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Talking Heads Instrumental Resurfaces After Nearly 40 Years

Group played 'Theme' at a CBGB gig opening for Television

Talking Heads
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns
December 27, 2013 4:20 PM ET

At a 1976 CBGB gig opening for Television, Talking Heads played an instrumental that had been lost to the history books until just recently. This week, the fan site Talking-Heads.net posted the song, which the group – still a three-piece at the time – recorded on July 30th, 1976. The band played two shows that night; it is unknown whether they played the instrumental, dubbed "Theme," during the other set, but a setlist.fm entry for one of the shows suggests the trio played the song between "New Feeling" and "Tentative Decisions," both of which they later recorded for their debut, Talking Heads: 77.

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The recording opens with frontman David Byrne announcing, "This is an instrumental." A voice from the audience asks, "No title?" Byrne replies, "We call it 'Theme,' but then we just keep it to ourselves." It opens with some alternately happy- and sad-sounding solo guitar lines before settling into a thoughtful, impressionistic collection of big, wide chords. About a minute in, the song kicks into the sort of driving art rock the Heads would make their calling card, right down to Byrne and bassist Tina Weymouth's incidental noodling in and around the "theme."

It's unclear how many times the group played the song, but an "unknown" instrumental, possibly the same song, also shows up on a setlist.fm entry from June 1976. In the year after these gigs – which took place a little over a year after Talking Heads played their first-ever show, also at CBGBs – the band drafted Jerry Harrison from Jonathan Richman's group the Modern Lovers and recorded and released their debut.

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