Talking Heads used to be my favourite band that ever lived during my teenage years, and while I don’t think that way anymore they still comfortably rank among my top 10.
More so than any other band I had listened to up until that point, their entire discography (or at least the first two thirds of it) was extremely consistent to the point where I enjoyed nearly every song – the first time that had happened for a band. I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite 50 – and I’ve even included my signature tiers just to make it easier to follow.
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These four tracks just missed out on being in my “Good” tier, but since they’ve made my Top 50 you can be sure they were damn close to reaching it.
50 – With Our Love
A solid song from their second album, “With Our Love” has some simple yet effective guitar work that keeps me hooked.
49 – Swamp
For some reason “Swamp” has never quite hooked me, but its appearance on “Stop Making Sense” certainly made me come around to it slightly more.
48 – Creatures of Love
I’m not a particularly big fan of Talking Heads’ last three studio albums, but “Creatures of Love” is one of the better songs from this era.
47 – Paper
Easily one of the weaker songs from “Fear Of Music”, but “Paper” still has all the Byrne eccentricities that I love.
46 – Love –> Building on Fire
The only song I know with a directional arrow in its title, “Love –> Building on Fire” was the song that got Talking Heads their first manager when he heard them play it.
It’s quite simple, and you can tell it’s very unproduced / borderline amateur, but it’s still fun.
45 – Seen and Not Seen
One of the funkiest rhythm sections in any Talking Heads song, “Seen and Not Seen” is one of their most slept-on tracks from their best album.
44 – Artists Only
Talking Heads’ original name was “The Artistics”, which people misinterpreted as “The Autistics”, so it’s nice that they’re referencing their roots.
I really like the electric organ, and the energy is thumping throughout.
43 – Stay up Late
Rarely has a Talking Heads been as silly as “Stay up Late”, and once you get get the weird lyrics it’s actually a pretty decent song.
42 – Stay Hungry
“Stay Hungry” has a brilliantly simple guitar intro that hooks you in, and if the lyrics were a bit more in depth the instrumental alone would have ranked it higher.
41 – Pulled Up
One of the band’s most uplifting songs (pun intended), “Pulled Up” has some of the most whimsical Byrne lyrics and vocals. It’s strange to me that it doesn’t even crack the top 40, but there’s some strong competition.
40 – Memories Can’t Wait
A nightmare-inducing descent into madness, “Memories Can’t Wait” has some exceptional production and vocal effects.
39 – I Get Wild / Wild Gravity
All of the songs from “Speaking in Tongues” are, at the very least, an intensely enjoyable piece of dance music, and “I Get Wild / Wild Gravity” is no exception.
The bass is great, and the choruses work really well with the zany synth parts.
38 – I’m Not In Love
“I’m Not In Love” sounds more like a song from their first album then their follow-up, mainly due to the frantic instrumentals after the choruses.
37 – A Clean Break (Let’s Work)
It feels like I’m breaking the rules a little bit by including a live song, but “A Clean Break (Let’s Work)” is their best song that never made an album.
The vocal part is insanely catchy, and Tina Weymouth’s bass in the instrumental section are fantastic.
36 – The Overload
The final song on “Remain in Light” took me a little while to warm to, but I love the Joy Division influences on “The Overload”.
It’s David Byrne at his most doom-mongering, and it’s the perfectly dreary way to end such an otherwise energetic album.
35 – Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
There isn’t really another song like “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” in Talking Heads’ discography. The opening track to their second album packs a hell of a punch, and I only wish it was longer.
34 – The Good Thing
“The Good Thing” starts of innocently enough with its bubbly guitar, bass and drums, but it’s the huge choruses that I love the most. On the whole, quite an underrated track.
33 – Making Flippy Floppy
Ignoring the ridiculous title, “Making Flippy Floppy” is a surprisingly catchy song, and one of the most memorable from “Speaking in Tongues”.
32 – Animals
While the political metaphor can feel a little forced, I love how visceral and aggressive “Animals” can be at times.
The outro where David Byrne just loses his mind ranting is one of my favourite moments on the whole album – part of me wishes he’d been this unhinged for the later albums as well.
31 – No Compassion
The second best song on their debut album, “No Compassion” has a good shout at being the band’s most underrated track of them all.
I love the switches between the slow and fast sections, and the guitar work can feel a little Avant-garde at times.
30 – Pull up the Roots
Boasting one of the weirdest synth sounds I’ve ever heard, “Pull up the Roots” wears its zaniness on its sleeve.
29 – Air
I never thought a song about plain, boring “Air” would be so engaging, and yet Byrne’s lyrics and the strange synths managed to keep me invested.
I would rank it in the “Great” tier, but it is just a song about the atmosphere.
28 – Moon Rocks
A super underrated song from Speaking in Tongues, “Moon Rocks” has all the Talking Heads / David Byrne weirdness that I could ever want.
If you haven’t heard this track, you should check it out.
27 – Girlfriend Is Better
A song immortalised by David Byrne’s huge shoulder suit in “Stop Making Sense”, “Girlfriend Is Better” was one of the first Talking Heads tracks I ever got into.
Byrne’s silly vocals and lyrics are what sell this track, and the cool synths sounds are an added bonus.
26 – Found a Job
“Found a Job” is one of the band’s early successes, and the journey it takes you on keeps you invested throughout.
Byrne’s vocals are as eccentric and furious as always, but its the extended instrumental outro that I always come back to.
25 – Houses in Motion
One of the funkiest songs Talking Heads ever did, “Houses in Motion” infuses all of the Afro-beat goodness that they were experimenting with on “Remain in Light”.
It’s one of the catchiest and most danceable songs in their entire discography, and Brian Eno’s production is fantastic.
24 – I Zimbra
I really hope this song sees a resurgence after its use in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” – I was as giddy as a school kid when it came on in the cinema!
“I Zimbra” is an insanely energetic way to start “Fear Of Music”, and it was a turning point in the band’s sound – you can even argue that it foreshadowed their magnum opus “Remain in Light” a year before that released.
23 – Warning Sign
One of the most underrated early Talking Heads songs, “Warning Sign” is a Chris Frantz-penned number that always gets me moving.
It has a completely different vibe to most of the other songs on the album, and the slick, melancholy choruses are some of my favourites.
22 – Totally Nude
I’m not the biggest fan of Talking Heads’ last album “Naked”, but some of the tracks on it are sensational.
“Totally Nude” is one of those tracks – a playful song with a funny set of lyrics and fantastic vocal performance.
21 – The Big Country
I never could quite understand why Talking Heads fans rated “The Big Country” so highly, but then it suddenly grew on me one day.
It’s a fantastic way to close off “More Songs About Buildings And Food”, and Byrne’s storytelling is some of his all-time best.
20 – Blind
One of the songs that got me into the band in the first place, “Blind” has some Latin swing that I can really get behind.
Even though their final album isn’t their best, the woodwind and big band arrangements on some of the tracks are steller.
19 – Cities
“Cities” is absolute insanity from start to finish, as Byrne just lists off all the random cities he can think of in the moment.
For how crazy the verses are, it all comes together in the memorable choruses that really hammer the point home.
18 – Crosseyed and Painless
The live version of this track during “Stop Making Sense” is one of my favourite live performances of all time, but I have to give the album version credit as well.
“Crosseyed and Painless” keeps the unbelievable energy of “Remain In Light” at a maximum, and the layered instrumentation is phenomenal.
17 – Wild Wild Life
One of the sillier songs within Talking Heads’ discography, but “Wild Wild Life” has always been a favourite of mine.
Sometimes simple is best, and the repetitive choruses and verses do a brilliant job of digging into your brain until you can think of nothing else for the rest of the day.
16 – (Nothing But) Flowers
I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song from the perspective of a man who wants to make the world less green, and that’s why “(Nothing But) Flowers” is so unique and interesting.
Fun fact – it’s actually Johnny Marr (guitarist of The Smiths) laying down that excellent guitar throughout.
15 – And She Was
A Talking Heads love song is about as rare as it gets, but “And She Was” is both endearing and energetic at the same time.
Other than some of the other love ballads in their discography, this one feels like it comes straight from the heart.
14 – Burning Down the House
Their biggest hit, “Burning Down the House” is the most infectiously catchy song from their most danceable album.
Byrne’s lyrics and vocals will stick with you long after you’ve listened to them, and the synth solos are unlike anything else you’ve heard.
13 – Sax and Violins
I’m not even sure if “Sax and Violins” made the final album or not, but regardless of whether it is or isn’t a bonus track it’s still the best song on “Naked”.
I really love the spacey synths and airy vocals, and the lyrics are some of my favourite from Byrne. The band’s final show-stopper.
12 – Mind
While the first song on the album “I Zimbra” clues you in that this album will be an experience like no other, the second song “Mind” tells you that it’ll be outright weird.
It’s the perfect evolution of the Talking Heads sound, and the frantic guitar and bass work wonders in catching you off-guard.
11 – Drugs
Talking Heads’ very own “Tomorrow Never Knows”, there aren’t many better closing tracks in music history than “Drugs”.
It’s Byrne and Eno at their most experimental and ambitious, and between them they managed to craft one of my favourite explorations of sound ever.
10 – Take Me to the River
I believe “Take Me to the River” was the first Talking Heads song to reach the top 40, and even by the end of their career it was one of their highest charting songs.
It’s a fantastic cover full of its own unique character and flair, and the energetic “Stop Making Sense” version made for a phenomenal penultimate song.
9 – Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
My favourite Talking Heads opening track, “Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)” starts “Remain in Light” with venom and eccentricity.
The African polyrhythms are on full display right out of the gate, and every instrumental part is exceptional. The fact there are two better songs after it on the album just goes to show how ridiculously good the record is.
8 – Slippery People
This is a rare case of the live version being even better than the album version, but that doesn’t mean the original “Slippery People” doesn’t bang.
Tina Weymouth’s bassline is one of the sexiest yet simple I’ve ever heard, and the gospel choruses make me want to shout them out loud every time.
7 – Road to Nowhere
Easily the Talking Heads song I hear most on the radios, there’s just something about “Road to Nowhere” that every generation can get behind.
The thumping drums get off to a marching rhythm straight away, and the lyrics and vocal melodies are catchy enough that everyone listening will inevitably sing along.
6 – Life During Wartime
Never has a wartime song sounded so groovy. “Life During Wartime” is a workout song like no other, and the disco rhythms and funky feel propel it onwards throughout its entire runtime.
Once again, I have to give major credit to the live version from “Stop Making Sense” for rivalling the original recording – Byrne goes absolutely bonkers, and it’s a joy to behold.
5 – The Great Curve
The most complex and layered song on any Talking Heads record, “The Great Curve” is a masterpiece in instrumentation and groove.
It’s the epiphany of everything the band were trying to accomplish on “Remain In Light”, and if it wasn’t for the song directly afterwards it would have easily been the best track on the album.
4 – Heaven
“Heaven” comes out of nowhere on “Fear Of Music” and doesn’t quite fit in – but that’s exactly what makes it stand out.
It’s a love song, but not quite as endearing as you’d expect. It’s an anthem, but not as anthemic as you’d think. It both lifts you up and gets under your skin, and I love it for that.
3 – This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)
A love song full of non-sequiturs and random ideas and lyrics, yet somehow “This Must Be the Place” ends up being the loveliest and most heart-warming Talking Heads song of them all.
It’s the simplest of melodies with the simplest of rhythm sections, but that makes it sound like the “Naïve Melody” it is. It’s like two young lovers falling for each other for the first time – and no other song in music history has ever conveyed that quite as well.
2 – Psycho Killer
One of my favourite basslines ever, and “Psycho Killer” (and Tina Weymouth in particular) was a big reason why I ended up picking up a bass guitar in the first place.
This was the second Talking Heads song I ever heard, and David Byrne’s frantic lyrics from the perspective of a deranged psycho killer were so off-beat that I knew this was the band for me. With just this one song, they cemented themselves as a tour de force on the New York scene.
1 – Once in a Lifetime
The first Talking Heads song I ever stumbled across, the best song on their best album, and I’d even say this is my favourite song of all time (with one of the best music videos too!).
“Once in a Lifetime” captures the African influences that the band were aiming for at the time, all while providing an insanely catchy melody with some of the best lyrics in music history. While not an instant hit, this song has stood the test of time – and will outlive all of us.
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