Album: More Songs About Buildings and Food
. . .
It’s probably not a coincidence that my favorite Talking Heads album, 1978’s hilariously-tiled More Songs About Buildings and Food, opens with the complete blast of unfettered joy that is “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel.” From the start, the entire band is galloping full speed ahead, led by Chris Frantz’s roiling tom work and the scratchy guitar interplay of David Byrne and Jerry Harrison, over which Byrne acts as if he’s just discovered love.
Baby, you can walk, you can talk just like me
You can walk, you can talk just like me
You can look, tell me what you see
You can look, you won’t see nothing like me
If you look around the world
While he’s singing this, Byrne’s voice is fairly crackling with joy, not even caring if he’s hitting the actual notes right, pausing only to let Frantz hammer on the toms — the closest thing to a this song has to a solo — before yelping to the universe once again: Wa-uh-oh, wa-oh, wa-oh, wa-oh, wa-oh, wa-oh!!
And one of the things you notice is that the band sounds fuller. Sure, the cleanliness of Talking Heads: 77 is still lurking in the background, but now they also sound thicker and fuzzier, courtesy of their new producer, old sourpuss himself, Brian Eno.
You gotta remember, at this point Brian Eno wasn’t yet BRIAN ENO, SUPERSTAR PRODUCER. In fact, he fucked his way through the first two Roxy Music albums and his first three solo albums as simply “Eno” before starting to use — well not his full name, which is Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, because of course it is — his first name on 1975’s Discreet Music.
And sure, he’d produced his own records, as well as Ultravox’s debut, but — give or take Devo’s also pretty fucking great Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!, which came out at the same time as More Songs About Buildings and Food — this was easily his highest-profile production job to date. And one he’d lobbied for, going so far as to write and record the anagrammatic “King’s Lead Hat” on 1977’s Before and After Science.
And holy shit, did Eno’s production strategies mesh perfectly with Talking Heads’ musical sensibility, producing three of the greatest albums known to mankind, of which “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” was simply the first salvo.
(And if you wanna know what Eno — and Jerry Harrison, as well — brought to the party, compare this version w/ the 1975 CBS demo I’ll link to below: the arrangement is essentially the same, but the final version is so much better!)
And whether or not “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” is David Byrne’s greatest love song or greatest baby song, that’s not for me to decide, because I’m too busy thrilling at the ending, which is essentially a call-and-response between Byrne and Frantz, coming after a short instrumental interlude where Harrison almost leaves his guitar.
I’m walking around the world, here we go
You can walk a little, I’ll walk in circles around you
But first, show me what you can do!
“Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” wasn’t a single, but as an album opener, it totally whetted the appetite for for all of the goodies that followed. Of which there were plenty, as we will see.
“Thank You For Sending Me an Angel”
“Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” Live in 1978
“Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” live in Los Angeles, 1983
“Thank You For Sending Me An Angel” CBS Demo, 1975
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