#33: Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime (1981)
From the pile of favoured records… a stack of sounds in this instance I could almost label as default. Not in any way to cheapen the overall effect, or to hack away at the narrative; rather, this song has something of the iconic to it – its video certainly does, resplendent in some kind of joyously subversive fashion, David Byrne plugged into an epoch-defining electric membrane where the shapes he pulls (if not to mention the cut of his suit) are as sharp as the video’s rotation was heavy – the ubiquity of MTV and our shared stance up-alongside popular culture.
But there’s a song here, as well. The acme of commercial new-wave, perhaps, An evangelical call and follow routine, the template of confident music, of arthouse influence subjugated through a Brian Eno-shaped vantage point. There’s a great deal of subtlety to this – to how the synth parts delicately nuzzle up to each other, tape loops that swing against the melody like bunting festooned from lampposts. Talking Heads recorded some damn fine records – entire albums defined by a sharpness, by clever and intricate (but never forced) rhythms underpinning Tina Weymouth’s strident bass and Jerry Harrison’s understated fretwork. Yet it’s this track, beyond anything, that stands monumental to such rich hunting ground – Byrne as some kind of perfect focal point, part preacher, part shaman, part second-hand car salesman after one-too-many cocktails in which brake coolant might be an integral ingredient. You no doubt know this as intimately as me – I’m guessing that the conversion rate, the number of page hits to the playing of the track below the words, it will be lower than usual – but it doesn’t essentially matter; this records shines across decades, upon our individual misconceptions of mass cultural landmarks, remaining intact, a whole. Same as it ever was.
Talking Heads / Once In A Lifetime