We’ve featured a fair few early Talking Heads performances, from Dortmund and Rome in 1980 to Syracuse in 1978 all the way back to CBGB in 1975. But you haven’t really heard early Talking Heads until you’ve heard the earliest Talking Heads. The same year of that CBGB show (one of many they played after their debut there opening for the Ramones), the trio of David Byrne, Chris Frantz, and Tina Weymouth recorded a series of demos at CBS studios. Still unsigned and in their early twenties, this first configuration of the Heads (after the band, newly arrived in New York, shed their identity as “The Artistics” from their days together at the Rhode Island School of Design) laid down the very first known recorded versions of such notable tracks as “Psycho Killer” above, “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” below, and “I’m Not in Love” below.
You can find a fuller playlist, which includes more songs from these CBS sessions like “I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That,” “Tentative Decisions,” and “Stay Hungry,” here. We often hear these songs described as the defining material of a pioneering “post-punk” band like Talking Heads, so the fact that all these tracks come from 1975 make them perhaps the first examples of the genre ever recorded. This way of playing slightly ahead of their time may actually have kept the group from finding a label to sign them until 1977, when Sire picked up the now-quartet (with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Jerry Harrison) and put out the immortal pair of LPs Talking Heads: 77 and More Songs About Buildings and Food. Yes, even though they’d recorded these demos at CBS studios, CBS Records passed up the chance to take them on. Surely they lived it down more quickly than did Decca Records after having rejected The Beatles, but still, nobody every stayed atop the zeitgeist by turning their back to the Talking Heads.
Watch the Talking Heads Play Live in Dortmund, Germany During Their Heyday (1980)
Watch the Talking Heads Play a Vintage Concert in Syracuse (1978)
Talking Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)
Live in Rome, 1980: The Talking Heads Concert Film You Haven’t Seen
Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” Performed on Traditional Chinese Instruments
David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.
Thanks for posting this, it made me very happy!! I love their early sound. I wonder if there’s anymore…
Nice! But, the name the band is “Talking Heads” no “the”!
Actually, this isn’t new. These were pressed to vinyl in 2010 so they’ve been around at least 4 years.
WOW! Forty years ago! Wonderful! And what do we have to listen to now? Katy Perry and Coldplay and Gaga? Pearl Jam? Death Cab For Cutie? Ick.
Another band pioneering band that influenced many of the artsier bands in the punk scene & “post-punk” as it’s now called was Rocket from the Tombs from Cleveland. They started around ’74/’75 and eventually split into the Dead Boys, who were CBGB’s regulars in the early days, and Pere Ubu, whose early albums are quintessential “post-punk”. There’s demos from them from 1975 doing songs later recorded by the two spinoff bands like “Sonic Reducer” and “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”.
hello,i was looking here in search for the really earliest Known recordings,but these are ”only” the second known ones.A tape of the very first concert in the CBGBs in June 1975 (opening for the Ramones)do exist,but was only avaiable for a short while many years ago in the blogosphere,unfortunatley BEFORE i did detact it,so I still haven’t been able to listen to this lost gem…
Tina Weymouth had such a unique and incredible bass tone even early on.