When it comes to subject material covered by Talking Heads, very few traditional themes come to the fore. There are the songs that are exactly what their titles claim they’re about, like ‘Paper’, ‘Drugs’, ‘Cities’, and ‘The Book I Read’. There are also tracks about psycho killers, identity crises, Heaven, 1980s excess, moon rocks, and radio heads. If you were to put money on it, the last thing you’d expect David Byrne to write about was love.
But that wasn’t actually true, no matter how reticent Byrne might have appeared on the subject. In fact, the very first song on the very first Talking Heads album, Talking Heads: 77, is ‘Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town’, an atypical but still cleverly crafted love song. It could be argued that a number of songs from the band, including ‘Pulled Up’, ‘Thank You For Sending Me an Angel’, and ‘Girlfriend is Better’ are all love songs, albeit in a non-standard fashion.
But even Byrne had to admit that the 1983 track ‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’ couldn’t be interpreted as anything but a genuine love song. “That’s a love song made up almost completely of non-sequiturs, phrases that may have a strong emotional resonance but don’t have any narrative qualities,” Bryne explained during the self-interview bonus feature on the Stop Making Sense concert film.
“It’s a real honest kind of love song,” Byrne continues. “I don’t think I’ve ever done a real love song before. Mine always had a sort of reservation, or a twist. I tried to write one that wasn’t corny, that didn’t sound stupid or lame the way many do. I think I succeeded; I was pretty happy with that.”
Whereas Byrne had previously adopted cut-up lyrical compositions in order to avoid straightforward interpretations of his songs, ‘This Must Be the Place’ is a wonderful but of counterprogramming, letting the robotic and stiff Byrne appear vulnerable and nurturing for the first time. While he was clearly still more infatuated with staying outside the realm of the traditional love song, Byrne proved that he could write them when inspiration struck.
Check out the video for ‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’ down below.