Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Wave Wednesday: "Life During Wartime", by Talking Heads (Music Video)

Cover of "Stop Making Sense: Special New ... Pop culture during the 80's was obsessed with the idea of life in a "Mad Max" style post-apocalyptic world. Ronald Reagan was engaged in a never-ending escalation of the Cold War that had most Americans fearing nuclear annihilation at any moment.

Legendary New Wave performance artist David Byrne, of Talking Heads, first wrote and released Life During Wartime in 1979, but it didn't really catch on in the pop psyche until the 1983 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say:
"Life During Wartime" is a song by New Wave band Talking Heads. It first appeared on Fear of Music in 1979. Its live version from Stop Making Sense in 1983 was released as a single, which peaked at #80 on the Pop Singles Chart.

The song's lyrics tell of a civil insurrection or guerrilla warfare in the USA (the cities Houston, Detroit and Pittsburgh are mentioned by name) with the singer commenting on various activities involving an apparent guerrilla movement. ("Transmit the message, to the receiver / hope for an answer some day / I got three passports, a couple of visas / you don't even know my real name.") The singer laments that due to having to live underground, he can't go to night clubs. The now-defunct downtown New York clubs Mudd Club and CBGB are mentioned by name. A phrase from the lyrics, "This ain't no party / This ain't no disco", became a catchphrase in the Punk rock and New Wave music genres.

In David Bowman's book This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century, Byrne is quoted as describing the genesis of the song: "I wrote this in my loft on Seventh and Avenue A." And later, "I was thinking about Baader-Meinhof. Patty Hearst. Tompkins Square. This a song about living in Alphabet City."[1]

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