I’ll never forget the moment that the film went black. A lone floor lamp is switched on as three large video panels fade into images of bookshelves. Various keyboards start to intertwine as a lanky figure in a white suit stands awkwardly onstage, about to sing one of the few windows into his heart. It was eleven years ago that I first heard “This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)” by the Talking Heads in their 1984 concert film, Stop Making Sense. It is still my favorite song. The song I want played at my wedding- if I ever have one- and the song I want played at my funeral- if I ever die. If I get a tattoo, it would be simply of the first line in this song- “Home, is where I want to be pick me up and turn me ’round.” This song has been played over 10,000 times between my laptop, iPod, and car stereo. I instantly freeze and lose complete cognitive functions when “This Must be the Place” plays anywhere.
It’s hard to understand what exactly about a song strikes a listener and then lingers in their psyche for a year, ten years, or maybe forever. Truthfully, “This Must be the Place” is simple. No surprises, no punches. Just the same four chords for 4 minutes and 56 seconds. So why does anyone who hears it instantly like it? Why does this woman have a tattoo of it? Why have bands like Arcade Fire, MGMT, Counting Crows, and a plethora of other artists covered it? Maybe it’s because of lyrics like, “Love me ’til my heart stops, love me ’til I’m dead” resonates with anyone who listens. Maybe it’s because, having been used to eccentric songs about intimate objects, the listeners are treated to a rare vulnerability to the seemingly cold and odd front man. Maybe it’s the breeziness of the keyboards. Maybe there is something comfortable in the sweet and unadulterated combination of it all. Whatever it is, “This Must be the Place” holds a special place for many of us.
First featured in 1983 on the Talking Heads’ studio album Speaking in Tongues, and then on their live album Stop Making Sense, Byrne admitted that it was one of the few love songs he had written until then. In a self-interview at the end of the Stop Making Sense DVD, Byrne states that singing about love is “kind of big”, so he typically stuck to topics like paper and buildings. Full of “non sequiturs” and “phrases that have strong emotional resonance”, “This Must be the Place” is the ultimate collage of romantic thoughts. One is to assume that Byrne must have been smitten with his then girlfriend and future wife, Adelle Lutz, who was also the owner of the bare ass video panel that flashes during the live version on Stop Making Sense. “And of all those kinds of people,” Byrne sings to the inspirer of his words, “You’ve got a face with a view. I’m just an animal looking for a home and share the same space for a minute of two.” Could it be the first time that Byrne truly felt love?
Though the entire song if about the happiness and the blissful confusion that love creates, the phrase “Naive Melody” was a reference to the simplicity of the song and the band members playing instruments that were not their primary talent on the studio track.
There is no better way to start Monday morning with a little “head in the sky”.