Talking Heads: “Life During Wartime” (1979)

Talking Heads mount a musical revolution on the airwaves.

Kronomyth 3.1: A war of nervousness.

This was the first Talking Heads song I was exposed to, since they used to play this and “Cities” on the radio. At the time, I remember thinking that here was the kind of smart music that people listened to in college. It was revolutionary but also intelligent, which was what I imagined college was like. Of course, that was before I discovered college was mostly about drugs and furtive sex in a squalid dorm room and barfing in a bathroom stall. Apparently, it’s hard to find a word that rhymes with “vomit,” unless you’re writing about Kris Kringle’s kollege years (“You never forget the first time you vomit / on Dancer, on Vixen, on Cupid and Comet”). Anyway, Life During Wartime is a great song.

The B side is Electric Guitar, also identical to the version found on Fear of Music. It’s one of those deliciously weird songs from Talking Heads’ third album, like “Animals” and “Air.” This song always reminds me of Rush’s “2112” because it uses the electric guitar in what seems like a musical allegory for the state’s suppression of freedom of expression. Fear of music, indeed.

Original 7-inch single version

A1. Life During Wartime (This Ain’t No Party… This Ain’t No Disco… This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around) (David Byrne*) (3:35)
B1. Electric Guitar (David Byrne) (2:59)

*This song was later correctly credited to the whole band.

Back-to-back hits 7-inch single version
A1. Take Me to the River (edit) (Al Green/Mabon Hodges) (3:36)
B1. Life During Wartime (This Ain’t No Party… This Ain’t No Disco… This Ain’t No Foolin’ Around) (David Byrne) (3:35)

The Plastic

Released on 7-inch single in October 1979 in the US and Canada (Sire, 49075), the UK (Sire, SIR 4027), Belgium (Sire, wbn.56.707) and the Netherlands (Sire, 17.481) with regional picture sleeve. Also released as promotional 7-inch single in 1979 in the US (Sire, SRE 49075) feat. A stereo and mono versions. Reached #80 on the US charts (charted on November 3, 1979 for 5 weeks).

  1. Re-released with “Take Me to the River” on back-to-back hits 7-inch single in 1984 in the US (Sire, GSRE 0452).

1 thought on “Talking Heads: “Life During Wartime” (1979)

  1. The smart people in college did indeed listen to “Life During Wartime,” and questioned the band’s choice to record a disco number. They also questioned Nick Lowe’s latest album — was it a pop music sellout? — and anticipated with great glee the arrival of XTC’s Drums & Wires album.

    The rest of the college people — those knuckle-dragging vomit-flingers — listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd and thought The Cars and Supertramp were the cutting edge. Well, I suppose they weren’t wrong about The Cars.

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