Talkings Heads released their debut album Talking Heads: ’77 on 16 September 1977. Marc Bolan, the T. Rex mastermind, died on 16 September 1977. I tried to hatch a unified theory to explain this phenomenon, but I’m sure it’s just a rock-n-roll coincidence. However, the timing of these two events does have the sense of the passing of one era and the beginning of another.
Bolan was an icon of British glam rock style, popularizing the flamboyant performance attire that came to define that scene. He was also a talented songwriter and performer, pioneering a heavy electric space blues that grooved and rocked. His appearances in the early 70s on Britain’s Top of the Pops were era-defining moments. In many ways, Bolan’s emergence on the scene signaled a cultural shift in pop music, away from matching outfits and acoustic folk influences, toward heavier sounds and more cultivated stage personas. (Excuse me, what is Elton doing in this clip? “Get it On” doesn’t even have piano.)
Talking Heads emerged in an era in which bands were reacting against glam rock and the bloated trappings of rock stardom epitomized by the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, and T. Rex. They rejected excess and sexual bravado in favor of a twitchy, nerdy persona, intellectually and culturally aware. Talking Heads were in the vanguard of what came to be known as “new wave,” wearing normal clothes and honing their craft in sweaty downtown clubs like CBGB in New York. (Dig the alternative lyrics in this early version of “Psycho Killer.”)
It’s sadly ironic that Marc Bolan died in a tragic car accident with his girlfriend at the wheel, as he never learned to drive because he considered it too dangerous. Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, a new underground ethos was emerging in rock music to take his place.
Qu’est-ce que c’est?