Talking Heads are one of those bands that inspire adoration. A unique prospect, the group created sounds and sights that were in keeping with the punk ethos they had been brought up in but flecked with the sincerity of David Byrne’s originality. While the group triumphed with their debut album Talking Heads: 77 and the follow-up More Songs About Buildings and Food, it was on the stage, not the recording studio, which saw the band genuinely flex their creative muscles.
Though the band have had many notable appearances under the spotlight, perhaps providing the definitive vision of what a true concert film is with Stop Making Sense, it’s one of their lesser-known shows that we’re revisiting today. The rarely seen footage below sees Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison take the stage at the Capitol Theater to deliver a spellbinding rendition of ‘Life During Wartime’.
The lead single from their sophomore album is now more widely seen as the moment Byrne became the ultimate indie soothsayer, with a ream of lyrics that seemed to predict the future we find ourselves. He told NME back in 1979: “There will be chronic food shortages and gas shortages, and people will live in hovels.
“Paradoxically,” Byrne continued, “They’ll be surrounded by computers the size of wristwatches. Calculators will be cheap. It’ll be as easy to hook up your computer with a central television bank as it is to get the week’s groceries. I think we’ll be cushioned by amazing technological development and sitting on Salvation Army furniture. Everything else will be crumbling. Government surveillance becomes inevitable because there’s this dilemma when you have an increase in information storage. A lot of it is for your convenience – but as more information gets on file, it’s bound to be misused.”
Aside from that chilling reminder of our current social peril, the track is actually one of the band’s more purely dance-orientated songs. Tina Weymouth once said: “We call ourselves Thinking Man’s Dance Music,” and it’s hard not to find this assertion most potently present in ‘Life During Wartime’. Despite its ultimately gloomy vision, it’s a track that demands your eyes to the stage and your feet to the dancefloor.
That’s precisely what happened when the band took to the Capitol Theater back in 1980. The clip highlights not only the ludicrous talent of the band, but also the sheer audacity they had to produce and deliver such mercurial work. It’s a venue that has seen some of the greatest rock and roll acts grace its stage, and Talking Heads are certainly one of the best.
Recorded on the day Ronald Reagan was elected as President of the United States, it is a poignant moment in musical history that should never be forgotten—and has two bloody bass players slaying and one of the most fearsome guitar solos the group ever produced.
It’s a triumph of the band’s bubbling creativity and sees their alt-pop credentials to the test. A test they pass with flying colours on ‘Life During Wartime’.