Talking Heads – Psycho Killer

There are bands that are hard to tell apart from other bands…and then there are bands like Devo and The Talking Heads that sound like no one else.

Psycho Killer is a song from their 1977 album Talking Heads: 77. It was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard charts, peaking at #92 in the Billboard 100.

Part of the chorus and the bridge are in French. The verse translates to “What I did, that evening, what she said, that evening fulfilling my hope I throw myself towards glory.” The chorus lyric “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” means “What is this?”

The lyrics were said to be inspired by the character Norman Bates in the movie Psycho.

David Byrne: “Chris and Tina helped me with some of the French stuff. I realized, ‘That holds up. That’s a song.’ I may have been inspired by other things when I was writing it, but I hadn’t heard anything quite like it before. I was also writing completely from the character’s point of view. We played it. People liked it. I thought, ‘Oh, I can do more.'”

 

From Songfacts

This was the result of lead singer David Byrne trying to write an Alice Cooper song, but it came out much more introspective. It ended up being about the thoughts of a murderer.

The “Fa Fa” part comes from an Otis Redding song called “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Redding and other Soul singers were a big influence on Talking Heads.

Byrne wrote this two years before it was recorded. It was Talking Heads’ first album.

Byrne never thought this would be a hit. He considered it a “silly song” at the time, and was surprised when it took off.

The Tom Tom Club, a group led by former Talking Heads Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, often plays this at their concerts with Tina singing the lead vocal.

This is the first song played in the Talking Heads movie Stop Making Sense.

An acoustic version was the flip side of the single.

This appears on the live albums Stop Making Sense and The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.

Artist to cover this song include Barenaked Ladies, Phish, Brand New, Local H and Velvet Revolver.

The 2017 Selena Gomez hit “Bad Liar” samples the bassline from this track. David Byrne has no problem with it. “I would have an issue if somebody took, say, ‘This Must Be The Place,’ which is a very personal love song,” he told Rolling Stone. “Other than that, yeah, repurpose the stuff.”

Psycho Killer

I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run run run run run run run away oh oh
Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, away oh oh oh
Yeah yeah yeah yeah!

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run run run run run run run away oh oh oh
Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, away oh oh oh oh!
Yeah yeah yeah yeah!

Ce que j’ai fais, ce soir la
Ce qu’elle a dit, ce soir la
Realisant mon espoir
Je me lance, vers la gloire, OK
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah
We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they’re not polite

Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run run run run run run run away oh oh oh
Psycho Killer
Qu’est-ce que c’est
Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run, away oh oh oh
Yeah yeah yeah yeah oh!

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

37 thoughts on “Talking Heads – Psycho Killer”

  1. Great tune. I like the live version on “Stop Making Sense” in particular.

    And, yes, I think you’re right, Talking Heads were a band with a very distinct sound. Can’t say I’m necessarily a huge fan, but they had some great songs I really dig!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Coincidentally I have them “on tap” for tomorrow. Indeed, a pretty unique band… a lot of talent all around, sometimes it worked exceptionally well and other times, kind of ‘bleh’ but they never were boring or sounding like they were rolling their material off an assembly line. I never knew the ‘Psycho’ movie inspired this one, but it fits now that I see that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They were always original…like Devo you got an original. I admire them for not going with the norm.
      I like Take Me To The River which I never knew was a cover until I saw a post from someone…They made it their own for sure…
      Like you I don’t like everything either but when it worked it worked well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fa fa fa fa fa fa… I never knew he was singing “far better,” but I appreciated and accepted the fact that he was using his voice and consonants as a percussive instrument. This is the epitome of the indie rock band, and then I turn to The Pixies. Groundbreaking stuff here, I think…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol yea I didn’t know either. It’s interesting Psycho influenced this. Movies have influenced a lot of songs…they were original…no mistaking who it is.

      Robbie Robertson would order scripts and read them…and write songs like he was writing a movie script…like The Weight.

      Why I told you that I don’t know lol…my mind bounces at times…but you being a movie fan brought it out I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had no idea! That’s so cool! What an original writing process. Btw: Triangle is next on my movie queue. Looking forward to some horror. I can’t wait until October…literally

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I hope you like it…pay attention…it’s not a lazy man’s movie lol. I can’t wait to talk to you about it and see what you think.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s a diabolical Groundhog Day from hell! I really liked it! What I thought was going to be another amnesia thriller wannabe turned out to have a video game-like quality to it, giving the protagonist infinite lives until finally “beating the game.” Of course, did she really “beat” the game? I might be wrong (please let me know your thoughts), but I think she came to realize she could never fix or change her and her son’s fate (the car crash), so she simply lives the boat cycle over and over again. This is the only way I can explain why she gets back on the boat to repeat the same cycle. Great stuff, and I will be revisiting this again. Thanks for the rec!

        Like

    1. Yes you know you are listening to The Talking Heads…no confusing them with anyone else.

      Whew…I finally got to your site and registered. Sorry I’ve gone back to work and I have been busy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like Tina also…without that weird though…they are not the Talking Heads…right timing for them also. They were not punk or new wave but just…them

        Like

  4. I do like the song it is such a peppy tune for a “psycho killer.” lol. I watched a youtube on David Byrne the other day where it was talking about his Aspergers. It explains a lot of why he seems “odd.” He’s on a different wavelength and that’s ok. I think many artistic types are “on the spectrum.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It’s a great song, Psycho Killer. Talking Heads, but particularly David Byrne… very strange but interesting! There’s a BBC radio programme (Desert Island Discs) that’s been going for years that is usually pretty dull but occasionally they have an interesting guest, and Byrne was on that some time back, I can try to find you a link to it if you like.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Talking of weird, I wondered if you’ve heard Alex Harvey? He’s dead now but it’s worth watching and listening to some youtube videos, particularly try The Faith Healer, and his warped version of Delilah! (The band was called The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen his name before on a lot of old concert posters.
      I just pulled him up and I do remember him vaguely because of his guitar player. I like some of it…its really raw. Midnight Moses is really cool.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ian Dury and the Blockheads…I believe. I covered a song recently that was an Ian Dury song…can’t think of it though.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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