Talking Heads: 'Once in a Lifetime'

David Byrne Looks Back at the Band's Popular Appeal

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Bob Edwards' Extended Interview with Byrne

Talking Heads, in the band's early days.

hide captionTalking Heads, in the band's early days.

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Ron Pownall, courtesy Sire/Warner Bros. Records
'Once in a Lifetime' cover

hide captionInset from cover of Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads' new box set.

Their distinctive mix of rock, funk and world beats earned Talking Heads a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year. Who else could get people to dance to the dark "Psycho Killer" and the gospel "Take Me to the River"? NPR's Bob Edwards and band leader David Byrne look back at the band and the music.

"It was kind of amazing just to see people dancing to some of the music we were playing," Byrne recalls. "But at the same time we were very much... a groove band, very much about music that people could dance to, which at the time was kind of unusual..."

The original trio who formed the band in 1974 — Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth — attended the Rhode Island School of Design, giving Talking Heads an art-school mystique. They were joined two years later by Jerry Harrison on keyboards. Talking Heads made their debut at New York's CBGB's night club in 1976, opening for the Ramones. They soon dominated the college music scene with noteworthy albums such as More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear of Music and Remain in Light.

Talking Heads drew an even wider audience with songs like 1983's catchy "Burning Down the House." Byrne explains the band's appeal: "We felt it was possible to work within a kind of pop song format and kind of do what you wanted as long as you stayed within that format. And having a love of pop music, we felt that occasionally something we did kind of by accident would connect to a larger public and other things would not."

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Best of Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime

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  • Album: Best of Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime
  • Artist: Talking Heads
  • Label: EMI
  • Released: 1992
 

Once in a Lifetime [Box Set]

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  • Album: Once in a Lifetime [Box Set]
  • Artist: Talking Heads
  • Label: Sire/Warner Bros.
  • Released: 2003
 

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