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 New wave,[1] funk[1]
Length 4:19
Label Sire
Writer(s) David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth
Producer(s) Tony Bongiovi, Lance Quinn
Talking Heads singles chronology
"Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town"
(1977)
"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,[2] and as new wave band Talking Heads in 1975,[3] 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"[4] features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad,[5] "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 placed 32nd on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at #11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977.

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]

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 boom box.

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]

Influence, and other versions[edit]

The song has been recorded in cover versions by many bands including Brand New, The Features, Julie Christensen,[12] Velvet Revolver,[13] Bushwalla, James Hall,[14] Rab Noakes, Cranial Screwtop, Cage the Elephant,[15] Local H, Barenaked Ladies (on Buck Naked), Phish,[16] Jason Isbell, Antiseen,[17] Richard Thompson,[18] Faker, Xenia Rubinos,[19] Moxy Früvous,[20] Terrorvision,[21] Rico,[22] The Faint, Bishop Allen, The Kransky Sisters, Victoria Vox,[23] and Two Sheds.[24] 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 also a version in Polish ("Psychobójca") by Mariusz Lubomski.[25]

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.[26]

Rapper Ice-T says that "Psycho Killer" was a starting influence for Body Count's controversial hit "Cop Killer".[27]

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 a cover of this song. In Greece , the new wave duo "Psycho" covered "Psycho Killer" on their 1982 debut album Montage Fatal.

There is reference to the song in the Flight of the Conchords episode 'Mugged' in which the main characters, Brett and Jemaine, are confronted by a pair of New York thugs - one of which is described by the other as being "a psycho killer, qu'est-ce que c'est?".

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d 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."
  2. ^ 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"" 
  3. ^ 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" 
  4. ^ Chris Jones (2003). "Talking Heads - Talking Heads 77 Review". BBC. BBC.co.uk. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ "David Byrne talking about 'Psycho Killer'". SoundCloud. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Ultratop.be – Talking Heads – Psycho Killer" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  7. ^ "Psycho Killer - TALKING HEADS". VRT (in Dutch). Top30-2.radio2.be. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Talking Heads - Psycho Killer search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  9. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Talking Heads – Psycho Killer" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Talking Heads Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Talking Heads. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  11. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 17 October 2009". Ultratop 50. Hung Medien. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Where the Fireworks Are review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Melody and the Tyranny EP review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  14. ^ Jason Ankeny. "Psycho [1998] review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  15. ^ Gregory Heaney. "Live from the Vic in Chicago review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  16. ^ Eric Schneider. "Live Phish: 12.07.97 Ervin J. Nutter Center, Dayton, Oh review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  17. ^ "15 Minutes of Fame, 15 Years of Infamy review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  18. ^ "An Acoustic Evening review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  19. ^ Josh Modell (May 28, 2013). "Xenia Rubinos covers Talking Heads". Avclub.com. Onion Inc. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  20. ^ Matthew Robinson. "Live Noise review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  21. ^ Jason Damas. "Formaldehyde review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Violent Silences review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Her Jumping Flea review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Give Listen Help: The Art of Elysium review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Lubomski W Trojce review at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 15, 2014. 
  26. ^ Laura Gorini (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. 
  27. ^ Ice-T, Douglas Century (2011). One World/Ballantine, ed. Ice: A Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption-from South Central to Hollywood. pp. 141–149. ISBN 978-0-345-52330-3. 

External links[edit]