Today is my younger son’s, Seth, 30th birthday. That means I am old! Thirty years ago, around one in the morning, my wife’s water broke. We were awaiting her parents to get to our house so they could stay with our older son Graham. Since I was working at the local hospital in Oxford, Ohio, I called ahead and told the Labor & Delivery department to be ready for us. When my in-laws finally arrived, we rushed out of the house because we were afraid that the baby could be delivered at any moment. It only took us ten minutes to get the hospital, so, according to the chart, which I read, Jill was admitted at 2:30 am. Long story short, Seth was born at 2:36 am. No, Jill never had what women have called “real” labors, but she deliver a 9-pound, 3-ounce, 23-inch monster when is now a 6-foot-one man about to become a father at an age when we had officially pulled out of the baby-making business. I was a skinny distance running basketball player who produced a quarterback in American football-turned-soccer playing basketball player, and he and his beautiful wife are about to have a boy in a couple of months. If my wife, who is small and petite can have a monster like him, then I feel sorry for his much taller wife!
So, today, I am presenting one of Seth’s favorite bands and my 30 favorite songs of theirs. First off, I have to take credit for his tastes in music, for the most part. Obviously, this band is one of my favorites and is one of both of my boys’ favorites. I guess all of those days of playing Talking Heads music to my wife’s belly while she was pregnant with them helped! And, I don’t know how many times I caught them playing my Talking Heads albums when they were still in elementary school (Graham was well-versed in the proper care of vinyl, if only by my meticulous care of my records).
Personally, I got hooked on Talking Heads in two ways. First, I saw them play on Saturday Night Live back after a basketball game in the winter of 1979. They performed the Al Green hit “Take Me to the River,” and I was smitten. But, fast-forward around six months, when the local radio station actually began playing “Life During Wartime.” That song got me to go out to purchase the band’s newly released Fear of Music album. Right there and then I became a fan!
After that, I bought every album that came along, and I still think that their 1982 live compilation, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, remains their best document of the power and evolution of the band. Yes, Remain in Light is one of my ten favorite studio albums of all-time, and I love all of their albums. But, I feel the record-buying public missed out on how great of a singles band Talking Heads was. They personified everything that I loved about music: punk energy, pop sensibilities, rocking guitars, abstract yet bubblegum-ish lyrics and a funky rhythm section. To my ears, that’s a perfect combo.
So, Happy Birthday Seth! This Top 30 is for you every bit as it’s for Graham and me and the rest of you.
30. “Blind” (Naked, 1988)
29. “Artists Only” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)
28. “Found a Job” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)
27. “Love –> Building on Fire” (Non-album single, 1977)
26. “Cities” (Fear of Music, 1979)
25. “Stay Up Late” (Little Creatures, 1985). This song was perfectly timed to coincide with the birth of my first son.
24. “Born Under Punches” (Remain in Light, 1980)
23. “Making Flippy Flop” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)
22. “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” (More Songs About Buildings and Food, 1978)
21. “Don’t Worry About the Government” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)
20. “New Feeling” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)
19. “(Nothing But) Flowers” (Naked, 1988)
18. “Girlfriend Is Better” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)
17. “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977)
16. “And She Was” (Little Creatures, 1985)
15. “Slippery People” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)
14. “Swamp” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983)
13. “Wild Wild Life” (True Stories, 1986)
12. “The Great Curve” (Remain in Light, 1980)
11. “Crosseyed and Painless” (Remain in Light, 1980)
10. “Heaven” (Fear of Music, 1979). An OCD view of Heaven, which I find hilariously hitting close to home. Am I or am I not OCD? I prefer control freak.
9. “Road to Nowhere” (Little Creatures, 1985). What twenty-something doesn’t feel like they are on this road?
8. “Memories Can’t Wait” (Fear of Music, 1979). This sly little song reached me through the backdoor, figuratively speaking.
7. “I Zimbra” (Fear the Music, 1979). My first thought was “WTF!?!?!?” But, then I played it again. And again. And again. And, now, I know it was a preview of Remain in Light and Byrne & Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. But, man, the song is mesmerizing.
6. “Psycho Killer” (Talking Heads: ’77, 1977). What!? This low? WTF Keller! While I love this ode to Alice Cooper, I just love the Top 5 better. F-f-f-f-far better!
5. “Take Me to the River” (More Songs About Buildings and Food,1978). THE song that kickstarted this whole obsession! Still have great memories of a bunch of guys singing this song in the dorm shower. I know, weirdos!
4. “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983). The band best love song. Seth almost chose this song for the first dance at his wedding. Honestly, I was pulling for it, but Leon Bridge rightfully won out.
3. “Burning Down the House” (Speaking in Tongues, 1983). Next to Prince’s 1999 and Michael Jackson’s Thriller albums, this song was the best dance song of 1983.
2. “Once in a Lifetime” (Remain in Light, 1980). Back in 1980, I was trying to tell everyone at my high school who would listen just how great this song and album was. And, at the time, it fell on deaf ears. I could almost hear my high school radio listeners turning the station dials whenever I played this song. But, listen to Central Indiana radio now and tell me who was right back then? Hmmmm.
1. “Life During Wartime” (Fear of Music, 1979). This song actually changed this for my album collection and my listening habits. I STILL love listening to it! And, it’s lyrics are still terrifying to me as it describes a post-apocalyptic America that I thought would have been here sooner.