Life During Wartime (song)

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"Life During Wartime"
Life During Wartime Talking Heads.jpg
UK vinyl single
Single by Talking Heads
from the album Fear of Music and The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
B-side"Electric Guitar (1979)"
ReleasedSeptember 1979, 1982 (live)
Format7", 12"
GenreNew wave, punk/funk
5:52 (live)
Songwriter(s)David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
Producer(s)Brian Eno, Talking Heads
Gary Goetzman (live)
Talking Heads singles chronology
"Take Me to the River"
"Life During Wartime"
"I Zimbra"

"Houses in Motion" (alternate mix)

"Life During Wartime" (Live)

Burning Down the House
Alternative release
US vinyl single
US vinyl single

"Life During Wartime" is a song by the American new wave band Talking Heads, released as the first single from their 1979 album Fear of Music.[1] It peaked at #80 on the US Billboard Pop Singles Chart.

The song is also performed in the 1984 film Stop Making Sense, which depicts a Talking Heads concert. The performance featured in the film prominently features aerobic exercising and jogging by David Byrne and background singers. The Stop Making Sense live version of the track is featured in the film's accompanying soundtrack album. Its official title as a single, "Life During Wartime (This Ain't No Party... This Ain't No Disco... This Ain't No Foolin' Around)", makes it one of the longest-titled singles.[2]

The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[3]


In David Bowman's book This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century Byrne is quoted as describing the genesis of the song:

David wrote nine of the album's eleven tracks. Two numbers came out of jamming. The first would be called "Life During Wartime." David's lyrics describe a Walker Percy-ish post-apocalyptic landscape where a revolutionary hides out in a deserted cemetery, surviving on peanut butter. "I wrote this in my loft on Seventh and Avenue A," David later said, "I was thinking about Baader-Meinhof. Patty Hearst. Tompkins Square. This a song about living in Alphabet City."[4]

AllMusic's Bill Janowitz reviewed the song, calling attention to its nearness to funk, saying that it is a "sort of apocalyptic punk/funk merge" comparable to Prince's later hit single "1999".[5] In 2012, The New Yorker described "Life During Wartime" as, "an apocalyptic swamp-funk transmission in four-four time," adding "[it] is the band’s pinnacle, and the song is still a hell of a thing to hear."[6]


The lyrics are told from the point of view of someone involved in clandestine activities in the U.S. (the cities Houston, Detroit, and Pittsburgh are mentioned) during some sort of civil unrest or dystopian environment.[5]

The line "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB" refers to two New York music venues at which the band performed in the 1970s.[5]

"The line 'This ain't no disco' sure stuck!" remarks Byrne in the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads. "Remember when they would build bonfires of Donna Summer records? Well, we liked some disco music! It's called 'dance music' now. Some of it was radical, camp, silly, transcendent and disposable. So it was funny that we were sometimes seen as the flag-bearers of the anti-disco movement."


Chart (1979) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[7] 80

Chart runs[edit]


Other versions[edit]

The Staple Singers covered this song on their eponymous 1985 album.[9]

The song was covered and is used at live shows by Welsh indie alternative band The Automatic.[10]


  1. ^ Bershaw, Alan Exclusive: Listen to a Talking Heads Concert from 1979 Paste Magazine. December 14, 2015
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1997). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 869. ISBN 0-89820-122-5.
  3. ^ Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. December 15, 2015
  4. ^ Bowman, David (2001). This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. p. 152. ISBN 0-380-97846-6.
  5. ^ a b c AllMusic - Life During Wartime
  6. ^ Verini, James The Talking Heads Song That Explains The Talking Heads New Yorker. December 15, 2015
  7. ^ "Talking Heads Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1997). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 603. ISBN 0-89820-122-5.
  9. ^ "The Staple Singers - The Staple Singers". Discogs. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  10. ^ Pete Wentz Clones Descend, Lily Allen Warbles as SXSW Gets Under Way December 15, 2015

External links[edit]