These pivotal art punks are some of the only musicians able to still hold cult classic band status while also being well-known and occupying spots on the pop charts.
In 1977, Talking Heads released their debut album Talking Heads: ‘77 and toured internationally with the poster children of punk rock, the Ramones. It was towards the end of that tour when Talking Heads played a one-off solo set in the U.K. that completely changed their trajectory. In that audience was Brian Eno, who had just finished working with David Bowie and was moving onto his own fifth studio album. He instantly became enamored with Talking Heads. They met and listened to records and the first Talking Heads album created with Eno came out the very next year.
More Songs About Buildings and Food was the Talking Heads’ transition from abstract, experimental, art-punk to catchy, danceable rock—yet maintaining the signature, quirky Talking Heads sound. They retained their punk status while evolving their staple live songs into instrumentally layered, shimmering, disco-infused work, which some would define as new wave. Their rendition of the 1974 Al Green song “Take Me To the River” was their only single from the album and the first song to place them into the charts, making it to No. 26 in the Billboard Pop Album section.
Talking Heads, “Take Me To the River” live at American Bandstand 1979
Though Talking Heads were already gaining a pretty hefty following before their debut album was released, it was More Songs About Buildings and Food that truly solidified that popularity. The album is extremely relatable for its notoriously anti-relationship tracks like “Found A Job,” a song turning a typical couple’s relationship into a TV show, or “The Girls Only Want to Be With the Girls,” where frontman David Byrne calls out girls for “getting into abstract analysis.” Byrne sings constantly about how he’s too busy for romance, and the success and hard work that went into this album is evidence that he was singing truthfully from the heart.
Despite the band breaking up in 1991, this album continues to make best-of lists and still greatly influences musicians like today, Vampire Weekend and St. Vincent. Plus, now with so many of us working from home, the 42-year-old album provides the perfect soundtrack for your remote quarantine work ethic.