Rocks In The Attic #346: Talking Heads – ‘Stop Making Sense’ (1987)

RITA#346The first time I was exposed to this album was seeing a clip of Jonathan Demme’s concert film in an Amsterdam bar. The place had a video jukebox, and somebody selected this. I’d never seen David Byrne jigging around in his oversize suit before. I might have been a little drunk / stoned at the time, so it probably made much more sense than it should have done.  I also remember the video we watched after this – Stevie Ray Vaughan playing a live version of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

The weird thing about this Talking Heads album is that it’s a live album but it sounds like a studio album. You get a bit of obligatory cheering at the end of each song, but each song tends to start without any ambient noise whatsoever. There’s silence and then the band just starts playing. I’m presuming it’s simply presented how it was recorded, without any subsequent tinkering to make it sound more ‘live’ than it actually is. And it sounds all the better for it.

I’ve been to a lot of gigs and have hardly ever heard an almost endless wall of cheering between songs. Maybe I’m going to see the wrong bands! Yet live albums usually present that particular phenomenon as the norm. It’s almost as if every live album is trying to recreate George Martin’s problematic jet engine screaming between songs on The Beatles At The Hollywood Bowl.

I once listened to a CD of Aerosmith’s Live! Bootleg on shuffle and you could hardly tell it was playing in a different running order. The reason? The wall of crowd noise between each song was essentially the same noise – same pitch, same volume, virtually identical.

Since then, I’ve always eyed live albums with suspicion. They’re usually pretty pointless anyway, aren’t they? Is there a live album out there that actually adds something integral to a band’s oeuvre?

Hit: Once In A Lifetime

Hidden Gem: Burning Down The House

4 thoughts on “Rocks In The Attic #346: Talking Heads – ‘Stop Making Sense’ (1987)

  1. Matthew Gibson

    Intergral to the oeuvre live albums? The obvious thing to say is Kick Out the Jams. I guess Nighthawks at the Diner is pretty important to understanding Tom Waits early records.
    But yes, live albums are usually pretty pointless.

    And I think I was with you in Amsterdam watching those videos. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, that Stevie Ray Vaughan song lasted for ever. In fact, I’m fairly sure it’s still playing now, ten years later.

  2. mrjohnnyandrews Post author

    Leave Stevie alone. If anybody’s allowed to play Voodoo Chile for ten years, it’s him.

    Do you reckon that bar had upgraded their system, or do you still think they’re playing rapidly deteriorating VHS?

    1. Matthew Gibson

      By that stage of the night, it looked super HD Bluray to me. Wasn’t there some Rush song at some point? 3 minutes of high pitched screaming, 7 minute guitar solo, 4 minute bass solo, 5 minute drum solo, 1 minute bass, some more high pitch screaming, 10 minutes of guitar, all at high speed. Are all Rush songs like that?


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