"Psycho Killer" is a song written by David ByrneChris Frantz and Tina Weymouth and first played by their band The Artistics in 1974,[2] and as new wave band Talking Heads in 1975,[3] with a later version recorded for their 1977 albumTalking Heads: 77. "I'm glad," remarked Jerry Harrison in the liner notes for Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, "we persuaded Tony and Lance [Quinn] that the version with the cellos shouldn't be the only one."

The band's "signature debut hit"[4] features lyrics which seem to represent the thoughts of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad,[5] "Psycho Killer" became what Allmusic calls a "deceptively funky new wave/no wave song ... [with] an insistent rhythm, and one of the most memorable, driving basslines in rock & roll."[1]

"Psycho Killer" was the only song from the album to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 92. It reached number 32 on the Triple J Hottest 100 in 1989, and peaked at number 11 on the Dutch singles chart in 1977.


 [hide*1 Lyrics


According to the preliminary lyric sheets copied onto the 2006 remaster of Talking Heads: 77, the song started off as a semi-narrative of the killer actually committing murders. In the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, Byrne says:

When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad. Both theJoker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies.

The bridge lyrics are in French, as is the prominent chorus line "Qu'est-ce que c'est ?" ("What is this/it?"). The bridge lyrics are:

Lyrics in French Translation

Ce que j'ai fait, ce soir-là

Ce qu'elle a dit, ce soir-là Réalisant mon espoir Je me lance vers la gloire... OK

What I did, that evening

What she said, that evening Fulfilling my hope Headlong I go for glory... OK

Later releases[edit]Edit

A live version was released on The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads in 1982 and the later CD release included a second, later live version from the Remain in Lighttour. In 1984 later, another live version was included on the soundtrack for Stop Making Sensethe band's concert movie. The film opens with Byrne alone onstage, announcing "'Hi. I've got a tape I want to play'...[and] strumming maniacally like Richie Havens",[1] playing an acoustic version of "Psycho Killer", backed only by aRoland TR-808 drum machine whose sound appears to be issuing from a boom box.

The song also appears on their 1992 compilation album Sand in the Vaseline: Popular Favorites and over a decade later on another compilation album, The Best of Talking Heads.


Chart (1977) Peak


Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 19
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[7] 13
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[8] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[9] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[10] 92
Chart (2009) Peak


Belgium (Back Catalogue Singles Flanders)[11] 24
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