Rare Performances: Talking Heads Live in 2002

Wednesday, August 29: 10 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
David Byrne performs "Psycho Killer" with his Talking Heads bandmates in 2002

"Boy, am I honored to be mentioned in the same breath as the Talking Heads," noted 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis after taking the podium to induct the Talking Heads into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

"I remember the exact place that I was, the exact moment that it happened, that I heard the Talking Heads for the first time," recalled Kiedis. "That's an incredible indication of what a beautiful influence they would have on my life, because there's not too many things I could say that about. I was in the living room of Donde Bastone, I was 15, it was 1977, and the song that he put on was 'Psycho Killer,' and I absolutely freaked out. I made him play that song over and over and over again because it was like nothing else I'd ever heard, and it made me feel like nothing else I'd ever felt.

"Some very strange things happened to me when I heard the Talking Heads," continued Kiedis, explaining how the Talking Heads made him feel smart and want to dance. He remarked on the Talking Heads' unique brand of cool, characterizing them as "smart cool" – different from the "cool" of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Aerosmith, the Sex Pistols or the Ramones, or Parliament-Funkadelic.

"Another thing that happened to me when I started listening to the Talking Heads is I wanted to have sex with a lot of librarians, and other music hadn't made me feel like that either," admitted Kiedis. "More than anything, I really really want the Talking Heads to know what an infinitely beautiful impact they've had on this world. They left this world a better place, as a band they did things as beautiful and meaningful as any Nobel scientist, or a saint or any form of God that we believe in – the Talking Heads did that for me."

With her bandmates standing behind her, Tina Weymouth was the first to address the crowd after being inducted, thanking late CBGB owner Hilly Kristal, whom she called on stage, as well as manager Gary Kurfirst (who had also managed fellow CBGB fixtures the Ramones, among many others) and Seymour Stein, who'd signed the Talking Heads. "Seymour Stein is like our other godfather," said Weymouth. "Seymour stuck his neck out for us and left it out there." 

Byrne would go on to thank Kristal, too, noting, "The fact that these clubs opened up [in New York] and other places, brought the music into existence in many ways."

That night, after nearly two decades since they'd last performed live together, the Talking Heads took the stage, performing classics from their rich catalog, including the Top 10 single "Burning Down the House" (from 1983's Speaking In Tongues) and the song that had so enamored Kiedis, "Psycho Killer" (from Talking Heads' debut, Talking Heads: 77).  

The roots of "Psycho Killer" date back to a song performed by a group of black-leather-clad students at the Rhode Island School of Design billed as the Artistics. Although mostly a cover band, the group's frontman, Byrne, and his RISD friend Weymouth had penned the original "Psycho Killer" together. In a 2002 essay by Blair Jackson, Byrne explained: "I had been listening to Alice CooperBillion Dollar Babies, I think – and I thought it was really funny stuff. I thought,'Hey, I can do this!'… [But] I'd go for what's going on inside the killer's mind, what I imagined he might be thinking. I wanted it to be like Randy Newman doing Alice Cooper." In 1977, Byrne finally got the chance to record "Psycho Killer" with his new band, Talking Heads, featuring Weymouth on bass and her future husband Chris Frantz on drums. The song became an anthem of New York's New Wave scene and was later covered by artists ranging from Richard Thompson to Velvet Revolver. Nearly 25 years after they first wrote it as students, Weymouth and Byrne shared the stage for this performance of "Psycho Killer" at the 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. 



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