Ten fantastic live albums from the 1980s

Ten records that deserve to be named among the best live albums of the 1980s.

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Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense

Perhaps unusually this was the third live album from Talking Heads in a short space of time. A promo album for radio play only Live On Tour was issued but not released in 1979. Then a second, The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads was released in March 1982 and was moderately successful. The band then decided to make a concert film, Stop Making Sense. This was filmed at Pantages Theater, Hollywood in December 1983. The live album of the concert film followed in September 1984.

Stop Making Sense as a film is brilliant and a must-watch if you haven't seen it yet. It was restored and shown in all the glory of 4K and IMAX at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2023. The film is far more than just a live concert. David Byrne and the band, in conjunction with director Jonathan Demme, create a visual and theatrical performance that supports rather than detracts from the great music. The opening scenes with Byrne, a tape player, and a simple version of “Psycho Killer” are a great opener. His later scenes in a large, and I mean large, suit on “Girlfriend Is Better” are iconic now.

But that's about the film, does the lack of those visuals and imagery mean the album itself loses impact? There may be mixed opinions here with the success of the album telling a story too.  Double platinum status and although it only peaked at number 41 on the US Billboard 200, it did spend over two years on the charts

My view is that to get the best from the album, you have to have seen the film. It helps put the versions of the songs into a better context and allows greater appreciation of the album. But others will no doubt have different views. Either way, it's a very good slice of Talking Heads. Further enhanced releases have followed and added to the tracks. The latest is a remastered 2023 version, that added bonus tracks extending from the original nine songs to 16.