Talking Heads have got to be one of the best things to come out of the 80s alternative scene.
As part of the New Wave tradition, they were a rock band who lifted a lot of ideas and sounds from disco and electronica.
“Burning Down The House” takes particular influence from funk; the song was inspired by the drummer going to see a Parliament-Funkadelic concert (the ultimate expression of George Clinton’s genius) and getting very enthusiastic about it.
David Byrne, in many ways the driving force behind much of Talking Heads’ creativity, latched on to the idea, and laid down a random, energetic set of vocals in his own inimitable style, with a chorus backing him up.
Perhaps because of that funk heritage, the song uses a variety of rhythms in fine fashion, such as that fantastic guitar riff, the simple yet funky bassline, and a host of different synth riffs that make it such a classic.
The instrumental break in the second half of the song has an eerie feel to it, but in its own way it’s no less compelling than the unbeatable “Burning down the house!” chanting of the chorus.
The song was released on Speaking In Tongues, and for some reason it only charted in the U.S.A. In any case, time has proven this song to be an enduring classic!