In 1983 Talking Heads released Speaking in Tongues. To say that this was hotly anticipated is an understatement. I’d fallen for the ‘heads hook line and sinker by then and I was ready for their next one, thinking that this was a band that was about to go stellar. Speaking in Tongues did not disappoint – an excellent album with an extremely strong first single, Burning Down the House.
However, their time in the sun didn’t actually come properly until later in the 80s. Burning Down the House didn’t chart and was not played on the radio. This perplexed me at the time but maybe the time just wasn’t right for them. The subsequent version by Tom Jones and the Cardigans made the song a hit – vindicating my view that it deserved more attention than it initially received in 1983. I would say now that it is one of Talking Heads’ best known songs.
As I suck on my pipe by the fireplace and wistfully recall my time this earth, I have to conclude that a song that ends up as a “classic” does not necessarily get the attention it deserves at the time of release. Several well known Bowie singles stiffed in the charts. Bowie probably thought he was down the dumper on many occasions, shaking a bony fist of jealousy at TV footage of The Wombles and the Rubettes, seeing them having hit aftter hit after hit without breaking into a sweat (although I am sure Mike Batt and pals would have been a bit squelchy in those costumes).
We know now that the charts were somewhat rigged. Radio 1 DJs lined up outside Broadcasing House, showing a bit of leg and pouting – which attracted the pluggers from the labels and after a brief and grubby bit of business, you’d get a breathless Smashey or Nicey declaring that the latest one from Kenny was a se-hen-sensation!
Do you know of any other accepted solid gold classic pop songs that somehow sidestepped the upper reaches of the charts?