Phil & Mel In The Afternoon

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402530 01: Members of the group Talking Heads attend the 17th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony March 18, 2002 in New York City. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)

When I think of Talking Heads or hear one of their songs, the first words that come to mind are “cutting edge.” Even today, their music sounds like it’s ahead of the curve.

Talking Heads were formed in 1975 in New York City by former art school students David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), and Tina Weymouth (bass). Keyboardist and guitarist Jerry Harrison joined in 1977. The group helped to pioneer new wave music with an eclectic blend of punk, art rock, funk, and world music, but made it accessible for radio and MTV.

Amid increased tension over creative control, as well as some personal acrimony, Talking Heads disbanded in 1991. They reunited for one last performance at their 2002 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Just like their songs, Talking Heads’ videos were some of the most innovative of their time. All three of the videos below were either directed or co-directed by lead singer David Byrne.

  • Once in a Lifetime (1981)

    The now-iconic video for “Once in a Lifetime” aired on MTV’s very first day: August 1, 1981. It was co-directed and choreographed by Toni Basil (“Mickey”). She and David Byrne studied religious rituals from around the world, including footage of evangelists, African tribes, Japanese sects and people in trances, for Byrne to incorporate into his performance. Basil told Uncut magazine the the low-budget video was “about as low-tech as you could get and still be broadcastable.”

  • Burning Down the House (1983)

    “Burning Down the House” was Talking Heads’ highest-charting hit single in North America, and their only top ten single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No.‚ÄČ9. The video alternates between footage of the band performing in an empty ballroom, Byrne playing while facing a projection screen that displays a concert crowd or a wall of flames, and images projected on the outside wall of a house.

  • Wild Wild Life (1986)

    The video for “Wild Wild Life” was taken from David Byrne’s feature-length film, True Stories, with some other content added. Band member Jerry Harrison parodied Billy Idol, Ralph Macchio’s Karate Kid character, and Prince. The rest of the band also appears in various costumes. Actor John Goodman appeared in both the film and video. The latter won “Best Group Video” at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1987.