1977 – Talking Heads 77 – Talking Heads

1977C - Talking Heads

Crisp, clean and clinical. Everything about “Talking Heads 77” was tight, clever and just ever-so slightly psychotic in its precision. And it’s not “Psycho Killer” (brilliant though it is) that sounds the most manic, that would be too obvious, it’s the more subtle lyrics that talk of how “other people’s problems overwhelm my mind” and point out that “I see the pine cones that fall by the highway, that’s the highway that goes to the building, I pick the building that I want to live in, it’s over there…” that focus on the minutiae of everyday life and make perfectly ordinary things seem so surreal. Byrne’s vocal delivery and the scratchy, sometimes random guitar parts add to the feeling that the music is like an elastic band that is so taut it’s about to snap, and probably whip across your cheek as it does. I was introduced to “Talking Heads 77” by John Merrylees, in my first month at college, just one of the many new people I met when I left school and stepped out into a bigger world.
A lot happened for me in 1977.
Sheffield is a pretty big city but there were only certain pockets of it that we inhabited with a relatively small circle of friends. I did often take a lone bus ride across town to go to The Broadfield pub on a Friday night when they had live bands on, but we tended to sit in an underaged huddle in the back corner, not talking to the locals. On the one occasion I had to get off the bus in Page Hall on the way home because I was busting for a wee, I was frightened to death – it was a part of town I’d been through on the bus every day, but never actually got off there before. When David Evans (a Geordie lad whose mum’s sing-song accent I could’ve listened to all day) and I took part in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Ruddigore” at school and we nipped down to the Prince of Wales pub on Ecclesall Road beforehand, again, we sat in a corner so as not to attract attention, this was not our patch.
We all thought we were ever so cosmopolitan on the last day of school as we sat around on the grass in someone’s back garden, chatting, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine, but it was still a small and cosy “sophistication” and we made sure we dashed back to school in time to have our 6th Form group photograph taken.
And meeting John at college in Ripon highlighted my in-some-ways-limited experience in a very real, musical way: he had a proper sound system with separate units and big speakers, I had a Phillips cassette player that I played through a home made amplifier that Pete Claxton had built. John had his record collection with him, I had a few mix tapes and a cassette with Alice Cooper’s “Killer” on one side and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of a The Moon” on the other that I’d taped from a friend’s albums and for which I’d had to make my own cover using green sugar paper and a couple of photos from NME.
He played me Elvis Costello’s first album and introduced me to Split Enz, amongst others, and I soaked them all up and spent hours sitting in his room, drinking his dreadful home-brew and listening to his records. He even had a car, a mini, and later in the term took me to see Split Enz at Hull University. But, although the bands were all a bit “New Wave” and spikey and I really liked them, they still weren’t like the song that had been niggling at the back of my mind since the summer holidays, the song from the band that changed everything for me. “Sheena is a punk rocker” by the Ramones.

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2 Responses to 1977 – Talking Heads 77 – Talking Heads

  1. I saw Talking Heads on the ’77 tour supported by of all people Dire Straights! Great album, great gig. The album has lived well and still sounds great! 🙂

  2. bwcarey says:

    it’s easy fill your mind with gunk, and it’s so true, the power of rhythm and words, it saved so many lives and changed the world

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