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!