Uncut MARCH 2024 - by Sam Richards


When Talking Heads reunited briefly last September, it both reaffirmed their unparalleled status as art-rock pioneers and drew a line under their complicated history. As the band prepare to reissue their influential run of albums, David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz - accompanied by a handful of collaborators, contemporaries and admirers - talk us through thirty of their greatest songs, charting an innovative musical journey from the twitchy minimalism of their early recordings to the expansive, pan-global alchemy of their imperial phase. "We weren't going to adopt the traditional rock'n'roll stances," Byrne tells Sam Richards. "So we thought, in our own modest way, we'll do something that speaks to us..."

On September 11 last year, at the Toronto International Film Festival, all four members of Talking Heads were photographed together for the first time in more than twenty years. It was only for a Q&A session, but this seemingly routine get-together was greeted with widespread jubilation because it seemed to iron out a nagging wrinkle in the fabric of the music universe. Namely, how could a band who brought the world so much joy hold so much animosity towards each other?

"Which is why us getting together around Stop Making Sense was so great for our fans," says Chris Frantz. "Because they can say, 'At least these people are willing to be in the same room again.'" "They didn't realise that we didn't hate each other," adds Tina Weymouth. "We just were annoyed!"

If any project was going to bring Talking Heads back together, albeit only for a press tour, it was Stop Making Sense. The 4K restoration of Jonathan Demme's legendary 1984 concert film of the expanded band in full flow allowed us to fall in love with Talking Heads all over again. Cinemas were full of people dancing in the aisles. "It wasn't Talking Heads fans my age, although some of those probably went too, but it was a lot of much younger people who had heard about this," marvels David Byrne. "Sometimes they'd come up to me on the street and say, 'I saw the film, and we were all dancing.' That's really nice."

Talking Heads are one of those rare bands who are constantly accruing new followers, more than three decades after their dissolution. They've never not been popular, never not been cool, never dropped off the critical radar. Jerry Harrison credits this in part to the way the band were able to evolve from album to album, avoiding becoming stuck in one sound or era, while always remaining true to themselves: "Our creed, you might say, was relentless exploration."

"The band went through all these different phases," continues Byrne. "There was a part where it was very yelpy and angst-ridden - not quite punky, but in that world. A lot of yelping more than singing! And then it transitioned into this amazing interracial funk outfit. There might be people who like one and don't like the other. But they're really different, it's kind of like a completely different band. Maybe the very fact that we managed to evolve and change is part of what people like."

Crucially, there were rules in place from the very beginning which meant that, when the band did regenerate, they never lost sight of their artistic goals. "We weren't going to adopt the traditional rock'n'roll stances," says Byrne. "We wanted our lyrics to reflect who we were and the world that we were dealing with. There was a sense that a lot of what we saw on the pop charts didn't relate to us, it just seemed to be some big fantasy world of rock stardom and excess. So we thought, in our own modest way, 'We'll do something that speaks to us, and maybe some of our peers.'"

Talking Heads are about to return to those yelpy, angst-ridden beginnings by assembling an expanded edition of their 1977 debut - the first in a planned reissue/remaster series of all their eight studio albums. Harrison is currently going through some early live tapes to see what might be worth including. "We were recorded for Italian TV at CBGB, there was something for a radio station up in Boston. And probably the search will come up with more."

The band have also struck a deal with Columbia University for them to host the Talking Heads archive. "Now we have to find it!" laughs Weymouth. "It's not as complete as it ought to be. But it should be helpful to people trying to piece the puzzle together." Adds Byrne: "The idea is that once they get everything digitised, all the ephemera, and also all the rehearsal tapes and outtakes, they make it all publicly available. I thought to myself, 'What would I have liked when I was trying to figure out how to navigate this whole thing [of being a recording artist]?' That could have been really handy to me. Now it's possible."

Underlining the band's appeal to successive generations, A24 - the film company behind Stop Making Sense 4K - have just announced a Talking Heads tribute album, featuring the likes of Paramore covering songs from Stop Making Sense; the Blu-ray and streaming release of the 4K remaster is also coming soon. Rewatching the film, says Frantz, "just reinforced what I already knew: that Talking Heads had a very unique, and I would say important, chemistry. It made me feel like at least we got a few things right! You know, it was a wonderful band. And now everybody can see again what a wonderful band it was."

Here, then, is Uncut's definitive guide to Talking Heads' thirty greatest songs, by the people who wrote them, played on them, covered them, or had their lives irretrievably altered by witnessing them live. Watch out - you might get what you're after...

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1 LOVE→BUILDING ON FIRE (single, 1977) - An early CBGB anthem earns the band a deal with Sire

LENNY KAYE: CBGB was our local, and I spent as much time hanging around outside shooting the breeze as seeing the bands inside. They were all our friends. I remember the first time I saw the Talking Heads, newly transplanted from the Rhode Island School of Design, standing bemused with Danny Fields, drawn in by the taut rhythm section of Chris and Tina, and the spasmodic lead singer, his vocalisations teetering on the edge of control, somehow keeping his balance as he chopped at his guitar.

One night I'm singing doo-wop classics with Seymour Stein of Sire Records 'neath the iconic canopy, when the sounds emanating from inside the club suddenly catch his ear. "When my love / Stands next to your love..." Before we have a chance to finish our arpeggio, he darts through the doors, returning with a promissory note from the Talking Heads that will place them on his visionary label. It's Love→Building On Fire, a blaze soon to engulf the world.

There was no unity of sound in CBGB, despite the punk label that was all too easily applied to a Ramonic template. As Tom Verlaine once said, each band was like a separate idea, only unified by their outsider status, an attitude in the process of figuring itself out. The Talking Heads might have seemed quirky, but in a club that celebrated the out-of-place, they seemed right at home. Visiting them at their loft on Chrystie Street to listen to Bohannon records; hearing the "qu'est-ce que c'est" of Psycho Killer; watching them grow to fruition. Strike the match.

2 PSYCHO KILLER (Talking Heads: 77, 1977; single, 1977) - The first ever Talking Heads song, written back in early '74 and inspired by Alice Cooper

CHRIS FRANTZ: David and I had formed a band at the Rhode Island School of Design called The Artistics, the sole purpose of which was to play music that would entertain our friends. We had a very eclectic mix of cover songs ranging from I Can't Explain and I'm Waiting For The Man to Al Green and Smokey Robinson. But at some point, David and I both felt like maybe we should try our hand at writing a song. And so this particular day, there was a knock on the door of the painting studio that Tina and I shared. David came in and he played the first verse and the first chorus [of Psycho Killer. He prefaced his little performance by saying that he'd tried to write something in the style of Alice Cooper, that kind of sick humour. So David played us this little snippet and said he would like some help to write the rest. In particular, he was interested in writing a bridge in a language that was not English. He had already approached a girl to write some Japanese lyrics, but when she found out that the song was called Psycho Killer she said, 'No way!' But Tina could speak French very well, so she sat down and wrote some lyrics on the spot. I also wrote lyrics to a couple of verses, so it was a true collaboration. When we finally got it all together and played it live with The Artistics, we noticed that it got a better reaction than our cover songs did! So we thought, 'Wait a minute - we should do more of this...'

3 NEW FEELING (Talking Heads: 77, 1977) - "The name of this song is New Feeling and that's what it's about!"

DAVID BYRNE: That was an early one. Musically, I was trying to meld some of the things that I had been listening to over the years. I wanted to mix Captain Beefheart with James Brown - jagged, but also funky, in a very white-guy kind of way. I thought, 'Oh, this is good. This is who we are, this is who I am, this mixture of things.' It was trying to meld things that had never been put together before, but that was our record collection.

The lyrics were very straightforward, trying to avoid any clichés and just saying what was going through my head. The opening line ["It's not yesterday any more"], that's kind of saying, 'Hey, we're trying to do something new here.' At that point, I was very introverted, very withdrawn, and so it was a struggle to communicate with people. But writing songs was a way to do it.

Those struggles, those anxieties and trepidations, you could put it in a song. And, surprisingly, other people seemed to identify with it too.

4 NO COMPASSION (Talking Heads: 77, 1977) - The unsettling, tempo-shifting centrepiece of the debut album

TINA WEYMOUTH: David was dating a girl, a really terrific girl - a wonderful artist, so smart. He got so many ideas from her. But at one point, he just got cruel. He wrote this song, which is so negative: "Go talk to your analyst / Isn't that what they're paid for?" It's as close as it ever comes to something autobiographical with him, because mostly it's just snippets from newspapers, it's much more of a cut-and-paste, William Burroughs way of getting things, phrases that people say, and then sewing them together like a patchwork quilt. I thought, 'Wow, that is one hell of a mean song. But it rings true.' People go through different moods and periods. That's an interesting aspect, and nothing should be discounted out of hand.

5 TAKE ME TO THE RIVER (More Songs About Buildings And Food, 1978; single, 1978) - Crafty Al Green cover puts Talking Heads on the radio

JERRY HARRISON: When I learned the song, I learned it from David. At that point in my life, I didn't go back and listen to the Al Green version or the Syl Johnson version. Brian [Eno, producer] had said, try to play this song as slow as you can. So it morphed into being quite a different song. [In 2014] I made a movie about Memphis music called Take Me To The River and in the course of this, I played the song with the three Hodges brothers. It was demanding, as they do some different chords and the whole thing is sort of on the upbeat, whereas we did it like a march. Bryan Ferry, Foghat and Levon Helm all released versions of Take Me To The River that same summer, and as it worked out, ours was the only big success. I think that partially is because we changed it.

It was a very important song for us - it was actually a success on AM radio, not FM radio, and it basically helped Sire and Warner Brothers think that we could be a commercial success. It's always been a crowd- pleaser. Of course, when we got the big band together and had all the background singers, it got even more dramatic.

6 THANK YOU FOR SENDING ME AN ANGEL (More Songs About Buildings And Food, 1978) - Galloping album opener, later covered by Dean Wareham's indie-pop band Luna

DEAN WAREHAM: More Songs About Buildings And Food came out in the summer of 1978, just as I turned fifteen years old. At that age you are starting to define yourself by what you listen to, and Talking Heads sounded smart and modern, like nothing we'd heard before. I liked how down-to-earth they appeared in button-down shirts, and I liked that the songs really did seem to be about the details of life in the city.

Years later in 1995, Luna went into Sorcerer Studios in Manhattan and recorded an EP containing Thank You For Sending Me An Angel. It was a perfect vehicle for Luna, featuring a great, propulsive drum track by Stanley Demeski. We still play it live on occasion.

7 WARNING SIGN (More Songs About Buildings And Food, 1978) - Written soon after Psycho Killer, though it doesn't appear on record until the second album

CHRIS FRANTZ: I wrote the lyrics lying down on my stomach in the apartment of Hank Stahler, who was the bass player for The Artistics. Hank had a pet rabbit in his apartment and there were rabbit droppings all around. I brushed them out of the way so I wouldn't have to lie right on them, and I wrote out the lyrics to Warning Sign in maybe twenty minutes. David liked them and started singing them, although there was some editing over the years. It was a song inspired by The Velvet Underground's darker side, about a guy lying in bed with a girl who's had too much drugs. Not Tina! The drum part was inspired by Ringo on Tomorrow Never Knows.

8 FOUND A JOB (More Songs About Buildings And Food, 1978) - The fun-loving spirit of The Bahamas begins to subtly infuse the Heads' uptight sound

TINA WEYMOUTH: We were the first people to actually record at Compass Point. [In New York] we lived in these industrial lofts that were unheated before 10am and after 4pm. So it was really nice to get someplace warm.

CHRIS FRANTZ: David came up with the lyric and the concept. This was around the time of a TV show called Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, about a housewife who had a lot of neurotic problems. David was inspired by that to write a song from the point of view of someone who's witnessing the creation of a sitcom. It had Andy Warhol aspects to the lyrics: you too can be a superstar! It was really fun to play - it's got an amazing bassline and it has a good groove. Among other things, David is a wonderful rhythm guitarist and I love the rhythm guitar in that song. It's almost like James Brown, it's really tight and snappy and kind of funky. I think it was really well suited to the treatments that Brian Eno put on it.

9 LIFE DURING WARTIME (Fear Of Music, 1979; single, 1979) - "This ain't no Mudd Club / Or CBGB..." - Talking Heads move on

CHRIS FRANTZ: The genesis of that song was an aborted recording session in New Orleans. We'd been touring a lot and our manager arranged for us to have a few days off in New Orleans to have a good time. So we did. On one of those days off, we tried an experiment to see if we could write songs while on the road. Our manager was friends with Marshall Sehorn, who had a studio with Allen Toussaint called Sea-Saint in New Orleans, so we booked a day there. Not much came out of it, but there was this one thing [sings the main riff of Life During Wartime]. I had a little cassette of that, so when we were putting together the songs for Fear Of Music, I said, 'Well, remember this riff?' So we recreated that bass part and that drum part and David and Jerry added their instruments to it, and David came up with some great lyrics.

10 MEMORIES CAN'T WAIT (Fear Of Music, 1979) - One the heaviest Heads songs, both musically and psychologically

DAVID BYRNE: This was our version of a metal song. Chris and I were in a band before Talking Heads, and we attempted to do a cover of Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin. I can't imagine what it sounded like! But we attempted it. So Memories Can't Wait was more our version of that kind of thing.

Looking back on it now, the lyrics seem [to be about] a person whose memories keep overflowing and flooding up. They need to move on from the past that keeps bubbling into view. "There's a party in my mind..." It's like, 'Can you get this thing to stop?' Despite Eno's sounds, it was not really a drug song, it was just the sense of being overwhelmed - either at a party or by your own memories, or everything that is going on around you.

Eno was very good at making us feel more comfortable than we had on our first record, where we felt profoundly uncomfortable by the studio situation and the typical recording method. We recorded a lot of the backing tracks [for Fear Of Music] in our rehearsal loft, where we were used to the sound. There was a lot of leakage, all the things that you weren't supposed to do in studios, but if you played well enough and weren't going to replace everything bit by bit, you could do it. We liked that Eno wouldn't interfere that much with our songs, but he'd add layers of odd sounds and spooky things on top of it, which was fine with us.

11 HEAVEN (Fear Of Music, 1979) - Perhaps the only Talking Heads song that Simply Red could've convincingly covered

JERRY HARRISON: It's sort of a simple ballad, which is not exactly what we're known for. It showed that David could write a song like that. I recorded a version of this for the church service for a friend of mine who passed away - my daughter sang it, and I played it on the piano. I also did it at the memorial for John Perry Barlow, with Lukas Nelson, Sean Lennon and Bob Weir. Even though the lyrics have a potentially cynical quality to them, the melody and the music fits a mood of sombre reflection, so I think it's a very special song.

12 I ZIMBRA (Fear Of Music, 1979) - Inspired fusion of Afrobeat rhythms and Dada poetry points the way forward

TINA WEYMOUTH: The first two records, all those things were written prior to signing with Sire. Fear Of Music was the first one where things had not been written ahead of time, where we just sort of jammed them out - adding things, layering things, not knowing what the finished song was going to be. We realised this was a really good way of writing songs that could surprise us, and it was so enjoyable.

CHRIS FRANTZ: We were happy with I Zimbra being an instrumental, but I believe it was Eno who said, "We've got to put some lyrics on it." David [suggested] a Dada poem by Hugo Ball, from the turn of the century. That was actually added just prior to mixing. We never rehearsed those lyrics as a band, they were done in the studio with David and Brian and a tape-op. It sounded great. So we said, "OK, cool!"

TINA WEYMOUTH: That was a really good concept, because from then on, when David was trying to come up with a melody and a lyric, he could just sing nonsense syllables and focus on melody. Then later he could go for a drive in his car and write down little phrases that seemed to lock up with the nonsense syllables. So that became another way of working.

13 HOUSES IN MOTION (Remain In Light, 1980; single, 1981) - Motorik gospel, with a confounding trumpet solo by Jon Hassell

DAVID BYRNE: Houses In Motion, as with a few of the other songs on Remain In Light, had a kind of gospel influence on the chorus. I'd been listening to a lot of gospel music and radio preachers and all that kind of stuff that turned up on My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, but it also affected my songwriting. Brian brought in Jon Hassell, the late trumpet player, who always played through effects. His electronically treated horn arrangement was like nothing else I'd heard. We thought, 'Ooh, this is cool. I don't know how we're gonna do this live! But this is really nice.'

People kept saying, "This one sounds a bit like Can." I wasn't even aware of them, so eventually I went, "Maybe I should check out some of their records." It opened me up to hearing music that I hadn't otherwise heard. I realised, 'OK, other people are going a little bit in this direction, but in their own way.'

14 ONCE IN A LIFETIME (Remain In Light, 1980; single, 1981) - And you may find yourself carving a place in pop history

CHRIS FRANTZ: Remain In Light was sort of a brilliant ordeal, because we had no songs written - on purpose. I remember David saying, "We can go into the studio and just lay these tracks like Miles Davis did and then cut them together and see what happens." Nothing happened like that. But what we ended up doing was these improvisations - we would come up with these parts during the jam. Because we didn't know where the vocals were going to sit in the song or what they were even going to be, these parts were necessarily loops that repeated. But we didn't create a loop with tape, we actually played them in a loop form. For Once In A Lifetime, we came up with this groove that, God, I don't know exactly where it came from, but it's really happening! To this day, it's a very exciting groove to hear.

TINA WEYMOUTH: We would try to establish a groove that anybody could play anything over. Later there would be some contention about how the lyrics would be put on top. But in the end, it worked out very well, because there was no lack of ideas. If anything, there was a competition of ideas, so many ideas, a plethora. It was just about getting things focused.

[David's vocal] harks back to when we would drive ourselves to gigs in a rental car. In the wintertime we would go South and we heard these evangelical radio shows. One day we heard a Bible-thumping talkshow guy saying, "Meaty minds and mighty motors don't mix!" And we started laughing, but the style of the delivery was really interesting. I think David borrowed hugely from that in order to create a satire of that type of thinking, you know, "This is not my beautiful house." I mean, it's one of the weaknesses of our society, that we went from the Puritans, who allowed for nothing, then suddenly we had all these men who thought, 'God is speaking to me, I'm going to start my own church - and I won't have to pay taxes!' That was really at the crux of it, it's about getting rich. So David really ran with that, and I think he did a marvellous job.

15 THE GREAT CURVE (Remain In Light, 1980) - One of the Heads' deepest grooves, defined by Adrian Belew's extraordinary guitar-mangling solos

ADRIAN BELEW: I played with David Bowie in Madison Square Garden, they were in the second row, so that's how they first saw me. [A couple of years later] I played a show with my own band in New York City. David and Jerry came to that show, cornered me afterwards in the stairwell and said, "We're making a record and could you come over tomorrow and play on it?" It was wide open because there was nothing there yet, just the drumbeat and a bass pattern and maybe an occasional rhythm guitar part. The songs were all in one key, they had no chord changes, no vocals... It was up to me to put things where I wanted to, and let them then write around that stuff.

At that time, I didn't have much in the way of gear, I think I had five or six pedals. One was a compressor that was always on. Then I had a flanger and a fuzztone and more of an overdrive sound and a Chorus. That was probably it. I went in and just unleashed a solo. I could see the three of them, Jerry, David and Eno, jumping up and down. So I stayed there for another two minutes - the track was sounding great - and I put a second solo in. That's how that song came about. Remain In Light is a record unlike any others; it's certainly stood the test of time. Whatever they did with it, they made the right decisions.

16 CROSSEYED AND PAINLESS (Remain In Light, 1980) - Featuring an early foray into rap

CHRIS FRANTZ: We were trying to get it as a four-piece in the studio and it wasn't clicking. So I said, "Let me just try it by myself." The beat was inspired by James Brown, before the JBs when it was the Famous Flames. I remember distinctly that David, Jerry, Tina and Brian were in the control room and Robert Palmer was there as well observing. So I started this drumbeat and my challenge was to not speed up or slow down - because we didn't use click tracks, ever. About halfway through I started to get a little bit tired, but I looked out into the control room and everybody was dancing in there. So I thought, 'OK, we got this. This is gonna be cool.'

Now we're in New York at Sigma Sound Studios and David's recording his vocals. He was having problems with one section of the song. I said, "You know, David, there's this new thing called rap. You don't have to sing the song, you can just rap it." I put on a Kurtis Blow record as an example. David tried it and that's how you got, "Facts are simple and facts are straight / Facts are lazy and facts are late". It was perfect.

17 BORN UNDER PUNCHES (THE HEAT GOES ON) (Remain In Light, 1980) - When West African star Angélique Kidjo brilliantly reimagined Remain In Light in 2018, this became the lead single

ANGÉLIQUE KIDJO: When I arrived in France in 1983, I heard the song Once In A Lifetime. I didn't know anything about the Talking Heads because I was living under dictatorship, so all those kinds of music never made it to my country. But there was something in the chorus that felt like home - it sounded like a childhood song. [Many years later] when I listened to the whole album, it was really a gut feeling that I had to do something about it. I realised that they were listening to Fela's music and reading books of ethno-musicology. From the first song, I'm like, 'How can I give an answer to this album?'

People were telling me, "Angélique, you always have a message in your music. The lyrics of this album are absurd, it has no meaning." I said to them, "You don't grow up with elderly people that throw proverbs at you!" When I heard Born Under Punches, what comes to mind is, this is talking about corruption. And corruption is universal. They released that album under Reagan, it was the moment where a lot of stuff was happening. For me, it was such a manifesto of resistance. The album is still so relevant. The songs can be played in many different ways - it's timeless.

18 BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE (Speaking In Tongues, 1983; single, 1983) - Invigorated by extracurricular activity with Tom Tom Club and others, the band reconvene for a US Top 10 hit, its title inspired by a P-Funk audience chant

WALLY BADAROU [KEYBOARDS]: I came to the Bahamas in early 1980. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth already had residence in Nassau, right behind the studio, so inevitably we ran into each other. Chris was so warmly welcoming. He said, "Hey Wally, why don't you come over? The Prophet 5 is there, it's your turn to play." Back in those days of the Compass Point Allstars with Sly & Robbie, we were doing sessions here and there - whichever room was doing something, we were doing something in it.

Most of the Speaking In Tongues album was already recorded. I just stepped in and added some keys on Burning Down The House. It had that very haunting bassline that I liked and thought I could dig into - the bass sequence is both Tina and my Prophet 5. I did the really fuzzy solo that you hear in the middle.

19 THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (NAIVE SONG) (Speaking In Tongues, 1983; single, 1983) - Five minutes of simple, life-affirming joy, as David Byrne grapples with the strange sensation of being in love

JERRY HARRISON: It started with me playing the keyboard bassline and people joining in on that. It was so dramatically different to Burning Down The House; Warner Brothers didn't really push it very hard. It may be that its place in the movie Wall Street helped insinuate it into people's minds, but I can't tell you how many people have come up and said, "That's the song we played at our wedding."

It's certainly one of the few songs that David wrote that I would call a real love song. He very much has been a person who writes about an idea or an observation rather than an emotion between he and someone else, which makes him unique as a songwriter. But this song just seems to generate happiness. There's a joyfulness to it that is pretty transcendent.

20 GIRLFRIEND IS BETTER (Speaking In Tongues, 1983) - Supple synth-funk number becomes a live favourite

JERRY HARRISON: I like it because it's so unusual. It has these jagged things happening here and there, and this really cool bassline that keeps it together. I just always loved playing it. It has a really important place in Stop Making Sense - the introduction of the big suit. I think it's possible that David came up with [the keyboard part], but of course I always played it live, and it changed over time. And I played the solo on Stop Making Sense, which was really fun. Both on Remain In Light and Speaking In Tongues, we were all jumping in and out of the room to play little bits, because we assembled the songs a part here and a part there.

21 ROAD TO NOWHERE (Little Creatures, 1985; single, 1985) - The band embrace quirky Americana on this rousing global smash

JIMMY MAC [ACCORDION]: Chris and Tina came over in person to my place on Mercer Street. I think they might have come straight from the session, because they were really excited and wanted to know if I would come play on a song that they were working on. Tina's sister Laura was singing in my band for a while, so that's how we met. I can't say enough about Chris and Tina, they're the best. When I got to the studio, Lenny Pickett was there, who I love. He was in this large booth and there was a saxophone set up every two feet. He must have had fifty saxophones there! There wasn't much to the track - there was a nice marching beat and a lot of vocals up at the top, but there wasn't really a lead instrument, so I guess Chris just decided that he would give me a try on that tune.

The track is interesting, 'cos it's in a little bit of a half-time and a little syncopated at the same time. So [the accordion] stands out against the horn line, which is a big, powerful moving wall of orangeness. It's a nice contrast, sonically, but it wasn't pre-prepared. Really, I think that was pretty much the first take. But everybody responded positively - it was just the right icing on that track, so they mixed it up high. What's really funny is that somebody at the little radio station down here in Honduras loves Road To Nowhere. So now I hear it almost every time I get in a freakin' taxi!

22 AND SHE WAS (Little Creatures, 1985; single, 1985) - Getting out of their Heads in suburbia

DAVID BYRNE: Little Creatures, to some extent, was very much our attempt to do pop songs, which we hadn't really done before in that way. I remembered a friend in high school who said she used to take LSD and lie out in a field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate drink factory in suburban Baltimore - I knew where that was and the big highway goes right by it. I imagined the drugs kicking in and her floating up and having an out-of-body experience. So the lyrics are pretty straight-ahead in describing what I imagined that might be. I think they worked metaphorically on another level as well, but I was maybe not aware of that at the time.

It feels like someone is transcending their day-to-day existence and having some kind of ecstatic experience. I've certainly had ecstatic and transcendent experiences, usually when playing music - often singing with a band or some kind of performance, but sometimes just here in my home studio, when I really get into it. I start wailing away and improvising and it can be really transporting.

23 THE LADY DON'T MIND (Little Creatures, 1985; single, 1985) - With Byrne declining to tour, Talking Heads plot MTV domination

JERRY HARRISON: David had decided he wanted to do the movie True Stories, and these were outtakes of songs he had written to get ready to make it. I actually think Little Creatures is a stronger record than True Stories. So, interestingly, the outtakes are perhaps better songs, but they didn't fit the theme of the movie quite as well. Little Creatures was, at least until recently, our best-selling record. Even though we didn't tour behind it.

I remember saying to our manager, "We're all artists, we all want to make videos - tell Warner Brothers we want to make four videos and we're not going to turn on the record button until we get permission!" When Little Creatures came out, they had four videos to give to MTV when needed, and so it meant that we were on MTV the whole year.

Part of the deal was that we could only get $40,000 apiece, which was challenging. Fortunately, we had artistic friends who were willing to work with us. I was friends with Jim Jarmusch, who made Stranger Than Paradise - I think he was in the midst of making Down By Law at that time. So he became the director [of The Lady Don't Mind video] and we worked on it together. Tina's sister Laura is in it. There are shots of New York, some moving draperies, and it has a kind of sensual, delicate feel. One of my ideas was to have something where the colour seeps away, which made it sort of dreamlike - like an image that was vivid to begin with and then becomes more frail and wispy. It was a golden period of videos that got spoiled a little bit by the over-professionalisation of it.

24 WILD WILD LIFE (True Stories, 1986; single, 1986) - Perky late-period single - a favourite of Paul McCartney, apparently

TINA WEYMOUTH: David was so into his filmmaking that it altered the way we worked as a group. We would come together in the studio but then David was just gone. Wild Wild Life, Love For Sale, they were fun songs, but it was almost as if they were being written to fit a picture, a cartoon, a preconceived idea of what the song was going to illustrate. But it was a fun challenge. Paul and Linda McCartney, we never got to meet them or anything, but they sent us a little postcard saying, "Best yet!" We were just so shocked and stunned. Because in our minds, the songs were much more generic. I mean, they would go over great, and they would be fun to play. But there wasn't the same sense of experimental discovery.

25 PUZZLIN' EVIDENCE (True Stories, 1986) - Surfy twist, with a gospel chorus

CHRIS FRANTZ: I remember distinctly that was the first time ever that David Byrne complimented me on my drum playing. There was never a second time! We were listening to the playback of the basic track in the control room and he turned to me and said, "Great drums." I thought, 'Wow, they must really be good!' At that point, David didn't want to tour any more with Talking Heads, so there was a certain overall kind of pall, if you want to call it anything. But in spite of that, I think the band really delivered very well. On True Stories and Little Creatures, the band was at the height of our performance levels in the studio, we could really play.

26 RADIO HEAD (True Stories, 1986) - Infectious Tex-Mex stomp about a man who receives radio signals direct to his brain, performed by Tito Larriva in the True Stories film

TITO LARRIVA: Sometime in the early '80s, I did an acoustic show at the Whisky A Go Go. In the crowd, unbeknownst to me, was Jonathan Demme and David Byrne. After the show, there was a message on my phone machine from Jonathan saying that David loved my show and was inspired to write a song and was thinking he would put me in a film he was going to make singing this song.

Fast forward to the shooting of True Stories in Texas. Amazing people and an experience I'll never forget. In the first couple of days we all recorded our songs, mine being Radio Head. The night I went in to do my vocal, Pops Staples was also there, singing his song Papa Legba. I did a few vocal takes first and thought I needed a little more warm-up time. Pops came quietly into the booth, put his hands gently on my shoulders and said, in the sweetest and kindest way, "I think you should try singing a bit behind the beat, let the beat pull you." It's been pulling me ever since.

Many years later, in 1999, I'm on tour with my band Tito & Tarantula in Houston. I'm reading local news and there is an interview with the band Radiohead, promoting their show on the same day as ours. In the interview, they asked the band how they got their name. Apparently they were watching this movie and there was this Mexican guy singing a song called Radio Head. They liked the title of the song and named their band after it. Coincidentally, we were staying at the same hotel. I thought, if I ran into them, I'd let them know I was that Mexican guy! Sure enough, they come in the elevator, and like a crazy person I blurt out, "HEY, I'M THE GUY WHO SANG RADIO HEAD!" Of course, they thought I was nuts and rightly so. They quickly walked out of the elevator with their heads down and didn't say a word. True story...

27 BLIND (Naked, 1988; single, 1988) - Talking Heads decamp to Paris with a large ensemble of African, Latin and jazz musicians assembled by Wally Badarou

WALLY BADAROU [KEYBOARDS]: Most of them were musicians that I already knew, so I knew what they were capable of. Yves N'Djock, who's a guitar player from Cameroon, I knew he was a great guy who could completely get into it. We were not doing the same kind of thing that Brian Eno used to do, with the Oblique [Strategies]. It was a totally different approach - it was light-hearted in the production, not as cerebral. Everything came out of jams, because what matters most is the groove. If it was cooking, it was cooking!

Working with Steve Lillywhite was awesome, because he was very gentle, very soft-spoken, never interfered with the actual creation process whatsoever. David would show the chord changes and we would jump in - no plan, nobody being directed. I suppose that has a lot in common with filmmaking, where if you do the casting right and get the right people, you don't even have to direct them, you let them do their thing. That's basically what happened.

28 (NOTHING BUT) FLOWERS (Naked, 1988; single, 1988) - jubilant Afro-Latin swing featuring some notable guests and a semi-ironic vision of America gone to seed

JOHNNY MARR: I'm particularly pleased with it because I know the song is still a favourite of the band's. I was really excited to play with Talking Heads - they'd been such an important band to my generation - but I was half-terrified! I psyched myself out and, for the first time in my life, I had to walk out of the studio to give myself a bit of time to get my head aligned. I couldn't think of anything to play. While I was walking round the block, I realised I had been paying the track too much respect. I was being too precious. I had to remind myself that the reason I was there was because they wanted my sound. So: put a riff on it, make it a big one! I got my Sunburst 12-string - which now belongs to Bernard Butler - and just played like myself. And they loved it. It's one of those things where I get to do a riff alongside a songwriter who is as good as it gets - because those lyrics are hilarious and profound and brilliant. Kirsty [MacColl]'s on it, too, which is lovely.

CHRIS FRANTZ: (Nothing But) Flowers is just brilliant on many levels. Musically, it's a really great synthesis of African music and soca, calypso and funk. But also the sentiment is quintessential Talking Heads: a vision of the future where all your favourite things like 7-Elevens and Pizza Huts are now overgrown with plants. It's a dystopian utopia. Every time I hear it, I think, 'Damn, that was pretty good.'

29 THE DEMOCRATIC CIRCUS (Naked, 1988) - On which Byrne tries his hand at political satire

JERRY HARRISON: Naked is our most under-appreciated record. It was great fun making it, being in Paris with all of these African musicians and Johnny Marr coming over. Blind and Mr Jones are the songs that got most of the attention, particularly Mr Jones - we had Angel Fernandez from Celia Cruz's band do the arrangement with a twenty-piece horn section, it was gigantic. But some of the other songs on the other side I think are actually some of the best songs. The Democratic Circus is very apt to what's going on in politics today. The song is really moody, it's got this kind of slinky beat, and then it gets into this harsh [section] which is like being smacked in the face. I really love it.

30 COOL WATER (Naked, 1988) - Confounding to the last, the final track on the final Talking Heads album is a folk dirge about colonial exploitation

DAVID BYRNE: I think I came up with a little guitar lick and then started moving it through all these chords - a major chord and then a minor chord, shifting it this way and that. After we recorded it, I thought, 'Oh shit, now I have to write words to this.' I found the mood of the track we'd recorded fairly ominous, so I wrote this song imagining workers carrying their heavy loads, their lives spent doing these senseless tasks over and over again. I'd seen pictures of gold miners in Brazil, trudging endlessly up this muddy hill, and I was thinking of that kind of activity going on all over the Earth. It was a pretty bleak vision. But at the same time, I thought it was very moving and beautiful, kind of heart-rending.

We never did another whole album after that. I knew that I needed a break from the group. I didn't know how long it would be, and we did do a few other songs. But I felt that there were tensions within the group - or maybe it was just me - that made it not the most comfortable working situation. That said, I think we came out with a really nice record. A big shout-out to Steve Lillywhite, who helped keep everything on keel.

TINA WEYMOUTH: We tried to get back to that magical place with Naked. But by this time, David was working on Bertolucci's The Last Emperor and all these other distractions and it was, 'Oh, I just don't want to be in a rock band any more.' He was moving away. I mean, he had been moving away since December of '79. But now he was really moving away. That was the end of that amazing songwriting collaboration that had been laden with fruit. It was a super beautiful crop of interesting songs, when friends get together and have a common endeavour and love of music.