Burning Down The House (4:00)

Cover of Stop Making Sense

From Stop Making Sense and 48 other releases

“Burning Down the House” is a 1983 song by Talking Heads, from their album Speaking in Tongues. It became their highest-charting hit single in North America, reaching #9 on the US Charts and #8 in Canada in the year of its release. Outside of North America, however, it was not a hit. In the UK, where Talking Heads would release 14 charting singles, it failed to make the charts at all, and in Australia it peaked at a very modest #94.

Chris Frantz thought of the titular chorus after seeing a Parliament-Funkadelic show where the crowd chanted “Burn down the house.” The initial lyrics were considerably different, however. In an interview on NPR’s “All Things Considered” aired on December 2, 1984, David Byrne played excerpts of early worktapes showing how the song had evolved from an instrumental jam by Tina Weymouth (bass) and Chris Frantz (drums). Once the whole band had reworked the groove into something resembling the final recording, Byrne began chanting and singing nonsense syllables over the music until he had arrived at phrasing that fit with the rhythms— a technique influenced by former Talking Heads producer Brian Eno— “and then I just write words to fit that phrasing… I’d have loads and loads of phrases collected that I thought thematically had something to do with one another, and I’d pick from those.”

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