Warning Sign

Album: More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978)
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Songfacts®:

  • One of the earliest Talking Heads songs, David Bryne and Chris Frantz wrote "Warning Sign" in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1973 when they were in a band called The Artistics (they formed at the Rhode Island School of Design, thus the name). The Artistics played it at some shows in 1974, then when Byrne and Frantz formed Talking Heads in 1975, it became one of the originals in their setlist, along with "Psycho Killer," another that dates back to The Artistics.

    The group got a lot of attention with their live shows but waited until 1977 to sign a record deal because they wanted to refine their studio sound. By the time they recorded their debut album, they had so many songs that "Warning Sign" got bumped. It appeared on their next album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, released in 1978.
  • This song is carried by the groove; the lead guitar and vocal doesn't come in until 1:07, when David Bryne sings the foreboding, abstract lyric.

    Drummer Chris Frantz wrote the lyric - it's the only original song in the Talking Heads catalog with a lyric Byrne didn't at least partially write. According to Frantz, he was channeling the Velvet Underground when he wrote the words in one sitting while lying on the floor of the apartment belonging to Hank Stahler, who was the bass player in his band, The Artistics, at the time.
  • The Talking Heads rhythm section of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were married by the time this song was released. Both were artists before they were musicians, and Weymouth learned to play bass just a few years earlier. Their inexperience was an asset for the band because they came up with original parts free from the strictures of convention.
  • According to Frantz, he didn't realize it at the time, but his drum beat on this track owed to Ringo Starr's drumming on the Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows."

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