The Talking Heads were just another young band on the burgeoning CBGB scene in December of 1975 when a tiny camera crew entered the dingy club to capture their brief set. The (then) trio had played their first-ever show that past July as the opening act for the Ramones, and they were fast at work writing material. David Byrne was just 23, but he’d been in and out of bands since his high school days. Check out an early version of “Psycho Killer” here with slightly different lyrics.
This video opens with Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein recalling how he first encountered the band. “I was standing outside CBGB with Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group when all of a sudden I heard music coming out,” he says. “I felt myself just moving more and more until I was inside the door, and I was riveted.”
Even though the Talking Heads quickly established themselves as one of the best CBGB bands, their rise was relatively slow. They recorded some demos for CBS in 1975 that were ultimately rejected, and they gigged relentlessly all through 1976, winning over fans one by one. In 1977 they signed with Sire. Their debut single “Love → Building on Fire” hit in February of that year, and the next month guitarist Jerry Harrison joined the band.
“Love → Building on Fire” didn’t make a huge impact, and their second single “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” was equally unsuccessful. Finally, in December of 1977,” they released “Psycho Killer” as a single. Serial killer David Berkowitz (a.k.a. Son of Sam) terrorized New York that summer, and the track was eerily timely. It was nearly two and a half years since they started playing “Psycho Killer” live, and it just dinged the Billboard Hot 100 at number 92. But it was the start of an amazing run of hits.