Talking Heads Chronology: live performances 1976-1983

Talking Heads Chronology is a $21 DVD that chronicles footage of the band from every stage of its life to 1983, including rare footage of their performances at CBGBs in the early days of their act. Talking Heads is, of course, the band that put out the greatest concert movie of all time, along with one of the great concert albums of the 20th century, which is to say, they are the kind of band that you want to see concert footage from.

David Byrne writes,

This was very much a live band—at least until the late 80s. The initial recordings emerged out of what we played live, what worked in that context and how we refined our skills playing together. For a lot of musicians in the digital era this is not always the case. These days, the record often comes first and then how it is staged comes later. The Lester Bangs essay is also very much part of this time. Other than some very specific references, it holds up amazingly well as a passionate and idiosyncratic piece of writing. There’s a reason a lot of writers continue to hold him up as a role model (though I hope they bypass some of the substance abuse). Though his piece is in the form of a record review, it is in truth a beautiful existential rant—and I am proud to be in some way associated with it. Come to think of it, maybe many of these songs are partly something else in disguise as well?

With each iteration of Chronology, you can pretty plainly see what came before as well as a hint of what was to come—all easy to spot in retrospect, of course. There are some fashion don’ts as well as some prescient looks—but what you really get is a sense of how tight this band was. Of course, there is more footage to be found from these sources but I thought to myself, “How many versions of the same songs can one view?” I think the sampler approach gives the viewer a sense of the musical and performative changes we were going through, but without the possibly tedious repetition.

Talking Heads Chronology


  1. “Are you having a laugh?” I was a huge Talking Heads fan back in the day, and I’m still pretty disappointed by Stop Making Sense, and, well, everything since the Speaking In Tongues album (the lack of any Brian Eno input might have something to do with that)–there’s so many concert films way better than that one, even within the specific genre, I don’t know where to start–but here’s one that’s unassailable: the concert film of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, the final performance where he, in essence, commits rock & roll suicide at the end. One could also mention any number of other great ones involving say The Who, Hendrix, King Crimson, or compilations like Decline Of Western Civilization (both), or nearly any Jazz concert film. That said, I do look forward to seeing this piece, as every bit of concert footage (other than Stop Making Sense) I’ve seen of the Talking Heads from this period *is* outstanding–both in terms of the dynamism of the performances, and the musical content.

  2. The Name of This Band was one of my very first vinyl purchases, and  still ranks among the most worn out of my collection.

    …not that you can wear out a flac or mp3 as easily, but y’know…

  3. Another big ‘Heads fan from the very beginning right up to the present day; I have the most recent Byrne/Eno album, which while enjoyable was a bit of a disappointment after the wonderful ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’. I was lucky enough to see Talking Heads at the beginning, on the British tour for ’77, and seeing concert footage from right through their career is something I’m really looking forward to watching. I actually really like ‘Stop Making Sense’; I have never seen or even heard of concert footage of King Crimson to draw a comparison.

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