Talking Heads: 77

Talking Heads 77 sleeve

Some great sleeves came out of the Punk and Post-Punk / New Wave era and one of my favourites is Talking Heads 77, a really simple but eye-catching design.  It tends to get missed by sleeve anthology book authors who perhaps understandably go for the more elaborate covers which would follow from the band, but it is still memorable. I was a bit taken aback to realise the other days that it is forty years old this year.

I was lucky enough (well luck didn’t have much to do with, I made an effort!) to see the band on tour in 1977 supported by Dire Straits, and couldn’t wait to get the album, which came out in September  that year.  It was one of those covers which just played with the optic nerves, and the design idea was from David Byrne himself. All the band had been to art college, and it was decided that they would take turns in coming up with cover ideas (so Jerry Harrison proposed the tactile Fear Of Music cover, etc.)

Talking Heads 77 sleeve

Byrne had been interested in the fluorescent / day-glo inks used on a lot of soap powder packets, as had Andy Warhol before him.  He wanted to get the same sort of inks on the sleeve to produce an op-art effect.  I seem to recall him saying at the time that he had a tussle with the label over this due to the cost of running special inks rather than do everything from CMYK (basically it means running six inks instead of four.)  We get the band name and title (I love the use of the colon to separate them) set in Times New Roman, and in vivid green, set against the bright red background. For some reason Sire insisted on adding the catalogue number to the front which was a little old hat by this time and spoilt the look a little. (Philips in Holland went one better and added their large logo, moving the title down to make room!)

Talking Heads 77 cover out-take
In contrast, for the back the band chose a very old fashioned sort of group shot, taken from above by photographer Mick Rock.  Although it was a single sleeve, they did manage to include a special inner bag with a monochrome portrait one side from the same session, and the lyrics on the other. The above pic is an out-take from the photo shoot.

Talking Heads 77 sleeve bag

One of the drawbacks to the cover is that red ink fades faster than some colours, and certainly the edge of my cover has suffered a little from this. And being 1977 the album was of course issued on cassette, and amazingly on 8-track too. I don’t have these, but found the pics on the web. If the album cover looks a little funny reduced onto the back of a tape, it’s no worse than looking at it on a mobile phone…

Talking Heads 77 cassette

Talking Heads 77 8 track