Speaking in Tongues (Talking Heads album)

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Speaking in Tongues
Studio album by Talking Heads
Released May 31, 1983
Recorded Blank Tapes, NY
Compass Point Studios
Sigma Sound
July 1982–February 1983
Genre New wave, funk, synthpop
Length 40:50 LP
47:14 Cassette/CD
Label Sire
Producer Talking Heads
Talking Heads chronology
The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Speaking in Tongues
Stop Making Sense
Singles from Speaking in Tongues
  1. "Burning Down the House"
    Released: 1983
  2. "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
    Released: 1983
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau A−[2]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[3]

Speaking in Tongues is the fifth studio album by the band Talking Heads, released in 1983. The album was a commercial breakthrough that produced the band's first (and only) American Top 10 hit, "Burning Down the House", which was accompanied by a promotional video.

The album's tour was documented in Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense, which generated a live album of the same name. (The concert film and live album's title comes from the repeated phrase "Stop making sense!" during the song "Girlfriend Is Better".) In addition, the album crossed over to the dance charts, peaking at number two for six weeks.[4]

Album Cover[edit]

David Byrne designed the cover for the general release of the album. Artist Robert Rauschenberg won a Grammy Award for his work on the limited-edition LP version. This album featured a clear vinyl disc in clear plastic packaging along with three clear plastic discs printed with similar collages in three different colors.


Original cassette and CD copies of the album have "extended versions" of "Making Flippy Floppy", "Girlfriend Is Better", "Slippery People", "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" and "Moon Rocks". The album was re-released in February 2006 as a remastered DualDisc. It contains the extended versions of the songs found on the original cassette, and includes two additional tracks ("Two Note Swivel" and an alternate mix of "Burning Down the House"). The DVD-A side includes both stereo and 5.1 surround high resolution (96 kHz/24bit) mixes, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 version of the album, a new alternate version of "Burning Down the House" with the emphasis on experimenting the possibilities of surround sound, and videos for "Burning Down the House" and "This Must Be the Place" (videos are two channel Dolby Digital only). In Europe, it was released as a CD+DVDA two disc set rather than a single DualDisc. The reissue was produced by Andy Zax with Talking Heads.

Byrne has said, as a partial explanation of the album's title, "I originally sang nonsense, and uh, made words to fit that. That worked out all right." [5]

Critical Reception[edit]

In 1989, the album was ranked #54 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 best albums of the 1980s".[6] In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at #89 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s". [7]

Original LP version[edit]

All lyrics written by David Byrne, all music composed by Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Burning Down the House" – 4:01
  2. "Making Flippy Floppy" – 4:34
  3. "Girlfriend Is Better" – 4:22
  4. "Slippery People" – 3:31
  5. "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" – 4:07

Side two[edit]

  1. "Swamp" – 5:12
  2. "Moon Rocks" – 5:03
  3. "Pull Up the Roots" – 5:08
  4. "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" – 4:53

Cassette/CD versions[edit]

  1. "Burning Down the House" – 4:01
  2. "Making Flippy Floppy (extended version)" – 5:54
  3. "Girlfriend Is Better (extended version)" – 5:44
  4. "Slippery People (extended version)" – 5:05
  5. "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity (extended version)" – 5:15
  6. "Swamp" – 5:12
  7. "Moon Rocks (extended version)" – 5:44
  8. "Pull Up the Roots" – 5:08
  9. "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" – 4:53

2006 DualDisc reissue bonus tracks[edit]

  1. "Two Note Swivel (unfinished outtake)" – 5:51
  2. "Burning Down the House (alternate version)" – 5:09


Speaking in Tongues limited edition cover designed by Robert Rauschenberg

Talking Heads[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

Recording personnel[edit]

  • John Convertino – assistant engineer
  • Franklin Gibson – assistant overdubbing engineers, mixing
  • Ted Jensenmastering
  • Butch Jones – engineer
  • Jay Mark – assistant overdubbing engineers, mixing
  • Alex Sadkinoverdubbing engineer, mixing
  • Brian Kehew – 2006 Dual Disc bonus mixes

Chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Position
1983 Billboard 200 15
Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 58
Billboard Club Play Singles (All LP Cuts) 2
UK Albums 21
Year Song Peak
1983 "Burning Down the House" 9
"This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" 62 51