|Single by Talking Heads|
|from the album Talking Heads: 77|
|B-side||"Psycho Killer" (Acoustic version)|
|Genre||New wave, funk|
|Writer(s)||David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth|
|Producer||Tony Bongiovi, Lance Quinn|
|Talking Heads singles chronology|
"Psycho Killer" is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band The Artistic in 1974, and as new wave band Talking Heads in 1975, with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77. The band's "signature debut hit" features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad, "Psycho Killer" became what Allmusic calls a "deceptively funky new wave/no wave song (...) [with] an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll."
"Psycho Killer" was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It placed 32nd on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at #11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977.
According to the preliminary lyric sheets copied onto the 2006 remaster of Talking Heads: 77, the song started off as a semi-narrative of the killer actually committing murders. Byrne has said of the song:
When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.
- Ce que j'ai fait ce soir-là
- Ce qu'elle a dit ce soir-là
- Réalisant mon espoir
- Je me lance vers la gloire... OK
- What I did, that evening
- What she said, that evening
- Fulfilling my hope
- Headlong I go for glory... OK
A live version was released on The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads in 1982 and the later CD release included a second, later live version from the Remain in Light tour. In 1984 later, another live version was included on the soundtrack for Stop Making Sense, the band's concert movie. The film opens with Byrne alone onstage, announcing "'Hi. I've got a tape I want to play'...[and] strumming maniacally like Richie Havens", playing an acoustic version of "Psycho Killer", backed only by a Roland TR-808 drum machine whose sound appears to be issuing from a boom box.
Influence, and other versions
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2012)|
The song has been recorded in cover versions by many bands including Brand New, The Features, Julie Christensen, Velvet Revolver, Bushwalla, James Hall, Rab Noakes, Cranial Screwtop, Cage the Elephant, Local H, Barenaked Ladies (on Buck Naked), Phish, Jason Isbell, Antiseen, Richard Thompson, Faker, Xenia Rubinos, Moxy Früvous, Terrorvision, Rico, The Faint, Bishop Allen, The Kransky Sisters, Victoria Vox, and Two Sheds. A live version by Oh-OK appears on The Complete Recordings. Pete Doherty covered the song during his performance at Glastonbury in 2009. "Psycho Killer" has been covered a cappella by both The Flying Pickets and The Bobs. An operatic version by Kate Miller-Heidke is played during the closing credits of an episode of Spicks and Specks, and there is a also a version in Polish ("Psychobójca") by Mariusz Lubomski.
Massachusetts-based band The Fools released a version with parody lyrics entitled "Psycho Chicken"; it was included as a bonus record with their major-label debut album Sold Out in 1980 and released in a live version on their 2003 live album The F In Beach Album.
The phrase "A Psycho Killer/Well Qu'est-ce que c'est?" is repeated in the song "M & M" by the band Pezz, who are now known as Billy Talent. In 2009, the song was also covered by Italian X Factor winner Marco Mengoni. The song was later included in his debut EP, Dove si vola.
Seattle based electro/hip hop group Mad Rad referenced the song in their song "Qu'est-ce Que C'est" (the title itself, a reference) with lyrics, "I'm a psycho, you're a killer. Qu'est-ce Que C'est. Run away."
In Argentina, the punk rock band "Pichones" plays the cover of this song.
In popular culture
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2012)|
The song has been featured in episodes of many TV series, including The Simpsons (Treehouse of Horror XIX), Heroes, St. Elsewhere Mad Dogs, and The Vampire Diaries. It is also featured in the films Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Fierce People and Julie and Julia, as well as in the trailer for the film Killers. In the third episode of television show Flight of the Conchords, "Mugged", a reference to "Psycho Killer" is featured in a line of dialogue, "He's a psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?". In 2008, the song was included in the music video game Rock Band 2, developed by Harmonix Music Systems. The Commodore 64 game Ghetto Blaster features an enemy called "Psycho Killer". If he manages to catch the player, the screen displays the lyrics to the chorus of the song.
- Bill Janovitz. "Psycho Killer review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 28, 2013. "deceptively funky new wave/no wave song" "The band displays early on their funk influence with clean staccato guitar licks, eventually droning into a one-chord crescendo, à la the Velvet Underground."
- Peter Buckley (2003). Rough Guides, ed. The Rough Guide to Rock. p. 1052. ISBN 978-1858284576. "called The Artistic ... Byrne original, most notably "Psycho Killer""
- Clare Flynn (December 13, 2011). "Talking Heads, 'Chronology'". NPR. Retrieved September 13, 2012. "CBGB in 1975, and see footage of an acoustic version of "Psycho Killer" from that performance"
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