Psycho Killer

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"Psycho Killer"
U.S. vinyl edition
Single by Talking Heads
from the album Talking Heads: 77
B-side "Psycho Killer" (Acoustic version)
Released December 1977
Format 7"
Recorded 1977
Genre
Length 4:19
Label Sire
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Talking Heads singles chronology
  • "Psycho Killer"
  • (1977)
  • "Pulled Up"
  • (1978)

"Psycho Killer" is a song written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band The Artistics in 1974,[3] and as new wave band Talking Heads in 1975,[4] with a later version recorded for their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77. "I'm glad," remarked Jerry Harrison in the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, "we persuaded Tony and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn't be the only one."

The band's "signature debut hit"[5] features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad,[6] "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."[1]

"Psycho Killer" was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It reached number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at number 11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977. The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[7]

Lyrics[edit]

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. In the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, Byrne says:

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.

The bridge lyrics are in French, as is the prominent chorus line "Qu'est-ce que c'est ?" ("What is this/it?"). The bridge lyrics are:

Lyrics in French Translation

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

Later releases[edit]

Talking Heads performed the song on the BBC2 television show The Old Grey Whistle Test on January 31, 1978. The performance was later released on a DVD compilation of performances from the show.[8]

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",[1] playing an acoustic version of "Psycho Killer", backed only by a Roland TR-808 drum machine whose sound appears to be issuing from a boombox.

The song also appears on their 1992 compilation album Sand in the Vaseline: Popular Favorites and over a decade later on another compilation album, The Best of Talking Heads.

Charts[edit]

Legacy[edit]

The song has been recorded in cover versions by many bands including Julie Christensen,[15] Velvet Revolver,[16] James Hall,[17] Cage the Elephant,[18] Phish,[19] Antiseen,[20] Richard Thompson,[16] Xenia Rubinos,[21] The Bobs,[22] Moxy Früvous,[23] Rico[24] and Victoria Vox.[25]

There is also a version in Polish ("Psychobójca") by Mariusz Lubomski.[26] 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.[27]

Massachusetts-based band The Fools parodied the song and entitled it "Psycho Chicken"; it was included as a bonus record with their major-label debut album Sold Out in 1980.[28]

Rapper Ice-T says that "Psycho Killer" was a starting influence for Body Count's controversial hit "Cop Killer".[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Janovitz, Bill. "Psycho Killer – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ Leicht, Angelica (January 1, 2015). "10 '70s Songs That Will Give You Your Groove Back". Houston Press. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  3. ^ Buckley, Peter (2003). Rough Guides, ed. The Rough Guide to Rock. p. 1052. ISBN 978-1-85828-457-6. called The Artistic ... Byrne original, most notably "Psycho Killer" 
  4. ^ Flynn, Clare (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 
  5. ^ Jones, Chris (2003). "Talking Heads – Talking Heads 77 Review". BBC Music. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "David Byrne talking about 'Psycho Killer'". SoundCloud. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  8. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003. 
  9. ^ "Ultratop.be – Talking Heads – Psycho Killer" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Radio 2 Top 30 : 29 april 1978" (in Dutch). Top 30. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Talking Heads - Psycho Killer search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  12. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Talking Heads – Psycho Killer" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  13. ^ "Talking Heads Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Talking Heads. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  14. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 17/10/2009". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Julie Christensen – Where the Fireworks". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Rare Performances: Talking Heads Live in 2002". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. August 29, 2012. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  17. ^ Liles, Jeff (January 24, 2002). "James Hall and Pleasure Club". Dallas Observer. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  18. ^ Heaney, Gregory. "Cage the Elephant – Live from the Vic in Chicago". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  19. ^ Schneider, Eric. "Phish – Live Phish: 12.07.97 Ervin J. Nutter Center, Dayton, Oh". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  20. ^ "ANTiSEEN – 15 Minutes of Fame, 15 Years of Infamy". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  21. ^ Modell, Josh (May 28, 2013). "Xenia Rubinos covers Talking Heads". The A.V. Club. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  22. ^ "The Bobs On Mountain Stage". NPR. December 6, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  23. ^ Robinson, Matthew. "Moxy Früvous – Live Noise". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  24. ^ Downie, Alec (August 12, 2009). "Take Me Out – Alec Downie's Top 20 Scottish Cover Versions (20-11)". Dear Scotland. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  25. ^ deNobel, Jacob (April 15, 2015). "Ukulele player, 'mouth trumpeter' Victoria Vox coming to Carroll Arts Center". Carroll County Times. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  26. ^ "Mariusz Lubomski – Lubomski W". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  27. ^ Gorini, Laura (January 7, 2010). "Marco Mengoni- Dove si vola (SonyMusic), l'ep di debutto della nuova stella della musica italiana". TC&C Srl (in Italian). Musicalnews.com. Retrieved February 20, 2011. 
  28. ^ Viglione, Joe. "The Fools – Sold Out". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved April 27, 2015. 
  29. ^ Ice-T; Century, Douglas (2011). Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood. One World. pp. 141–149. ISBN 978-0-345-52330-3. 

External links[edit]