Music – 2:38
Life During Wartime – Fear of Music – 3:41
Mind – Fear of Music  – 4:12
Memories Can’t Wait – Fear of Music  – 3:30
Air – Fear of Music – 3:34
Heaven – Fear of Music – 4:01
Animals – Fear of Music – 3:30
Drugs – Fear of Music – 5:14
Air – Fear of Music – 3:34
Once In a Lifetime – Remain In Light – 4:19
Crosseyed and Painless – Remain In Light – 4:45
Once In a Lifetime – Remain In Light – 4:19
Houses In Motion – Remain In Light – 4:33
Burning Down the House – Speaking In Tongues – 4:01
Girlfriend Is Better – Speaking In Tongues – 5:43
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) – Speaking In Tongues – 4:56
(Nothing But) Flowers – Naked – 5:35

Who Is It? The Best of Talking Heads 1977-1988.

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