Thursday, July 11, 2013

Talking Heads - Once In a Lifetime

The 63rd video aired on MTV, "Once In a Lifetime" is now often viewed as one of the most significant songs and videos of the 1980's.  The song was named to the NPR 100 (the 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century) while the video has been displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Talking Heads was made up of three friends from the Rhode Island School of Design (David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth) who were subsequently joined by Jerry Harrison (who had played in Jonathan Richman's band The Modern Lovers).  The band came out of the vibrant punk/new wave scene at New York's CBGBs, along with the Ramones, Blondie, and Television, among others.

Allmusic characterizes Talking Heads as art-school punks, which is a great description.  The band incorporated punk, new wave and world music influences into something that resembled artistic pop music.  The formula did not always work, but at their best, Talking Heads made some of the most artistic and interesting music of their era.

"Once In a Lifetime" was the lead single off the band's fourth record, 1980's Remain in Light.  While the album sold well and reached #19 on the charts, "Once In a Lifetime" did not break the top 100, peaking at #103.  (It did better in the U.K., where it reached #14.)  Remain in Light was also the third LP where Talking Heads collaborated with Brian Eno, who co-wrote, produced and engineered the album.

The video was one of the craziest, most creative things shown on early MTV.  Choreographed by Toni Basil (of "Mickey" fame), it consists of David's Byrne's crazed marionette-like spasms, which are combined with additional footage in the background.  Somehow, the whole thing comes together, and the result is a musical and visual masterpiece.

Cool trivia fact:  Rolling Stone rated Remain in Light as the 4th best album of the 1980's.


  1. Talking Heads - Once In a Lifetime Rare?
    Now If You Want Rare. May I suggest...

    HA HA
    Love This Blog!

    1. Thanks, Sam -- you'll get your Vain, don't you worry. I'd say Talking Heads may be more forgotten than rare, but we do like to have a mix of videos. That way, people who show up for one video can look around and discover some new (old) music.