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Burning Down The House - Talking Heads

Burning Down The House

Speaking in Tongues
80s new wave rock post-punk alternative


"Burning Down the House" is a 1983 song by Talking Heads, from their album Speaking in Tongues. It became their highest-charting hit single in North America, reaching #9 on the US Charts and #8 in Canada in the year of its release. Outside of North America, however, it was not a hit. In the UK, where Talking Heads would release 14 charting singles, it failed to make the charts at all, and in Australia it peaked at a very modest #94. Chris Frantz thought of the titular chorus after seeing a Parliament-Funkadelic show where the crowd chanted "Burn down the house." The initial lyrics were considerably different, however. In an interview on NPR's "All Things Considered" aired on December 2, 1984, David Byrne played excerpts of early worktapes showing how the song had evolved from an instrumental jam by Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums). Once the whole band had reworked the groove into something resembling the final recording, Byrne began chanting and singing nonsense syllables over the music until he had arrived at phrasing that fit with the rhythms-- a technique influenced by former Talking Heads producer Brian Eno-- "and then I [would] just write words to fit that phrasing... I'd have loads and loads of phrases collected that I thought thematically had something to do with one another, and I'd pick from those." According to Byrne in the NPR interview, phrases he tried but ultimately didn't use in the song's recorded "verses" included "I have another body," "Pick it up by the handle," "You travel with a double," and "I'm still under construction." As for the title phrase in the chorus, one early attempt (as heard on a worktape) had him singing a different line, "What are we gonna do?", and at another point in the process, "instead of chanting 'Burning Down the House,' I was chanting 'Foam Rubber, USA.'" After the September 11, 2001 attacks, "Burning Down the House" was one of the songs put on Clear Channel's list of possibly inappropriate songs. "Burning Down the House" is #29 on VH1's list of "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s".


Talking Heads were a new wave band which formed in 1974 in New York City, New York, United States. The band originally consisted of David Byrne (vocals, guitar), Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums), who had met while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. The band added Jerry Harrison (keyboards & guitar) in early 1977. The band released eight studio albums before disbanding in 1991. Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Show more ...

Burning Down The House - Talking Heads

Watch out you might get what you're after
Cool baby strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

Hold tight wait till the party's over
Hold tight we're in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

Here's your ticket pack your bag: time for jumpin' overboard
Transportation is here
Close enough but not too far,
Maybe you know where you are
Fightin' fire with fire

All wet hey you might need a raincoat
Shakedown dreams walking in broad daylight
Three hun-dred six-ty five de-grees
Burning down the house

It was once upon a place sometimes I listen to myself
Gonna come in first place
People on their way to work baby what did you expect
Gonna burst into flame
Burning down the house

My house's out of the ordinary
That's might don't want to hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support and you have not seen nuthin' yet
Everything's stuck together
I don't know what you expect staring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire



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