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Stop Making Sense (1984)

“Stop Making Sense” is a 1984 American concert film featuring a live performance by the American rock band Talking Heads while touring to promote their album “Speaking in Tongues” (1983). It was shot over three nights at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in December 1983. Directed by Jonathan Demme. 88 minutes.

Talking Heads were formed in 1975 in New York City by David Byrne (lead vocals, guitar), Chris Frantz (drums), Tina Weymouth (bass), and Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar). They were a new wave/post-punk band who had been known for their danceable pop songs incorporating funk and worldbeat.

In their fifth studio album “Speaking in Tongues”, they integrated catchy pop songs in funk-based experimental sounds, incorporating electronic instruments, African percussion and polyrhythms, which had been accomplished in their previous album “Remain in Light” (1980) produced by Brian Eno. The album became the band’s commercial breakthrough; The album reached number 15 on the US Billboard 200.

The setlist is as follows:

  1. “Psycho Killer” is a song from their debut studio album “Talking Heads: 77” (1977). It was released as a single in 1977. David Byrne appears alone with a cassette player and an acoustic guitar, and plays the acoustic version of the song, backed only by a Roland TR-808 drum machine.
  1. “Heaven” is a song from their third studio album “Fear of Music” (1979). Tina Weymouth (bass) joins the performance with this song. Lynn Mabry provides harmony vocals from backstage.
  1. “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel” is a song from their second studio album “More Songs About Buildings and Food” (1978). Chris Frantz (drums) joins the performance with this song.
  1. “Found a Job” is a song from the album “More Songs About Buildings and Food”. Jerry Harrison (keyboards, guitar) joins the performance with this song.
  1. “Slippery People” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”. Steve Scales (percussion), Ednah Holt (backing vocals), and Lynn Mabry (backing vocals) join the performance with this song.
  1. “Burning Down the House” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”. It was released as a single in 1983, and reached number 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Bernie Worrell (keyboards) and Alex Weir (guitar, vocals) join the performance with this song.
  1. “Life During Wartime” is a song from the album “Fear of Music”. It was released as a single in 1979.
  1. “Making Flippy Floppy” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”.
  1. “Swamp” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”.
  1. “What a Day That Was” is a song from David Byrne’s album “The Catherine Wheel” (1981), which contains the musical score commissioned by Twyla Tharp for her dance project.
  1. “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”. It was released as a single in 1983.
  1. “Once in a Lifetime” is a song from their fourth studio album “Remain in Light”. It was released as a single in 1981.
  1. “Genius of Love” is a song from the debut studio album “Tom Tom Club” (1981) by Tom Tom Club, a side project by Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. It was released as a single in 1981, and reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs.
  1. “Girlfriend Is Better” is a song from the album “Speaking in Tongues”. The live version of the soundtrack “Stop Making Sense” was released as a single in 1984. The title of the film “Stop Making Sense” is named for a lyric from the song. Byrne, wearing his “big suit”, appears on the stage and sings the song.
  1. “Take Me to the River” is a cover of Al Green’s song. The Talking Heads version is included in the album “More Songs About Buildings and Food”, and it was released as a single in 1978.
  1. “Crosseyed and Painless” is a song from the album “Remain in Light”. It was released in 1980 in the United States as a promotional single from the album.

In addition to the above, three songs are available as extra features on the DVD/Blu-ray releases.

“Stop Making Sense” is an excellent concert film that provides a simulated experience of the energetic live performance by Talking Heads at that time with clear sounds by use of 24-track digital recording.

Film critic Leonard Maltin described it as “one of the greatest rock movies ever made”.

The film won the National Society of Film Critics Award for best non-fiction film in 1984.

The soundtrack to the film was released as the live album “Stop Making Sense” in 1984.

Stop Making Sense – Official Trailer