Talking Heads – Heaven (Fear Of Music)

18th March 2023 · Uncategorised

Looking back at the landmark albums released in 1979, it’s hard not to conclude that it was the best year for music. One of them was Fear Of Music by Talking Heads.

I love every track but I think this is my favourite. It’s the sense of space: Tina Weymouth’s slippery bass anchoring the sound and David Byrne’s ethereal vocal floating over the rhythm.

The words are typically enigmatic. Has there ever been a better description of heaven than this: “A place… where nothing ever happens”?

A place where “It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all could be so exciting – could be so much fun.” There’s a bar, a party, and a kiss that, as soon as it’s over, will start again – “and be exactly the same.”

I’d seen Talking Heads several times by the time their third album came out; I’d even gone to an aftershow party where I got each of them to sign the inner sleeve of their debut album ’77.

I confess I was mildly disappointed by their follow-up, More Songs About Building And Food, but Fear Of Music took them to another place. A higher place. A heavenly place.

There are a couple of jazzed-up cover versions that are worth catching up on: the first by veteran singer Jimmy Scott, from 1996, with some wonderful jazz piano. The second is a surprisingly sensitive lounge-jazz take on it by Eric Burdon from his 2004 album My Secret Life.

There’s also a beautiful soul arrangement sung by Q Lazzarus (best known for Goodbye Horses in The Silence Of The Lambs) from the film Philadelphia in 1993.

Plus a more faithful version by Joachim Witt, translated into his native German, translated as Der Weg In Die Ferne (which I think means ‘The Way Into The Distance’, though Annette Becker can confirm).

The less said about Simply Red’s plodding attempt on their 1985 album Picture Book the better.

There’s also a superb stripped-back version by Byrne and Weymouth alone in the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense. But it’s hard – nay, impossible – to improve on the original Talking Heads album version, with Brian Eno helping out on production.