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Enlightened Phoenix Group

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Bennett Moore
Bennett Moore

Psycho Killer Fa Fa Fa Fa

The band's "signature debut hit"[8] features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad,[9] "Psycho Killer" became what AllMusic calls a "deceptively funky new wave/no wave song" with "an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll."[1]

Psycho Killer Fa Fa Fa Fa

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According to the preliminary lyric sheets copied onto the 2006 remaster of Talking Heads: 77, the song started off as a semi-narrative of the killer actually committing murders. In the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, Byrne says:

**The album’s liner notes include a few errors in the spelling of French words. The words are sung correctly on the album and are rendered correctly here. If Bob Dylan’s "Blowin’ in the Wind" represents the folk revival’s outward, sociopolitical orientation, Talking Heads’ "Psycho Killer" reflects a theme of the late-1970s/early-1980s New Wave movement in rock: psychological satire. Like many songs by Talking Heads, Devo, Elvis Costello, and other New Wave stars, "Psycho Killer" sheds humorous light on the Human Potential Movement and a trend toward introspection that attracted some of the affluent and educated when assassinations, killings by police at Kent State University, and the Watergate scandal made '60s idealism seem simplistic, out of touch with human and political complexities.

The singer/narrator adopts the persona of a "psycho killer" to lampoon the notion that such expression has precise meaning or predicts who will kill. It is casually applied to a wide array of people who kill for no apparent reason -- people who, according to the news, appear ordinary in other respects but suddenly "snap" and kill. A murderer who has terrorized the community for years, when caught, turns out to be a beloved physician or scout leader or a supposedly harmless loner. A mail carrier who talks baseball daily at the diner suddenly "goes postal."

Why "Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?" and not "Psycho killer, what is that?" Switching languages in the middle of a sentence suggests that the singer is out of control and more specifically might be schizophrenic, the paranoid version being consistent with his thinking his bed is on fire. We appear to be going beyond anxiety or neurosis toward psychosis. Also, among the foreign languages that large numbers of Americans learn, French is most often stereotyped as reflecting a superior attitude. That aspect of nos ami’s second language gains resonance as the song progresses.

"We are vain and we are blind / I hate people when they’re not polite." Well, he sure seems vain in his French mode, in condemning people for engaging in small talk, and in considering himself above doing so. And he isn’t very polite -- whether merely due to his superior and aloof attitude or due to his crimes. Like some "psycho killers," perhaps he has reached a point where he thinks killing others is worthwhile even if -- or because -- doing so would lead to his own destruction as well.

The way Byrne sings "Psycho Killer" -- mimicking demented speech -- is undeniably tongue-in-cheek. So are his fits of out-of-control screaming, the psychotically choppy treble-intensive rhythm guitar, and other details of the recording. Perhaps the surest indication "Killer" is satire and isn’t meant to glorify motiveless murder: Three decades have passed since Talking Heads 77 hit the stores and Byrne’s royalties have not been paying rent on a padded room.

In just a couple dozen lines including repeated ones, this ingenious song engages, amuses, and raises questions. Who is the psycho killer? Me? You? The guy who just the other day told you something peculiarly intimate about himself just moments after you’d met him? Why strive to maintain normalcy if normalcy typifies the psycho killer as much it does his victim or his innocent neighbor? Like rock of many styles, "Psycho Killer" conveys through one succinct thought the broader concept that we should be skeptical of social fictions and received assumptions.

Psycho Killer is a weird song by Talking Heads. It has a jerky, insistent bassline and lyrics that seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. The song was featured in the horror movie Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. 041b061a72


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