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Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

Album: Talking Heads '77Released: 1977Charted:
92
  • 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.
  • 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 inspired by the character Norman Bates in the movie Psycho.
  • 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 2 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.
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Comments: 26

This song always reminded me of Hannibal Lector. "I hate people when they're not polite." "Say something once, why say it again?" The French bits are meant to make the narrator sound pretentious, as if he wants to appear clever, but he doesn't actually speak French. The reference to a bed on fire indicate that he's schizophrenic, and thus if he kills at all, he is not a product of his environment or some traumatic childhood experience, but rather an untreated mental illness. Perhaps he's already in a mental hospital, though?Patrick - Atlanta, Ga
This song is so "psycho"Karol - Pori, Finland
very nice songStefanos - Aglantjia, Cyprus
This song is on Rock Band 2.Ryan - Anahola, Hi
The band Cage the Elephant also does a cover of this song.Derek - Marquette, Mi
This song was in an episode of The Simpsons where Homer was hired by an agency to kill famous celebrities so they could use their now-Public Domain identities to advertise their products.Goombario - Jacksonville, Fl
I've heard another version of "Psycho Killer" but the beginning lyrics is like through a talk box (like if you've heard Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and Joe Perry does the opening lyrics to it)Will - Waterloo,
Kate Miller-Heidke does a hilarious cover.... as seen on YouTube-- to kill for!Tim - Albuquerque, Nm
As a native french speaker, I second Adam: the chorus and the bridge are in now way gibberish and they make perfect sense. Did you try translating them in babelfish to come to this conclusion?Moi-même - Paris, France
Love this song! And the best rendition of it is on the Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads Live album. It was the opening song. What a great concert! What a great live album. The mood it set for the concert was electrifying! The bare stage still being prepped while Byrne struts around singing Psycho Killer. David Byrne at his arty best.Marc - Perth, Australia
Added song fact "Je me lance vers la gloire", I rush towards glory, are supposedly the modern dancer Isadora Duncan's last words before she got on a motorcycle with some guy and was strangled by her own scarfMelon - Kahuluu, Hi
The french isnt gibberish, its important to the songs meaning.
its loosely translated as:

"What I made, that evening
What she said, that evening
Accomplishing my hope
I launch towards glory"

And "Qu'est que C'est" means "What is that?"
Adam - Mechanicsburg, Pa
This song was part of the sound track for the movie "Summer of Sam". Back in 1976 and 77 when I lived near NYC I remember the news reporting the shootings then this song became popular. I always associated this song with the killer Berkowitz. Then the Fools came out with their parody "Psycho Chicken". It kind of took the darkness of the times away.Lalah - Wasilla, Ak
Killer song!
Dilanna performed this quite dreadfully on Rockstar Supernova in 2006.
Nelson - Melbourne
I don't know why but when I hear this I think of the Son of Sam.Jon - Oakridge, Or
Somebody did a spoof version entitled "Psycho Chicken."

That was The Fools. Awesome band.
Ralph - Newton, Ma
They don't make 'em like this anymore.Ratboy - Ratville, Nj
The French section is actually "realizing my hope, I launch myself towards glory"B - Sacramento, Ca
Somebody did a spoof version entitled "Psycho Chicken."Wes - Springfield, Va
David Byrne was originally from Dumbarton in Scotland. His family moved to the US when he was 8. Imagine Byrne fronting the Bay City Rollers! S-A-T-U-R-PSYCHOKILLER-DAY!Craig - Dunedin, New Zealand
Moxy Fruvous did a wonderful cover of the song. It can be heard on the album Live Noise.Justin Winokur - Blue Bell, Pa
This song reminds me so strongly of the '70's. I was a punk in the UK, and when we went to the punk gigs, they always played this over the speakers while we waited between acts. I don't know whether it was intended to spur us onto random acts of violence, but all it caused was widespread singing in terrible French accents!Jane - San Antonio, Tx
The part that goes like this:

Ce que j'ai fait, ce soir la
Ce qu'elle a dit, ce soir la
Realisant, mon espoir
Je me lance vers la gloire

Isn't gibberish, but really badly pronounced. It means:

What I did, that night
What she said, that night
Fulfil my hope
I throw myself towards glory
Bobbuttons - Ff, La
I heard that this song inspired 'Cop Killer' by Ice T.Jordan - Ontario, Canada
One of the best live performances you'll hear (from Stop Making Sense). Such a spartan, lonely song, and sung with great paranoia by ByrneSteph - Ottawa, Canada
I think (if my translation is accurate) the French translates out to something that's not quite total gibberish --

That which I did that evening,
that which she said that evening --
realizing my hopes,
I rush out after the glory.
Lauren - Maryville, Mo