Talking Heads: 77

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Talking Heads: 77
A red cover with "TALKING HEADS: 77" written at the top in green
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 16, 1977 (1977-09-16)
RecordedLate 1976 – April, June 1977
StudioSundragon, New York City
Talking Heads chronology
Talking Heads: 77
More Songs About Buildings and Food
Singles from Talking Heads 77
  1. "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town"
    Released: 1977
  2. "Psycho Killer"
    Released: December 1977
  3. "Pulled Up"
    Released: 1978

Talking Heads: 77 is the debut studio album by American rock band Talking Heads. It was recorded in April 1977 at New York's Sundragon Studios and released on September 16 of that year by Sire Records. The single "Psycho Killer" reached number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Labels and demos[edit]

From the group's earliest days as a trio in 1975, Talking Heads were approached by several record labels for a potential album deal. The first person to approach the band was Mark Spector for Columbia Records, who saw Talking Heads perform at CBGB and invited them to record a demo album. Next would come Mathew Kaufman for Beserkley Records. Kaufman brought the trio to K&K Studios in Great Neck, Long Island, to record a three-song, 16-track demo tape containing "Artists Only", "Psycho Killer" and "First Week, Last Week". Kaufman was pleased with the results, but the band felt that they would need to improve drastically before re-entering a recording studio. The group also sent the Columbia demo to Arista Records, but when drummer Chris Frantz called Bob Feilden about it a few weeks later, he claimed the tape was lost.

In November 1975, Seymour Stein, a representative of Sire Records, had heard Talking Heads open for the Ramones. He liked the song "Love → Building on Fire", and the next day, offered a record deal, but the group was still unsure about their studio abilities, and wanted a second guitarist as well as a keyboard player to help improve their sound. They agreed to let him know when they felt more confident.[5]

A month later, Lou Reed, who had seen a few Talking Heads shows at CBGB, invited the trio to his New York apartment, where he began to critique the group's act, telling them to slow down "Tentative Decisions",[6] which had originally been fast and bass-heavy.[7] Reed also suggested to David Byrne that he never wear short sleeves on stage, in order to hide his hairy arms. Over breakfast at a local restaurant, Reed expressed a desire to produce the group's first album and wanted to introduce them to his manager, Jonny Podell. That same day Podell called the trio to meet at his office, where he immediately offered them a recording contract.

To assist with the contracting, the group sought out assistance from lawyer Peter Parcher, a friend of Frantz's father. The next day, the trio visited Parcher's office, where Parcher asked his partner Alan Shulman to look over the contract. Shulman told the group not to sign the deal, or else Reed and Podell would own full rights to the album and collect all profit. Talking Heads declined the deal, but maintained a respectful relationship with Reed.[6]

Around August 1976, Chris Frantz was given the number of Jerry Harrison by former Modern Lovers bass player Ernie Brooks. Brooks assured Frantz that Harrison was not only a great keyboard player, but was a great guitarist too, two things the band were seeking out. When Frantz called Harrison, he was still feeling burnt out from the demise of the original Modern Lovers and had just enrolled at a Harvard Graduate School, and was unsure about joining a new band. But after discovering that several labels were interested in signing the group, he agreed to hear them play live. Frantz booked a concert local to Harrison in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When the group began to perform, they found Harrison nowhere in sight, but eventually saw him mid-set, seriously observing the band, and appearing displeased. After the show, Frantz asked Harrison what he had thought. Harrison did not answer until the next day, saying he was not impressed by the show, but was intrigued. He said he would like to jam in New York but stipulated that he would not officially join until they had secured a recording deal.[8]

During late September the group began to consider Sire Records again, and asked advice from Danny Fields, the Ramones' manager. Fields praised Sire despite them having the normal flaws of a record label. On November 1 the trio met with Seymour Stein again at Shulman's office, and signed a recording deal with Sire, with an advance allowing the trio to make music their full-time career.[9]


Sessions started at Sundragon Recording Studios in late 1976, where the group recorded the track "New Feeling" and the single, "Love → Building on Fire". Jerry Harrison was not present at these sessions, as he had not yet been informed that the group had received a record deal. These sessions were produced by Tony Bongiovi and Tom Erdelyi.[10] After hearing of the recording session, Harrison was eager to join, and in January 1977, the trio went to his apartment in Ipswich to teach him their songs and play a few shows in the area.[11]

In April, sessions for the album proper began in earnest at Sundragon Studios, with the group finally a foursome. Tony Bongiovi and Lance Quinn acted as co-producers on these sessions, with Ed Stasium as engineer. Frantz claims that Stasium did most of the work on the album, while Bongiovi took phone calls, read magazines, or talked about airplanes. Bongiovi was dissatisfied with the group's performances, often asking for seven or eight takes of a song, even after the best take had already been recorded. The group felt that Bongiovi was condescending, and that he was trying to make them sound like a different band. He was also repeatedly rude to bassist Tina Weymouth[citation needed]. Stasium and Quinn were full of encouragement for the group.

The first song to have vocals recorded was "Psycho Killer". Allegedly, during recording of this track, Bongiovi went into the studio kitchen and gave Byrne a knife, telling him to get into character when singing. Byrne simply responded with "No, that's not going to work" and the band took a break. During the break Byrne confessed that he felt uncomfortable singing with Bongiovi watching, and asked Stasium to remove him. Stasium suggested evasion, recording when Bongiovi was not around, before he arrived, or after he left. Bongiovi allegedly never noticed they were doing this, being more concerned with the building of Power Station Studios.

The group wanted the album to "Convey a modern message about the importance of taking charge of your own life", whilst still being fun to listen to.

Within two weeks the basic tracks were down, but still needed overdubs. Sessions were halted when Ken Kushnick, Sire's European representative, offered them a chance to tour Europe with the Ramones in order to promote their "Love → Building on Fire" single.[12]

While on tour the group continued to develop their sound, and on May 14, performed at The Rock Garden in Covent Garden, London, where John Cale, Brian Eno and Chris Thomas saw them.[13] Linda Stein, the Ramones' co-manager brought Cale, Eno and Thomas backstage after the concert where they all shook hands. Thomas allegedly heard Cale say to Eno "They're mine, you bugger!" All members of Talking Heads already knew Cale fairly well, as he had produced Jerry Harrison in 1972 for The Modern Lovers (1976), and was a regular at CBGBs throughout the original trio's growth.

After the meeting they all went to The Speak Club to drink and discuss. Thomas declined the opportunity to replace Bongiovi as producer for the remaining album sessions.[14] When the group returned to the US on June 7, they booked a four-day recording session at ODO Studios in New York to record vocals and overdubs, as well as to mix the album. The album was finished.[15]

Release history[edit]

The album was released by Sire Records in the UK and US and Philips Records throughout continental Europe.

In 2005, it was remastered and re-released by Warner Music Group on their Warner Bros./Sire Records/Rhino Records labels in DualDisc format with five bonus tracks on the CD side (see track listing below). The DVD-Audio side includes both stereo and 5.1 surround high resolution (96 kHz/24bit) mixes, as well as a Dolby Digital version and videos of the band performing "Pulled Up" and "I Feel It in My Heart". 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.

The album was re-released on vinyl on April 18, 2009, for Record Store Day.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[18]
Christgau's Record GuideA−[19]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[20]
The Irish Times[21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[24]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[25]

Reviewing for The Village Voice in 1977, Robert Christgau said that while "a debut LP will often seem overrefined to habitues of a band's scene", the more he listened to the album the more he believed "the Heads set themselves the task of hurdling such limitations", and succeeded with 77:

Like Sparks, these are spoiled kids, but without the callowness or adolescent misogyny; like Yes, they are wimps, but without vagueness or cheap romanticism. Every tinkling harmony is righted with a screech, every self-help homily contextualized dramatically, so that in the end the record proves not only that the detachment of craft can coexist with a frightening intensity of feeling—something most artists know—but that the most inarticulate rage can be rationalized. Which means they're punks after all.[27]

Record World said of the lead single "Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town" that it;s "an r&b-based song with interesting steel drum work."[28]

Talking Heads: 77 was voted the year's seventh best album in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll.[29]

In 2003, the album was ranked No. 290 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time",[30] and 291 in a 2012 revised list.[31] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[32]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by David Byrne except "Psycho Killer", which he co-wrote with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth[33].

Side one
1."Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town"2:48
2."New Feeling"3:09
3."Tentative Decisions"3:04
4."Happy Day"3:55
5."Who Is It?"1:41
6."No Compassion"4:47
Total length:19:24
Side two
1."The Book I Read"4:06
2."Don't Worry About the Government"3:00
3."First Week/Last Week… Carefree"3:19
4."Psycho Killer"4:19
5."Pulled Up"4:29
Total length:19:13
2005 CD bonus tracks
12."Love → Building on Fire"3:00
13."I Wish You Wouldn't Say That"2:39
14."Psycho Killer" (Acoustic version)4:20
15."I Feel It in My Heart"3:15
16."Sugar on My Tongue"2:36


Adapted from the album's liner notes.[33]

Talking Heads

Additional musicians



Sales chart performance for Talking Heads: 77
Chart Year Position
UK Albums 1978 60[36]
US Billboard 200 1978 97[37]
Sales chart performance for Talking Heads: 77
Single Chart Year Position
"Psycho Killer" 1978 US Billboard Hot 100 92[38]


  1. ^ Aaron, Charles (August 2004). "New Wave". Spin. Vol. 20, no. 8. New York. p. 104. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ Whatley, Jack. "'Talking Heads 77', the album that made punk look silly". Far Out Magazine. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  3. ^ Staff. "Talking Heads". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  4. ^ Gittins, Ian (September 1, 2004). Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime, The Stories Behind Every Song. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 39. ISBN 0-634-08033-4. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  5. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 94–96.
  6. ^ a b Frantz 2002, pp. 106–109.
  7. ^ Void, The (September 15, 2011). "Talking Heads - Tentative Decisions (1975 CBS Demos)". YouTube.
  8. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 116–118.
  9. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 125–126.
  10. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 127–128.
  11. ^ Frantz 2002, p. 130.
  12. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 133–135.
  13. ^ "Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK".
  14. ^ Frantz 2002, pp. 158–161.
  15. ^ Frantz 2002, p. 1981.
  16. ^ "Record Store Day releases". Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  17. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "Talking Heads 77 – Talking Heads". AllMusic. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  18. ^ Kot, Greg (May 6, 1990). "Talking Heads On The Record". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor and Fields. ISBN 0-89919-026-X. Retrieved March 14, 2019 – via
  20. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). "Talking Heads". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  21. ^ Courtney, Kevin (January 13, 2006). "Talking Heads: 77/More Songs About Buildings and Food/Fear of Music/Remain in Light (WEA)". The Irish Times. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
  22. ^ Uhelszki, Jaan (March 2006). "Talking Heads: Talking Heads: 77". Mojo. No. 148. p. 116.
  23. ^ Cush, Andy (April 23, 2020). "Talking Heads: Talking Heads 77". Pitchfork. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  24. ^ Sheffield, Rob (2004). "Talking Heads". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 802–03. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  25. ^ Salamon, Jeff (1995). "Talking Heads". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 394–95. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  26. ^ Shapiro, Peter (February 2006). "The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth". Uncut. No. 105. p. 82.
  27. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 31, 1977). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  28. ^ "Single Picks" (PDF). Record World. September 10, 1977. p. 14. Retrieved February 16, 2023.
  29. ^ "The 1977 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. January 23, 1978. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  30. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Talking Heads: 77 – Talking Heads". Rolling Stone. November 18, 2003. Archived from the original on December 20, 2010. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  31. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. May 31, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  32. ^ Shade, Chris (2006). "Talking Heads: Talking Heads: 77". In Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe Publishing. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-7893-1371-3.
  33. ^ a b Talking Heads: 77 liner notes
  34. ^ Hermes, W, 2011. Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever. 1st ed. U.S.A: Faber & Faber Ltd.
  35. ^ Diver, M, "Talking Heads Remain in Light Review". BBC. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
  36. ^ British Hit Singles & Albums, Edition 17, 2004 Guinness World Records Limited, p.548
  37. ^ "Talking Heads Chart History: Billboard 200". 2019. Archived from the original on October 6, 2019.
  38. ^ Billboard chart history. Retrieved 2012-06-22.

External links[edit]