Talking Heads: “Crosseyed and Painless” (1980)

It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. If you’re Popin’ Pete. Or being struck by lightning.

Kronomyth 4.01: I’m still waiting.

Talking Heads’ hypercharged Afrobeat was the perfect soundtrack to the unstoppable flood of technology entering our analog lives. Crosseyed and Painless captured that moment with its opening line of “Lost my shape trying to act casual” and a barrage of sounds and rhythms that are anything but casual. The song, like most of the songs on Remain in Light, are a study in sensory overload. It is also irresistibly catchy and surprisingly funky. A video featuring brilliant choreography from Toni Basil using the “popping” style was made to accompany the music and is slightly longer than the elpee version. A shorter version was also produced and appears as the B side on a 12-inch promotional single.

The 12-inch single and the video are clearly targeted to hip hop/dance audiences (12-inchers were used primarily at dance clubs by DJs). Now, the idea of a couple of guys like David Byrne and Brian Eno making dance music probably seems ridiculous on the surface of things, but art (and both men are clearly artists) is at least partially about breaking down old boundaries and discovering new ones. The pair discovered something completely new by importing Afrobeat into an alternative rock universe and getting funky with it.

In some regions, “Crosseyed and Painless” was sold as a 12-inch to actual consumers with The Great Curve on the B side. (A Mexican single also adds “I Zimbra,” the earliest version of Byrne and Eno’s vision, which first appeared on Fear of Music.) “The Great Curve” features the Heads’ updated Afrobeat with a big lump of singalong sugar tossed in by that kooky confectioner, Eno. Both “Crosseyed and Painless” and “The Great Curve” also feature guitar solos from Adrian Belew, who was fast becoming a fixture of the Talking Heads-Brian Eno-David Bowie--Robert Fripp axis.

Original 12-inch single version

A1. Crosseyed and Painless (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (4:45)
B1. The Great Curve (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (6:26)

Promotional 12-inch single version
A1. Crosseyed and Painless (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (4:56)
B1. Crosseyed and Painless (short version) (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (3:16)

Mexican 12-inch single version
A1. Crosseyed and Painless (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (4:46)
A2. I Zimbra (David Byrne/Brian Eno/Hugo Ball) (3:56)
B1. The Great Curve (David Byrne/Brian Eno) (6:26)

The Product

Released on two-track 12-inch single in 1980 in Germany (Sire, 600 363 213) and on three-track 12-inch single in 1981 in Mexico (Sire, SL-7055). Also released as promotional 12-inch single in 1980 in the US (Sire, PRO-A-903) feat. A short version on flip side.

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