Talking Heads – ‘Houses in Motion’ UK 12″ single (Sire, SIR4050T, 1981)

As a fan of long standing, I find it puzzling that plenty of Talking Heads versions which only ever appeared on singles have never appeared on CD to this day. Puzzling because they were a pretty heavyweight band and were on major labels, not some obscure little indie with no budget to properly archive and store their back catalogue. I’ll no doubt visit a few of the others at some point, but to kick-off with, amongst these as yet unissued on CD versions is the ‘Special Re-Mixed Version’ of ‘Houses in Motion’ which appeared as the A side of the second single to be lifted from the ‘Remain in Light’ album in the UK in May 1981.

Talking Heads 'Houses In Motion' UK 12 inch single sleeve (front)

^ Talking Heads \’Houses In Motion\’ UK 12 inch single sleeve (front)

Now, at the time, I always thought it seemed a rather ambitious follow-up to the unexpected hit that was ‘Once In A Lifetime’, and sure enough its sly, subliminal funk didn’t really trouble the charts at all. On first listen, the single remix doesn’t seem all that radically different from the album version. The souped-up bass guitar thumps during the chorus the most ear-grabbing alteration to me, along with Brian Eno’s chorus vocals turned down in the mix and some editing scissors taken to Jon Hassell’s trumpet to rein in its pyrotechnics somewhat, while clocking in around the 3 minute 45 secs mark it is somewhat shorter than the album version. But, most differently of all, there is an extra verse added! “Turn myself around, I’m sinking backwards and forwards, I’m moving twice as much, as I was before, I will be digging, at the centre of the Earth, I’ll be down in there, moving in a room”. Oddly enough, the lyrics are to be found on the lyric sheet for ‘Remain In Light’, even though they don’t appear on the album recording. As far as I’m aware, this remix has never appeared on CD format to date. (Though please feel free to get in touch if I’m off the mark here, I’d love to be wrong about this!)

Rear sleeve design

^ Rear sleeve design

As well as the remixed A side, this 12″ edition also came with a live version of ‘Houses in Motion’ as an extra track – the label lists it as ‘Live Unedited Version’, which I’ve always thought was one of the most mistaken descriptions ever as it clearly fades out long before its finished! Especially comparing it to the cut found on ‘The Name Of This Band Is…’, the live album from the following year – this single version fades out pretty sharpish as Adrian Belew guides the track into a guitar break. Its clearly a different recording from the one that was included on that album though, so it remains another version as yet to see a CD release – no details of the venue of the live recording are printed on the single’s sleeve or label unfortunately.

Talking Heads 'Houses In Motion' UK 12 inch single label (side one)

^ Label design – A side

But, you have to say, what a great sleeve design – and what a great B side in ‘Air’ to anyone new to this track.

Talking Heads 'Houses In Motion' UK 12 inch single label (side two)

^ Talking Heads \’Houses In Motion\’ UK 12 inch single label (side two)

Advert for the single's release - from Smash Hits magazine, 14 May 1981

^ Advert for the single\’s release – from Smash Hits magazine, 14 May 1981

3 Responses to “Talking Heads – ‘Houses in Motion’ UK 12″ single (Sire, SIR4050T, 1981)”

  1. Interesting. I knew of this 12″ as a “remixed” 12″ single of the period, but the ad says “re-recorded.” Things just got more interesting! I’d like to say that I have this, but in fact, I’ve never seen a copy for sale. And you’re right. There’s Talking Heads material unaccounted for on CD even though some of their rarities have made it across the digital divide.Where’s Psycho Killer [ver. 2]?” “Sand In The Vaseline” has eight rare cuts; some previously released, most not. For years I didn’t buy “Speaking In Tongues” on CD since I was waiting for the extended cassette versions to be added as bonus tracks. It’s the last Talking Heads album worth owning – just barely. I just looked and apparently, the first CD version of that album is the same as the vaunted cassette version – it just didn’t have any blurbs on the artwork proclaiming it thus, so I never bought a copy! All of the bonus tracks on the 2005 5.1 RM CD/DVD/dual discs are of previously unreleased material. Meanwhile, the “12×12 Original Remixes” CD only has cuts from the last three albums. The 12″ of “Slippery People”/”Making Flippy Floppy” is still missing in action.

  2. admin says:

    Gotta agree with a lot you say in that. ‘Speaking In Tongues’ is the last of the Talking Heads albums I really cared for – there are moments on subsequent ones, but largely they are not for me so much. Those ‘Jellybean’ remixes of ‘Slippery People’ and ‘Making Flippy Floppy’ that made up a 12″ (it came free with the ‘This Must Be The Place’ 12″ in the UK, rather than a release of its own, unlike the US) are great and it’s criminal that they have never appeared subsequently – I did copy them from my vinyl a while back as best I could. I think the ‘re-rerecorded’ ‘Houses In Motion’ actually mostly refers to the vocals, though I could be wrong on that – there certainly are extra overdubs though. It does credit David Byrne alone as the producer though.

  3. Intriguing. I just got the CD of Hot Gossip’s “Geisha Boys + Temple Girls” CD which has a cover version of “Houses In Motion,” albeit produced by Jeff Westley and not B.E.F. [ostensibly the reason I finally bought this album]. It’s not bad but it has nothing on the original by Talking Heads. I thought the prime cut on the album was definitely the cover of The Men’s “I Don’t Depend On You!” I liked it even more than the original! Hot Gossip were meant to produce glossy disco songs, not covers of perverse early Human League tracks. It’s an intriguing curio, certainly.

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