Talking Heads – City Of Dreams
September 14, 2020
Talking Heads got their start at the renowned CBGB’s in New York City, opening for The Ramones in 1975. Originally a three-piece band with singer and guitarist David Byrne, drummer Chris Frantz, and bassist Tina Weymouth, two years later they would add guitarist Jerry Harrison to their lineup and release their 1977 debut album, Talking Heads: 77, which featured the hit song “Psycho Killer.”
Talking Heads quickly teamed up with producer Brian Eno for their next three records, releasing a new album each year. The collaboration led to extensive experimentation with sounds and rhythms, culminating in one of their most beloved albums, 1980’s Remain In Light. While the band continued exploring new sounds and styles after Eno, they perfected their art-rock approach when they released the self-produced Speaking In Tongues in 1983. The album was a critical and commercial success with its unique blend of pop, funk, and dance. The subsequent tour would result in the concert film, Stop Making Sense, which captured the band at their prime.
At this point, the band was increasingly coming under the creative control of Byrne. This fact became rather obvious with 1986’s True Stories. Byrne was directing his first — and only to date — feature film, True Stories. He enlisted his bandmates to provide the musical accompaniment on the soundtrack, which was composed of pop songs by Byrne. These songs were planned to mostly be sung by the characters in the film. This cast-recorded version of the soundtrack was shelved at the time, despite the characters performing them in the completed film, and the record ended up being released with Byrne providing all the vocals and sold as a new Talking Heads record.
“City Of Dreams” was not one of the cast songs and was always intended to be sung by Byrne. It bookends the True Stories film with many of the lyrics referenced in the song taking shape in a historical narrative that appears in the prologue of the movie. This beginning is narrated by Byrne’s unnamed main character. The studio recording plays over the end credits of the film.
Scott and Jason discuss the True Stories film and soundtrack as well as how “City Of Dreams” is woven into the film. They talk about how much meaning and enjoyment of the album is lost without being familiar with the songs in the context of the movie. It is likely a reason why this record, and “City Of Dreams” in particular, is often ignored by even fans of the Talking Heads. “City Of Dreams” is a heartfelt and moving song that Jason feels should hold a place alongside tender ballads like “Heaven” and “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).” Scott recommends everyone see the True Stories film as soon as possible, in order to gain a new appreciation for the album and Byrne’s quirky worldview.