The Talking Heads, NYC Culture, and Fear of the Suburban Life

Presented with Strand Bookstore


While many of us remember the beats, it’s easy to overlook insightfulness of their lyrics – much of the lyricism of the Talking Heads thrives on the urban environment of 1970s and early 80s NYC, a city verging on bankruptcy and decay, the post-Vietnam War era in the US, glorifying the inspiration in the grit while cautioning against the commodification of culture. And yet, there is often an uneasy relationship with commodity in the Talking Heads’ songs – our love/hate relationship with convenience, the necessity to understand yet a deep fear of the numbing suburbs, an unsettling critique of the government and the suits, Reaganomics dissected but never mentioned by name. 

In 2013, David Byrne wrote a much discussed article about how rising income inequality in cities like New York, is choking the artistic genius out of the city as well as our vibrant cultural scene, yet he says artists need the city and the city needs artists to thrive, and we all need NYC in better shape than it was in the late 1970s. In this Olio we will read, discuss, and analyze the urban sociological themes within a curated selection of Talking Heads songs. 




Location: Strand Bookstore

828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

The Rare Book Room at Strand Bookstore boasts an elegant venue, the walls lined with leather-bound treasures from a book hand printed in 1480 to a limited edition Ulysses signed by Henri Matisse, the illustrator, and by James Joyce. 


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