Burning Down the House

Album: Speaking in Tongues (1983)
Charted: 9
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  • Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz is a fan of funk, and it was a P-Funk show in New York City that inspired this track. When he heard the crowd imploring the band to "Burn Down The House" (this is before "The Roof Is on Fire"), he got the idea for the title. As he explained in a 1984 interview with National Public Radio (NPR), he and Talking Heads bassist Tina Weymouth, who is also his wife, created the original track in a jam, then took it to the band where they refined the groove. To form the lyrics, they picked words that fit the rhythms, which is why the words don't make a lot of sense. This is common practice in the world of funk, where you don't want the lyric to get in the way of the groove on a feel good song.
  • With a lot of help from MTV, who gave the video a lot of play, this song became Talking Heads biggest hit. It didn't get a great deal of radio play at the time, but has endured as an '80s classic and is often used in movies and TV shows, including Gilmore Girls, 13 Going on 30, Six Feet Under, Revenge of the Nerds and Someone Like You. Talking Heads also performed it in their 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense.
  • The small version of David Byrne in the video was played by Max Illidge, who was 12 years old at the time and grew up to be the lead singer of a group called 40 Below Summer. The house in the video was located in Union, New Jersey.
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Comments: 15

  • Jj from DetroitAlso used to great effect in Neil Barsky's KOCH documentary...during a short flyover of Manhattan....
  • Markantney from BiloxeMay 2015,

    Chris, not certain if it's true but I recall (many years ago, late 80s or early 90s?) that Byrne was always PO'd that his bandmates had a MAJOR Hit (especially on the R&B side) with their Tom-Tom Club Album and/or they did the album behind his back,...the beef has something to do with their success independent of Byrne.

    But if that's true, you'd probably have to mix it with Franz and Weymouth probably wanted a bigger cut while being in the group after that hit?

    Regardless, like the Police, VHalen, Guns & Roses,...it's a shame a group breaks up that's slated for more success.
  • Chris from Norman, OkDoes anyone know why David Byrne refuses to have a reunion? Are there bad feelings?
  • Anne from Sanilac County, MiMy favorite part of the song is the extremely quiet guitar intro. Sadly, since I don't know when it's going to come on the radio beforehand, I usually miss it when I hear the song that way. I actually have to put the track on for myself to hear my favorite part at an audible volume, then I stick around for what is just a really great rest of the song.
  • Ryan from Aberdeen, SdI think the movie involving Bill Gates and Steve Jobs would have been "The Pirates of Silicon Valley." There was a lot of period music used in the soundtrack to denote the different years in which the story took place.
  • Paula from Laredo, TxThis song makes me move
  • Sunny from Kl, -The song appeared at the end of a movie where Bill Gates suggested to Steve Jobs collaboration between Microsoft and Apple.

    What's the name of that movie?
  • Bonnie from Long Beach, MsI have always loved this song, especially the DRUMS!!
  • Jon from Nyc, NyI recall the song from an episode of 'Hunter'
  • April from Raleigh, Ncit was used in the movie "True Stories" David Byrnes played a part. The Talking Heads did all the music for the film which stars John Goodman, Swoozie Kurtz & others. It also parody's another song "Once in a Lifetime" at a scene where a dance is going on, people copy the video of "Once in a Lifetime". funny.
  • John from Grand Island, NyIn the film "Stop Making Sense", David Byrne yells out "Who's Got a Match" right before this song starts.
  • John from Grand Island, NyThis song was used on the last episode of "Home Improvement" when Tim and Al actually burned down the "Tool Time" set after they cancelled the show.
  • Chris from Sevierville, TnIs one of those songs i always heard blaring at my uncle's house when I was a kid!!! Love it!!!
  • Jim from Kennett Square, PaOne of my favorite songs too. The Talking Heads did some great material. Sort of intellectual space cadets and their music was a lot of fun. The live version of this song in their concert film was wonderful!
  • Courtney from Orlando, FlI can't believe no one has commented on this freakin awesome song!
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