Speaking in Tongues (Talking Heads album)

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Speaking in Tongues
Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues.jpg
Studio album by Talking Heads
ReleasedJune 1, 1983
RecordedJuly 1982–February 1983
StudioBlank Tape Studios[1] in NYC;
additional recording & mixing at
Compass Point Studios in Nassau
Sigma Sound Studios in Manhattan
Length40:50 LP
47:14 Cassette/CD
ProducerTalking Heads
Talking Heads chronology
The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Speaking in Tongues
Stop Making Sense
Singles from Speaking in Tongues

Speaking in Tongues is the fifth studio album by American band Talking Heads, released on June 1, 1983. Following the band's split with producer Brian Eno and a short hiatus, which allowed the individual members to pursue side projects, recording began in 1982. It became the band's commercial breakthrough and 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 1984 film Stop Making Sense, which generated a live album of the same name. (The concert film and live album's title was taken from the repeated phrase "Stop making sense!" in the song "Girlfriend Is Better".) The album also crossed over to the dance charts where it peaked at number two for six weeks.[4] It is the group's highest-charting album on the American Billboard 200.


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 later 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 with 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]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[6]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone4.5/5 stars[3]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[9]
Smash Hits9/10[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide7/10[11]
The Village VoiceA−[12]

Rolling Stone's David Fricke lauded the album's crossover nature, calling it "the album that finally obliterates the thin line separating arty white pop music and deep black funk." He elaborated that the songs are all true art rock, with the complexity and sophistication of the genre, yet avoid art rock's characteristic pretensions with a laid-back attitude and compelling dance rhythms, making it an ideal party album.[3]

In 1989 the album was ranked number 54 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "100 best albums of the 1980s".[13] In 2012 Slant Magazine listed the album at number 89 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[14]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth.

Side one
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
7."Moon Rocks"5:03
8."Pull Up the Roots"5:08
9."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
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]

10."Two Note Swivel (unfinished outtake)"5:51
11."Burning Down the House (alternate version)"5:09


Speaking in Tongues limited edition cover designed by Robert Rauschenberg

Talking Heads[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Wally Badarou – synthesizer on "Burning Down The House", "Swamp" and "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
  • Raphael DeJesus – percussion on "Slippery People", "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" and "Pull Up the Roots"
  • Nona Hendryx – backing vocals on "Slippery People"
  • Richard Landry – saxophone on "Slippery People"
  • Dolette McDonald – backing vocals on "Slippery People"
  • Steve Scales – percussion on "Burning Down The House" and "Moon Rocks"
  • L. Shankar – double violin on "Making Flippy Floppy"
  • David Van Tieghem – percussion on "I Get Wild/Wild Gravity" and "This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)"
  • Alex Weir – guitar on "Making Flippy Floppy", "Swamp", "Moon Rocks" and "Pull Up the Roots"
  • Bernie Worrell – synthesizer on "Girlfriend is Better"


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


Weekly charts[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

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[15] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[16] none 150,100 [17]*
United States (RIAA)[18] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ Discogs - Blank Tape Studios - profile and discography
  2. ^ a b Tiny Mix Tapes http://www.tinymixtapes.com/delorean/talking-heads-–-speaking-tongues. Retrieved 6 December 2016. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ a b c Fricke, David (June 9, 1983). "Talking Heads' Arty Party". Rolling Stone (397): 53–54. Retrieved February 4, 2016. Note: The online version of the review retains most of the text of the original print edition, but omits the title.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974–2003. Record Research. p. 253.
  5. ^ YouTube - David Byrne on Late Night with David Letterman (1983)
  6. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Speaking in Tongues – Talking Heads". AllMusic. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  7. ^ Kot, Greg (May 6, 1990). "Talking Heads On The Record". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  8. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  9. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Talking Heads". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 802–03. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  10. ^ Steels, Mark (23 June – 6 July 1983). "Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues (Sire)". Smash Hits: 13.
  11. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. p. 394. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (September 27, 1983). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved February 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "100 Best Albums of the Eighties". Rolling Stone. November 16, 1989.
  14. ^ http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/feature/best-albums-of-the-1980s/308/page_2
  15. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Talking Heads – Speaking in tongues". Music Canada.
  16. ^ "French album certifications – Talkinge Heads – Speaking in tongue" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  17. ^ http://www.infodisc.fr/Ventes_Albums_Tout_Temps.php?debut=3050
  18. ^ "American album certifications – Talking Heads – Speaking in tongue". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.