Good news, everyone! I cannot help but think of Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth whenever I say that (Futurama is quite awesome). But, if I was using that formula I would most likely be saying bad news, everyone, because whenever Professor Farnsworth says good news it is always bad news and vice versa. Okay, I’ll shut-up and get to the music.
As you can see from the title of the post above, after a month of inaction the lyricist section is back and will pick up strong from #78. Also, I am finally done with the list so there should be no more delays. Hopefully, the section will be finished sometime in the next year and a half! And, what is a better way to get back into the lyricist list than with one of the more creative lyricists, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame.
David Byrne was rejected from his middle-school choir because they claimed he was off-key and withdrawn. While Byrne has always been a bit of an odd-ball and, trust me, this comes out in his awesome lyric, saying the man is off-key is kind of like passing on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft, it is just a bad idea. Luckily no one ever said anything bad about his lyric. After forming and dissolving The Artistics while he studied for a year at the Rhode Island School of Design, a move to New York sparked the beginning of Talking Heads, which was a pretty solid move. For our particular profile of Byrne’s lyric I would like to focus on his 17-year journey with Talking Heads. The new-wave, punk, avant-garde, and a list of more genres that the Talking Heads represented complimented Byrne’s quirky voice and abstruse lyric. Yet, however esoteric the lyric, Byrne, with his great band’s help, still made the music accessible and well-done. Two of Byrne’s most creative lyrics lie embedded into the 80’s music scene. Five years separated, Remain in Light released in 1980 and Little Creatures released on my sister’s birthday July 15 (10 years before she was born), are two great examples of classic Heads’ music and the lyrics are just extraordinary in every definition of the word.
Let us begin with Remain in Light and Byrne’s hit song “Once in a Lifetime.” The lyrics are spoken throughout the verse portions of this song and reveal an interesting existential crisis. I believe the lyrics expose the classic qualms of a mid-life crisis and what it can get anyone thinking. Let’s look at some of these verse lyrics.
“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?”
It is as if the character singing the song has just woken up from a long trance and is now absolutely confused with his situation. Byrne makes the character an everyday person as well by preceding every subject with the word “you.” He is saying that this can happen to anyone. The song can be taken as hilarious because of the questioning and comments that Byrne’s voice humorously goes over. For example the line “And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife,” is just, well, funny. Yet, underneath the humor is an unsettling consternation that appears when one looks over their life and realizes that their youth has dwindled and they are now “settled” into a situation. Byrne expresses this existential confusion well in this verse:
“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house ?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go ?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right ?…Am I wrong ?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD !…WHAT HAVE I DONE ?”
The climactic point of the song when Byrne yells “What Have I Done,” is just spot on. Byrne’s lyric expresses existential conflict at its core and it hits hard and successfully. It is just as relevant in Byrne’s 1985 hit “Road To Nowhere” which became a huge success mainly because of its zany truth.
“WELL WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOIN’
BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE KNOWIN’
BUT WE CAN’T SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN
AND WE’RE NOT LITTLE CHILDREN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE WANT
AND THE FUTURE IS CERTAIN
GIVE US TIME TO WORK IT OUT”
This fantastic beginning sung in full chorus is just genius. In it Byrne writes about everyone as a whole. We know where we are going but we don’t know where we’ve been. This can easily be taken as a statement on the inevitable end to the “Road” of existence. The future is certain, we just need time to work out the nitty-gritty of it. Classic Byrne lyric, smart and quirky, but, at the same time a little scary
“Road to Nowhere”