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Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads

Album: Remain In LightReleased: 1980Charted:
91
14
  • And you may find yourself
    Living in a shotgun shack
    And you may find yourself
    In another part of the world
    And you may find yourself
    Behind the wheel of a large automobile
    And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
    With a beautiful wife
    And you may ask yourself, well
    How did I get here?

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again after the money's gone
    Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

    And you may ask yourself
    How do I work this?
    And you may ask yourself
    Where is that large automobile?
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful house!
    And you may tell yourself
    This is not my beautiful wife!

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again after the money's gone
    Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was

    Water dissolving and water removing
    There is water at the bottom of the ocean
    Under the water, carry the water
    Remove the water at the bottom of the ocean!

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again in the silent water
    Under the rocks, and stones there is water underground

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again after the money's gone
    Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

    And you may ask yourself
    What is that beautiful house?
    And you may ask yourself
    Where does that highway go to?
    And you may ask yourself
    Am I right? Am I wrong?
    And you may say yourself, "My God! What have I done?"

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again in to the silent water
    Under the rocks and stones, there is water underground

    Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down
    Letting the days go by, water flowing underground
    Into the blue again after the money's gone
    Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Look where my hand was
    Time isn't holding up
    Time isn't after us
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was
    Same as it ever was

    Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
    Letting the days go by (same as it ever was)
    Once in a lifetime
    Letting the days go by
    Letting the days go byWriter/s: BRIAN ENO, CHRISTOPHER FRANTZ, DAVID BYRNE, JERRY HARRISON, TINA WEYMOUTH
    Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
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Comments: 36

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was...Chris - Somewhere
For me, APRIMO American band. But, Song Facts where the hell is "Take me to the river"? The TH's version is only one of the best cover versions by anyone, ever...P.a - Co. Spgs., Co
Such a frenetic, schizoid, mapcap song. I love it. Listening to it helps me just "escape" my cares for a few minutes and just enjoy the strangeness of life.

As for that iconic hand-chopping movement: I believe it's featured in the video in the background where there are some natives performing a ritualistic dance as the lead singer mimics their hand movements.
Bruce - San Jose, Ca
I've heard the that the whole "hand chopping" movement was inspired by the way servers garnished hot dogs at "The New York System", a popular restaurant near the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI (RISD) where Byrne, Weymouth, and Frantz went to college. The servers laid the hot dogs on their arms and added the condiments by going up and down his/her arms in a "chopping" motion.Walter - Abington, Ma
Lots of good explanation of lyrics (I read them all); whatever they mean, the song reamains a C.L.A.S.S.I.C.Camille - Toronto, Oh
I think this song is about getting divorced. Getting married is only supposed to happen once in a lifetime. This guy starts out as a poor schmuck living in the sticks. Guy is just letting the days go by and a little at a time finds himself living the family man life with a nice house and wife, and wonders, in a midlife crisis way, how did i get here? Things don't work out and he gets divorced. Thinks ah well things are just the same as they ever were, no big deal. Wakes up in a cheap apartment with some nasty bar slut and says this is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife! He feels like he is being drowned under the weight of an ocean of stress and uncertainty. Running out of cash like divorced men do after paying thru the nose, it's time to hit the highway and head out into the blue again. Heads out wondering if giving up his family life was the right or wrong thing to do, and it kind of hits him that maybe it wasn't. My god what have I done? He is just part of the invisible river of life that keeps on flowing, just as it always has. Same as it ever was.Chris - Negaunee, Mi
For Mike who said it is "painfully repetitive" that was very planned. I can't quote source, but Tina wanted to change the bass part (which does not change a single time throughout), but David convinced her not to. He wanted it to be beaten into your skull. Musically, repetition fits the rest of the song so well. No bass player or lover I know of, none goes for an entire song with the same. eight. notes. in. the. same. pattern. constantly.Jackie - Virginia Beach, Va
When Talking Heads performs this on their "Stop Making Sense" DVD, at the points where they sing, "You may say to yourself...", David Byrne makes gestures as if he's talking to himself, using his hand as another mouth talking - one of my favorite concert moments. :)Eric - Bend, Or
Was a good era for music, particularly if you happened to be fond of New Wave and indeed Talking Heads. The 'Heads broke through with this single after years of good reviews but poor sales, David Byrne and Jerry Harrison both began successful solo projects on the side, and Chris Frantz and Martina Weymouth's side project the Tom Tom Club scored three massive hits worldwide in 1981/1982. Commercially, it wasn't until 1985's "Road to Nowhere" that the four-piece's collective talents finally came to full fruition, but the "Remain in Light" album was the zenith of their respective careers. Truly innovative stuff - sadly such innovation, imagination, eclecticism and ingenuity are very much lacking in music nearly 30 years on...Dave - Cardiff, Wales
This is both one of the worst songs to hit the charts and one of the best songs to hit the charts. It's noisy, poorly sung, badly scored, and painfully repetitive. In spite of that, it's profound in that it spoke to many people and addressed what was going on in the back of their minds. It still can have that effect. In 1980, millions of people felt as if they were disconnected from their own lives and fates, and just drifting from one task to another without any purpose or reason. While their lives were often materially comfortable, there was always the chance that it could be lost and that their fates were in the hands of more powerful people (government or business) that were indifferent to them at best. That's still the case now, but now we're used to it, while it was a kind of new feeling back then and people were very disturbed by it. Alienation has been one of the most common themes of modern times.Mike - Santa Barbara, Ca
I started listening to this a lot very recently and it has become like a mantra of sorts to me. It's one of those songs that for some reason...just helps me to de-stress after a long day. "Once In A Lifetime" is unusual in that it is upbeat and yet it has this somewhat calming effect (both lyrically and musically).Joe - Baltimore, Md
This song is featured in the new Oliver Stone film, "W" as well as the previously mentioned "Down and Out In Beverly Hills". Richard Dreyfuss stars in both films.Travis - Mobile, Al
The video is styled as if Byrne is a marionette, but some of his gestures are taken from the behaviors of patients epilepsy.Chuck - Joppa, Md, Md
This song is on the movie Rock Star. Perfect song for that movie. Btw, you should see it. Its amazing.Alex - Fresno, Ca
One of the GREATEST songs EVER.
Byrne recalls the whole American preacher thang.
Watch him explain it - clear as day. Even for those of you who accept it.
Best Bass line EVER. Have played guitar/bass guitar for 10,000 years and still use the line as an inspiration for a lotta licks. Tina Weymouth - Bass Player Extrondinaire.
John - Dundee, United Kingdom
When this first appeared on MTV I was in my early teens and I thought this was the dumbest song ever. Now in (much) later life, I think it is the most profound song ever. I often find myself thinking, "This is not my beautiful house!" and "How did I get here?"Cathy - Redmond, Wa
I heard back in the 1990s that David Byrne 'came out,' but when you look it up now, it seems no one knows if he is straight or gay. I say this because when I heard that he was supposedly gay, I thought of 'Once In A Lifetime.' I wondered if this song might be about men who are married with children and eventually discover that they were gay the whole time and then scream "My God, what have I done?!!" They lived a life that really didn't belong to them and now their family is going to be destroyed. Since David Byrne is probably not gay, I guess this song is about something else.Random Terrain
I was always haunted by the last line, "And you may say to yourself, 'My God! What have I done?'" It's one of those things I hear myself saying when I've made a truly colossal mistake.John - Overland Park, Ks
Why are David Byrne/Talking Head's songs "Burning Down The House", "Road To Nowhere" and "Lazy" featured on songfacts? They were all more famous than "Once In A Lifetime", the reason this is so well-recalled (apart from the video) was that it was simply the band's first big hitDave - Cardiff, Wales
Maxwell, Houston, TX - Actually, when you think about it, the bottom of the ocean is NOT made up of water but of sand, salt, coral and rocks. Aside from what the song is obviously about (mid life crisis, going insane) I think it also tries to convey a perfectly sane person who has had their life turned completely topsy-turvy by an event in their life and is trying to figure out why all the everyday things they took for granted have goneDave - Cardiff, Wales
This song has one of the dumbest lines ever. "There is water at the bottom of the ocean"? No kidding Sherlock.Maxwell - Houston, Tx
To me, this song is about the contrast between uncertainty due to the random nature of changes and surprises in life, and the constant never changing things. In this case, the cycle of water in nature, going on forever. Same as it ever was.Yariv - Ramot Hashavim, Israel
Jay-Z sampled this song. It's called "It's alright".Shonda - Los Angeles, Ca
My goodness, does no one know that the music video is styled to have David Byrne as a marionette?Jason - Wairoa
I think this song is about slowly going insane (as evidenced by the video gestures). I would like to know what Talking Heads have to say about it, though.Sandy - Newburgh, In
So, there was another video after all: the concert version from Stop Making Sense, in which David Byrne showed that he got Tony Basil's choreography down pat, including the 'liqid robot' part.Wik - Brooklyn, Ny
The talking heads rock, it's as simple as that. Same as it ever was.Lindsay - Jackson, Wy
Talking Heads did nothing on accident. Most early videos were filmed in a "throw it all against the wall and see what sticks" manner, but Talking Heads, like Devo before them always saw videos as mini-films, and they thrived off the fact that they were there at the genesis of an entirely new art form. They were art school students so it seems doubtful that they would think of a video as for promotional purposes only. The Buggles and the Go-Go's weren't doing videos where the lead singer was doing angular tribal dances dressed as an accountant while sweating profusely and singing like a robot street preacher. It looks simple but it's hypnotic. The song is also amazing with it's vaguely Caribean sound and Jerry Harrison's cyclical guitar riff.Craig - Madison, Wi
I heard that David Byrne's gestures in this video were taken directly from various priests and ministers during their Sunday sermons.Bill - Southeastern Part Of, Fl
Don't read too much into the hand gestures. It was early MTV, where no one knew what to do visually and this was a band that was odd and innovative at the same time. Remember the "Pop Music" video? It was shot with the same lighting & background as Toni Basil's "Mickey." I think David Byrne & company were improvising, probably much the same way their early shows in New York were, although I wasn't there.Todd - Denver, Co
in "stop making sense", david byrne proves white
men can "dance" while singing this! heehee!
Scott - Chicago, Il
The hidden meanings? I'm pretty sure it's about drugs.Sigmoid - Vancouver, Canada
i heard that its Japanese, the hand-movement-thingsJordan - Ontario, Canada
I think the song is about having a mid-life crisis.

I love this song, it's awesome!
Bethan - Somerset, Uk.
How about telling us what the song is about? What are the hidden meanings? What do the hand movements in the video mean?Duane - Greensboro, Nc
This song rocks such serious arse that I taped the friggin video.Alatriel - Lothlorien, Other
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