Tonight (8.21.2016) on STUCK IN THE 80s, my 20-year-old radio program on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine (and what my dear friend Michelle kindly refers to as “the best little 80s show on the planet”), it’s a show called “Road To Nowhere,” inspired by the 1985 Talking Heads song of the same name. I’ll be featuring songs about roads, streets, boulevards, avenues, highways and other destinations unknown (thank you Missing Persons).
I’ve thought about doing a “Road To Nowhere” theme show for some time, and now that I’m officially in the last half-year of STUCK IN THE 80s, other theme shows I’ve long thought about doing will be airing on a radio or computer sometime soon.
In the first half of 1985, the best year of my youth, I wasn’t much of a Talking Heads fan, save for “Burning Down The House.” But, LITTLE CREATURES, released the week after I graduated from high school, changed all that. There were no Top 40 hits from the album (although “And She Was” came close), yet the songs were everywhere, like the aforementioned “And She Was,” “The Lady Don’t Mind,” “Stay Up Late,” “Television Man” and “Road To Nowhere.”
“Road To Nowhere” was written by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, it is the closing song on LITTLE CREATURES, and, according to the liner notes of the band’s ONCE IN THE LIFETIME set, a song David Byrne wanted to write “that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom, at our deaths and at the apocalypse… (always looming, folks). I think it succeeded. The front bit, the white gospel choir, is kind of tacked on, ’cause I didn’t think the rest of the song was enough… I mean, it was only two chords. So, out of embarrassment, or shame, I wrote an intro section that had a couple more in it.”
Though it just missed reaching the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Road To Nowhere” has been part of our culture’s road ever since. The music video was co-directed by David Byrne and Stephen R. Johnson, who directed the “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” videos for Peter Gabriel in 1986. The video for “Road To Nowhere” was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Best Video Of The Year (losing out to Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”). The song has also appeared in films like 1994’s REALITY BITES, and has been covered by many acts over the years, including Nouvelle Vague (the 80s Bossa Nova covers sensation from Paris) and Manchester’s A Cappella masters, The Flying Pickets.
Around the globe, “Road To Nowhere” reached No. 5 in New Zealand, No. 6 in the U.K., Germany and Ireland, No. 10 in Holland, No. 16 in Australia and No. 25 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart.
In the 1985 ROLLING STONE review for LITTLE CREATURES, Rob Tannenbaum says of “Road To Nowhere”: “[David] Byrne admits that he’s lost, but wanders happily toward nowhere because he’s got company. You can hear him smiling, and he doesn’t seem to care too much whether we follow or not.” Well, I’ve been following Talking Heads for a long time, and while I still hold out hope for a reunion tour that will never happen, I’ll continue to follow them on that road to nowhere, or anywhere. And baby, it’s all right…