Once in a Lifetime

Once in a Lifetime

by Talking Heads
You can't always judge a book -- or a box set -- by its cover, but in the case of this retrospective of the artiest element in New York's first punk generation, it's fairly safe to do so. After all, the odd-sized (16 3/4" x 5 1/4"), uniquely constructed collection -- which looks more like a high-end art book than a set of compact discs -- fits perfectly with the


You can't always judge a book -- or a box set -- by its cover, but in the case of this retrospective of the artiest element in New York's first punk generation, it's fairly safe to do so. After all, the odd-sized (16 3/4" x 5 1/4"), uniquely constructed collection -- which looks more like a high-end art book than a set of compact discs -- fits perfectly with the off-kilter aesthetic that David Byrne and company exuded in their time together. Once in a Lifetime cherry-picks the Talking Heads' best-known material, from early churners like "Psycho Killer" to more ornate latter-day favorites like "Nothing but Flowers," but the set also puts more shadowy material into focus. The band's earliest singles, "Love Goes to Building on Fire" and "Uh, Oh Love Comes to Town," are not only aired but, in the case of the latter, presented in an alternate version laced with steel drums. Byrne even went back to the band's embryonic phase to cull the charmingly raw, previously unreleased "Sugar on My Tongue." Diehards will find other compelling cuts tucked away on the three audio discs: An alternate take of "Drugs" spotlights Robert Fripp's angular guitar line, while "A Clean Break," which never made it onto a studio album, is presented in a fast-and-furious concert setting. The collection is rounded out by a DVD version of the Heads' 1988 video collection, Storytelling Giant, expanded from its original issue by three clips, including the hazy "Sax and Violins" (the accompaniment for a song that appeared in Wim Wenders's Until the End of the World). The set's extensive 80-page booklet features commentaries from the band members and others, a detailed time line, and archival photos. There's plenty to free your mind in these grooves, and plenty of incentive for your ass to follow.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Talking Heads are one of a handful of seminal rock bands whose catalog has been curiously overlooked in the CD era. Their albums have not been remastered, their legendary 1982 double-live album, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads, has never made it to disc, and apart from 1992's Popular Favorites 1976-1992: Sand in the Vaseline, there has been no retrospective assembled (to make matters worse, in the U.K. that set was condensed to the single-disc The Best of Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime). So, Rhino/WSM's 2003 box set Once in a Lifetime (sure, the title is repeated, but what else could it reasonably be called?) is noteworthy for many reasons, because it marks the first remastering of the group's catalog (and the new sound is terrific), marks the first time any of The Name of This Band reached CD (alas, there's only one cut, "A Clean Break (Let's Work)," which never made it to another album), unearths a few rarities, and most importantly, provides an excellent three-disc retrospective on this seminal quartet. These three discs run 54 tracks, which is quite a bit more generous than it sounds, since all Talking Heads' studio albums apart from their last, 1988's Naked, are represented by over half of their songs (counting alternate takes, but not outtakes; these alternates are notably but not radically different, though "Cities" has brand new words), often coming three or four cuts from the total. Thematically, the three discs are sharply arranged, accentuating different eras for the band. After three early sides, all found on Sand in the Vaseline, the first disc is largely devoted to the debut Talking Heads: 77 and its 1978 sequel, More Songs About Buildings and Food. Instead of following strict chronological order on this collection, the two albums are interwoven, to play up at first the tense, nervy post-punk of early Talking Heads, and then it steadily reveals their growing immersion in funk and African rhythms. This has the effect of slightly downplaying Brian Eno's contributions to More Songs, but he returns to the forefront on disc two, which captures Talking Heads at their creative peak for 1979's Fear of Music, 1980's Remain in Light, and 1983's Speaking in Tongues, which is when their collaboration with Eno ended. This is the sound of classic Talking Heads -- David Byrne spitting out frenzied, fractured words over the tightly wound yet supple art-funk grooves laid down by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, given melodic flair by Jerry Harrison. It's filled with timeless moments: "I Zimbra" filtering Fela Kuti through the New York boho punk; the deliriously paranoid "Life During Wartime," as potent during the war on terrorism as it was during the cold war; the brilliant "Once in a Lifetime," still Byrne's signature piece; "Crosseyed and Painless," spinning early hip-hop into uptight punk-funk; the Technicolor burst of "Burning Down the House," the single that brought them into the Top Ten; the sweet, aching "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)." Disc three deals with the aftermath of this brilliant run. At first, the group scaled the groove back and turned toward relatively straight-ahead pop with 1985's Little Creatures, represented here by such songs as "And She Was," "Stay Up Late," and the careening "Road to Nowhere," all of which retain their potency. After that, the box loses momentum as Talking Heads lost momentum, stumbling through the film project True Stories (which did produce a couple of pretty good songs in "Wild Wild Life," "Love for Sale," and "People Like Us") before ending after the worldbeat inclinations of Naked (containing the excellent "(Nothing But) Flowers" and the pretty good "Blind"; "In Asking Land" was an outtake released here for the first time, and it's not particularly noteworthy). If Once in a Lifetime does run out of steam toward the end, it has to be said that it doesn't outstay its welcome, and apart from a track or two at the very end, this is a compelling, entertaining listen from start to finish. Although it bypasses Stop Making Sense entirely, it's not missed, and it's hard to quibble with the track selection ("The Great Curve" is the only song that perhaps should have been here but isn't, and for only one song out of eight albums, that's not bad at all), which means Once in a Lifetime is about a good of a retrospective as could be imagined, if judged just on musical terms. But this box set offers more than music. There's a fourth disc, a DVD that is an expanded version of their video collection Storytelling Giant, containing all the group's videos by adding clips from True Stories, Naked, and Sand in the Vaseline to the original programming. This is hardly padding or an extra feature; it's an integral part of the box set, since there was always a strong visual element to Talking Heads, and they were one of the great pioneers in music video. Watching the videos of Storytelling Giant now, decades after their original release, it's startling how they remain fresh even as their production techniques age. "Once in a Lifetime," "Burning Down the House," and "And She Was" are still played frequently, at least on VH1-Classic, but lesser-known videos for "Crosseyed and Painless" and "Road to Nowhere" are equally vibrant (and that's to say nothing about the nostalgia trip "Love for Sale" provides; intended as a commentary on advertising, it's now a time capsule of slogans, logos, and lingo from ads from 1986, making it a delight for entirely different reasons than the rest of the collection). While the DVD is more than welcome, the packaging is a little problematic. It's designed as a long narrow book, with rather garishly precious artwork, and the discs are inserted into pouches within the covers of the book. This design makes it difficult to read the numerous essays, which are all designed as reminiscences, whether it's from all four bandmembers, rock critic David Fricke, novelist Rick Moody, performance artist Maggie Estep, or other assorted New York luminaries. These are generally good and interesting, and the collection of press clippings of the time is rather brilliant, but a basic history would have been welcome. Then again, this set isn't really designed to be read or played -- it's designed to be looked at once or twice, then sat on the shelf. Which is too bad, because those three CDs are everything a Talking Heads retrospective should be and the DVD is essential viewing. It's enough to keep the box from being essential itself.
Blender - Tom Moon
The music transcends its era, as the excellent remastering shows.

Product Details

Release Date:


Disc 1

  1. Sugar on My Tongue
  2. Love --> Building on Fire
  3. I Wish You Wouldn't Say That
  4. Don't Worry About the Government
  5. Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town
  6. New Feeling
  7. Pulled Up
  8. Psycho Killer
  9. Warning Sign
  10. Artists Only
  11. Tentative Decisions
  12. No Compassion
  13. Stay Hungry
  14. I'm Not in Love
  15. The Book I Read
  16. Thank You for Sending Me an Angel
  17. Found a Job
  18. A Clean Break
  19. Take Me to the River
  20. The Big Country
  21. Heaven

Disc 2

  1. I Zimbra
  2. Cities
  3. Life During Wartime
  4. Air
  5. Memories Can't Wait
  6. Drugs
  7. Once in a Lifetime
  8. Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)
  9. Listening Wind
  10. Houses in Motion
  11. Crosseyed and Painless
  12. Burning Down the House
  13. Making Flippy Floppy
  14. Girlfriend Is Better
  15. Slippery People
  16. Swamp
  17. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)

Disc 3

  1. And She Was
  2. Stay Up Late
  3. Creatures of Love
  4. The Lady Don't Mind
  5. Road to Nowhere
  6. Wild Wild Life
  7. Love for Sale
  8. People Like Us
  9. Puzzlin' Evidence
  10. City of Dreams
  11. Blind
  12. Mr. Jones
  13. The Democratic Circus
  14. (Nothing But) Flowers
  15. In Asking Land
  16. Sax and Violins
  17. Lifetime Piling Up

Disc 4

  1. Once in a Lifetime
  2. Wild Wild Life
  3. Stay Up Late
  4. Blind
  5. Crosseyed and Painless
  6. Burning Down the House
  7. And She Was
  8. Sax and Violins
  9. This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)
  10. The Lady Don't Mind
  11. Love for Sale
  12. Nothing But) Flowers
  13. Road to Nowhere

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Talking Heads   Primary Artist
Wally Badarou   Synthesizer,Keyboards
Jon Hassell   Trumpet
Mory Kanté   Kora
Naná Vasconcelos   Percussion
David Byrne   Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Keyboards,Vocals,Bells,Synthesizer Drums,Group Member
Jerry Harrison   Synthesizer,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Keyboards,Marimbas,Hammond Organ,Background Vocals,Group Member
Kirsty MacColl   Background Vocals
Bernie Worrell   Synthesizer
Robin Eubanks   Trombone
Charlie Sepulveda   Trumpet
Nona Hendryx   Background Vocals
Eric Weissberg   Dobro,Steel Guitar
Gordon Grody   Background Vocals
Lakshminarayana Shankar   Violin
Tawatha Agee   Background Vocals
Manolo Badrena   Conga,Shaker,cowbell,Wood Block
Ellen Bernfield   Background Vocals
Moussa Cissokho   Conga
Paulinho Da Costa   Percussion
Raphael Dejesus   Percussion
Erin Dickens   Background Vocals
Brian Eno   Synthesizer,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Background Vocals
Angel Fernandez   Trumpet
Chris Frantz   Percussion,Drums,Keyboards,Tambourine,Group Member
Laurie Frink   Trumpet
Robert Fripp   Guitar
Mitch Frohman   Alto Saxophone
Earl Gardner   Trumpet
Diva Gray   Background Vocals
Lani Groves   Background Vocals
Stan Harrison   Alto Saxophone
Richard Landry   Saxophone
Julie Last   Background Vocals
Abdou M'Boup   Conga,cowbell,talking drum
Johnny Marr   12-string Guitar
Tom Morrell   Pedal Steel Guitar
Yves N'Djock   Guitar
Lenny Pickett   Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Bobby Porcelli   Alto Saxophone
Jose Rossy   Percussion
Steve Sacks   Baritone Saxophone
Steve Scales   Percussion
Sweetbreathes   Background Vocals
Sydney Thiam   Conga
Dale Turk   Bass Trombone
David Van Tieghem   Percussion
Brice Wassy   Shaker,cowbell,Wood Block
Alex Weir   Guitar
Lani Weymouth   Group Member
Laura Weymouth   Group Member
Tina Weymouth   Synthesizer,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Keyboards,Background Vocals,String Bass,Group Member
Gene Wilder   Conga
Acosta   Tenor Saxophone
Andrew Cader   Washboard
Steve Elfon   Baritone Saxophone
Steve Gluzband   Trumpet
Dolette MacDonald   Background Vocals
Jimmy Macdonell   Accordion
Tommy Camfield   Fiddle
Bert Choir Cross   Background Vocals
Ari Wilder   Conga
Jóse "Ito" Jérez   Trumpet
Kurt Yahijian   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Jon Hassell   Horn Arrangements
David Byrne   Composer,Liner Notes,Concept,Video Producer,Video Director
Green   Composer
Jerry Harrison   Composer,Liner Notes,Concept
Steve Morse   Author
Talking Heads   Producer
Toni Basil   Video Director
Tom Harrison   Author
Joe Barbaria   Engineer
Tony Bongiovi   Producer
Hugh Brown   Creative Supervision
Chris Carroll   Author
John Miller Chernoff   Author
Rhett Davies   Engineer
Brian Eno   Composer,Producer
James Farber   Engineer
Angel Fernandez   Horn Arrangements
Chris Frantz   Composer,Liner Notes,Concept
Michael Gross   Author
Mabon "Teenie" Hodges   Composer
Dave Jerden   Engineer
Butch Jones   Engineer
Nick Launay   Producer
Steve Lillywhite   Producer
Richard Manwaring   Engineer
Yves N'Djock   Composer
Jack Nuber   Engineer
Rod O'Brien   Engineer
Gary Peterson   Annotation
Lenny Pickett   Horn Arrangements
Johnny Potoker   Engineer
Lance Quinn   Producer,Horn Arrangements
Alex Sadkin   Engineer
Jay Scott   Author
Ed Stasium   Engineer
Mark Wallis   Engineer
Wim Wenders   Video Director
Tina Weymouth   Composer,Liner Notes,Concept
David Wild   Creative Consultant
Maggie Estep   Liner Notes
Mark Spector   Producer
Neal Teeman   Engineer
Paul Christiansen   Engineer
Russ DeVault   Author
Steve Hirsch   Cinematography
Lance Loud   Author
Anthony DeCurtis   Author
Bruce Pilato   Author
Roy Trakin   Author
Brad Baker   Horn Arrangements
Jim Jarmusch   Video Director
Larry Kelp   Author
Joe Nick Patoski   Author
Fernando Kral   Engineer
Marc Kirkeby   Author
Steven Chean   Editorial Research
Ted Bafaloukos   Video Director
Jim Blashfield   Video Producer,Video Director
Robert Christgau   Author
Anatole Dauman   Video Producer
Kirk "Jelly Roll" Johnson   Video Producer
Alan Lewis Kleinberg   Video Producer
Ira Mayer   Author
Melvin Sokolsky   Video Director
James Wolcott   Author
Jonathan Taplin   Video Producer
Greg Tate   Author
Rabindranath Tagore   Poetry
Hugo Ball   Composer
Wayne Zieve   Composer
Mike McClain   Engineer
Stephen Stanley   Engineer
Tina Silvey   Video Producer
Mikal Gilmore   Author
Tim Scanlin   Liner Note Coordination
Max Bell   Author
Sandy McLeod   Video Producer
Michael Aron   Author
Jacques Attali   Quotes Researched & Compiled
Joe Beirne   Video Producer
Robyn Bensinger   Video Producer
Robert Blau   Author
Aurobindo Bose   translation
Debra Burchett Lee   Author
Jim Czarnecki   Video Producer
Vladimir Dubossarsky   Cover Painting
Mary Gaitskill   Liner Notes
Dick Hebdige   Liner Notes
Annabel Jankel   Video Director
Judy Jarvis   Author
Tibor Kalman   Video Producer,Video Director
Peter Kobel   Author
Roman Kozak   Author
William LAmato   Author
William Leith   Author
Tony Liose   Author
Melissa Marsland   Video Producer
Michael Maslow   Video Producer
Ed McCormack   Author
Bill Melo   Author
Joyce Millman   Author
James Nold   Author
Craig Zeller   Author
Alexander Vinogradov   Cover Painting
Pete Oppel   Author
Michael Owen   Video Producer
Frank Veldkamp   Web Design
Mark Peel   Author
Lynn VanMatre   Author
John Podhoretz   Author
Steve Pond   Author
Carter Ratcliff   Author
Frank Rose   Author
Stefan Sagmeister   Art Direction
Munro Sickafoose   Author
Sylvie Simmons   Author
Ken Tucker   Author
Kyoichi Tsuzuki   Liner Notes
Paul Tassie   Creative Consultant
Amanda Stern   Collage
Tom Carson   Author
Rick Moody   Liner Notes
John Rockwell   Author

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