Posts Tagged ‘Once In A Lifetime’

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Talking Heads’ 1980 song “Once in a Lifetime” is one of the most durable songs of its era, watch the video and see how it has held up to numerous interpretations — via remixes, covers, mash-ups, samples and live takes.

Released in 1980’s “Remain in Light”, “Once in a Lifetime” shows the growing influence that producer Brian Eno, was having over the group. David Byrne used his downtime to work with Brian Eno (who’d produced the previous two Talking Heads records) Eno had introduced them to the work of Fela Kuti when he first met the band in 1977, and the Afrobeat legend’s polyrhythms first made their way into their sound on 1979’s Fear of Music.

In addition, David Byrne’s speak-singing on the verses was inspired by field recordings of American preachers that Byrne was listening to while working on “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” a collaborative album with Eno that he was working on at the same time as “Remain in Light”. Those recordings also factored into the lyrics.

“Most of the words in ‘Once in a Lifetime’ come from evangelists I recorded off the radio while taking notes and picking up phrases I thought were interesting directions,” he said (via Songfacts). “Maybe I’m fascinated with the middle class because it seems so different from my life, so distant from what I do. I can’t imagine living like that.” Meanwhile, Weymouth and Frantz took a long holiday in the Caribbean, where they pondered the group’s future and soaked up musical influences that would set them in good stead. Feeling Byrne had become too controlling, they looked to redress the balance; rather than rely on their frontman bringing material to the group, Weymouth and Franz suggested they emulate the music that was exciting them – early hip-hop, Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat grooves, West African highlife pop – and embark upon jam sessions,

Frantz and Weymouth invited Harrison to their New York loft for informal jams, recorded on Frantz’s boombox. When it became apparent they had the beginnings of some promising tracks, they reached out to Byrne and Eno, both of whom had previously told Frantz they were not interested in making another Talking Heads record. Once the reluctant pair had been separately coaxed over and joined in, things began to get interesting. “By night time we took a break to listen back. You could hear all kinds of interesting parts germinating, mutating and evolving,” Frantz recalled. “There was no denying that Talking Heads still had a great chemistry going on and the beats were good.

One of those jams, a hypnotic and relentless instrumental called Right Start, might very well have been abandoned. Instead, it was worked up to become one of the best Talking Heads songs of all, the transcendent “Once In A Lifetime”.

Byrne expanded on its portrayal of a middle-class suburban man when he spoke with NPR in 2000. “We’re largely unconscious,” he said. “You know, we operate half awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?'”

Yet for all its fame, the song wasn’t even a hit. Although the original version reach No. 20 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart, it failed to make Billboard’s Hot 100. But its video was frequently shown on MTV in the network’s early days. Five years later, however, the live take from their concert film Stop Making Sense.

 

The 1980 Original Version – Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime” which received a single release on 2nd February 1981, was an obvious high point on the album that emerged from those sessions, 1981’s “Remain In Light”, the song’s video lodged it firmly in the public consciousness. Choregraphed by Toni Basil (of Hey Mickey fame, who also co-directed the promo clip with Byrne), the video featured a suited and bespectacled Byrne dancing like a possessed marionette, his moves inspired by archive footage of “preachers, evangelists, people in trances, African tribes, Japanese religious sects”.

Music Video Set to Scenes From David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”

Once it was picked up by MTV (which launched ten months after Remain In Light’s release), it became hailed as one of the best music videos of all time – a stark visual inseparable from the song.

1980 – Talking Heads Live Version

 

Talking Heads Live Wembley 1982 Once In A Lifetime

Byrne himself has suggested the song implores the listener to take stock of their lives. “We’re largely unconscious. You know, we operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else. We haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?’”

Talking Heads vs. Television :: A BBC Channel 4 Production, 1984

In 1984, Talking Heads performed live at London’s Wembley Arena for a BBC Channel 4 special officially titled “Once In A Lifetime” but more familiarly known as Talking Heads vs Television . The band’s frontman David Byrne is credited as the creative consultant in this 68-minute long production that includes bizarre clips, live concert footage, and interviews

A BBC Channel 4 production from 1984.

Songs performed include:
“Life During Wartime”
“Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)”
“Once in A Lifetime”
“Mind”
“Big Business”
“I Zimbra”
“Slippery People”
“Psycho Killer”
“My Big Hands (Fall Though the Cracks)”
“Swamp”
“What A Day That Was”
“Crosseyed And Painless”