Well this album has rather changed my life. I have been an admirer of Talking Heads for some time. Their albums Speaking in Tongues and Remain in Light were the soundtrack to my erasmus year in Rome. I can never listen to them and not think of the B line from Termini to San Paolo, where I went to university. However, their debut album 77 was a total revelation. Ahead of their time in an understatement. What David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar) and created is quite beyond this reviewer’s ambit of description. One can but try to explain this gem of an album.

Alongside its ingenuity, Talking Heads 77 also exists as a mere glimmer of potential, a fascinating prelude to a few of the most visionary albums ever recorded. Pitchfork

From the first notes of the first song this album transports you into the bizarre mind of David Byrne, who is still making musical history to this day. Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town opens and descends into an a-typical Talking Heads Experience. Steel pans come out of nowhere. This track talks about the ardour of finding love in a high paced commercial environment in the stock broking world. It speaks to me for a number of reasons.

New Feeling is exactly that. There is excitement in the music which pulls you around, the music itself pulls back at points as though to express Byrne’s self doubt. Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison work together beautifully in parts of this track. Byrne’s vocals are almost like a broken accordion, which does not sound appealing but works very well in this context.

I wish I could meet, every one
I’ve ever met before
Meet them all over again
Bring them up to my room
Meet them all over again
Everyone’s up in my room
This is a new sound which is screaming out to be heard.
Tentative Decisions provides relief from the previous song. The arrangement is simple, almost military in parts. It speaks of the perils of taking a firm stance and then questioning the position one has taken. The breaks from the snare drums are quite ethereal, like one is floating through air. The piano at the end was quite unexpected.
Happy Day is not quite Perfect Day by Lou Reed (ho ho) but is still quite beautiful. 37 seconds in is a particular treat. The riffing is gorgeous while the vocals can be jarring at times. Who Is It? is a brief intermission track.
No Compassion has to be my highlight of the album.
In a world
Where people have problems
In this world
Where decisions are a way of life
Other people’s problems
They overwhelm my mind
They say compassion is a virtue
But I don’t have the time
If ever there was a song to describe my current exact mood this is the one. The riff is excellent, the exasperation is clear as day. The words are delivered in a poignant way “why are you in love with your problems, I think you’ve taken it a little too far. It’s not cool to have so many problems” – genius. I wonder who hurt David Byrne to the point of producing this track.
The Book I Read is another brilliant track. It’s about falling in love with an author. Great pace, great energy, the tale of an ambitious young New Yorker. The piano throughout is a triumph. The drums at the end are transcendent.
Don’t Worry About the Government is a sarcastic upbeat song about an optimistic person coming to New York and all the things they hope to do which they will not be able to do because of the government. It is both optimistic and pessimistic, without saying anything negative. The whole song has, to me, the spectre of government looming in the background threatening to stop him at every stage.
First Week / Last Week has an excellent lyric – “every appointment has been moved to last week”. Would that I could move my meetings to the past! I have an average of 25 meetings per week so can fully empathise. This song is quite harrowing, speaking of the dangers of overworking, which seems to be a theme in this album.
Now the song you have all been waiting for… Psycho Killer, que-ce que c’est? This song has historic links to killings in New York, though the band insist there was no such link. The song is a telling monologue of the inner thoughts of a serial killer.
The song was composed near the beginning of the band’s career and prototype versions were performed onstage as early as December 1975.[10] When it was finally completed and released as a single in December 1977, “Psycho Killer” became instantly associated in popular culture with the contemporaneous Son of Sam serial killings.[11][12] Although the band always insisted that the song had no inspiration from the notorious events, the single’s release date was “eerily timely”[10] and marked by a “macabre synchronicity”. Wikipedia
Finally, Pulled Up. This is also a highlight for me. A high point in the album. The excited New Yorker has come full circle and achieved what he dreamed of. This is indeed what David Byrne went onto achieve, being a leading authority on music, theatre and cinematography. What a terrific success and fulfilling album this is. Listen to the guitars descending after “you pulled me up”. Just great.
Overall I have three main impressions: this is an album about new punks on the block looking to make a name for themselves. This album is written to encompass the fraught perils of being new on the scene and emerging as a band of note. IT is filled with possibilities and successes waiting to happen, a hopelessly hopeful album.