Time does strange things to pop history.

There are many instances where the debut single has proven to be the defining moment of a band or singer’s career but more often than not it simply lays down a marker for bigger and better things further down the line. Many years later, said band or singer, having enjoyed an extended career, undergoes an extensive critical reassessment, part of which usually involves a fresh consideration of that crucial debut. I think Talking Heads are a great illustration of what I am getting at.

It was away back in February 1977 that the then trio released Love → Building on Fire as a single. It predated their debut album by more than six months and indeed was already considered such an ‘old’ song that it was left off said debut, albeit it seemed to be part of the regular set list for many years thereafter. The debut LP was the piece of plastic that took a by now four-piece Talking Heads to an audience well beyond the confines of NYC, with songs like Uh-Oh Love Comes To Town, The Book I Read, Don’t Worry About The Government and, above all else, Psycho Killer, making a huge and immediate impact. Most polls which look back at, and list, great debut albums usually have Talking Heads : 77 mentioned somewhere in the piece.

All of which somehow makes Love → Building on Fire (or Love Goes to Building on Fire which has always been easier to type) something of an afterthought when looking back at the band’s career. I first noticed increasing mentions of the debut 45 once it became clear that the band, having broken up, had no intention of ever reforming. It was almost as if those who were penning the valedictory pieces wanted their readers to think or believe that the writer had been ahead of the curve back in 1977 and had predicted or expected greatness and longevity on the back of the first few minutes of music that Talking Heads had ever released. And yes, there were some who argued that the debut was the watershed for the band on the basis that they lost something once they moved out of CBGBs.

It’s all, of course, utter nonsense.

Yes, Love → Building on Fire is a wonderful way to announce your arrival; it’s an entertaining and cracking three minutes of music, which is why I’m featuring it in this series; but Talking Heads would deliver so many better moments over the ensuing years.

mp3 : Talking Heads – Love → Building on Fire
mp3 : Talking Heads – New Feeling



  1. Quite right too JC. I hate those “Oh they were so much better before they released any records” type crowd. Talking Heads were one of the most influential bands of all time. They always seemed ahead of the game.

  2. I always wondered why this excellent single didn’t make it on to ’77 while the b-side did. Not too many bands arrive as unique and fully formed as Talking Heads did and this single demonstrates that. As they went in numerous musical directions and experimented with different rhythms, instrumentation and styles, they always sounded exactly like themselves and no one else.

  3. Love Goes To A Building on Fire was a song I knew from seeing TH live very early on in my exposure to live music. When 77 came out I figured it would be there, it was one of the songs I knew by heart (well in my mind I did) but then it wasn’t on the album and I remember being disappointed. I was able to get it on some very odd bootleg compilation some time in the early 80s, but I wish I could say I have the single.
    When I worked on my TH ICA, I thought about ending it with Building, but then thought, I have at least one if not two more TH ICA’s in my head and maybe it’s the lynchpin to one of those…

  4. Thank you kevmore for putting me out of my misery! I couldn’t remember how I acquired the tune so early on – I knew it wasn’t on 7″. ‘New Wave’ really was a cracking compilation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.