World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Life During Wartime (song)

"Life During Wartime"
UK vinyl single
Single by Talking Heads
from the album Fear of Music
B-side Electric Guitar
Released 1979
Format 7"
Genre New wave, post-punk, dance-rock
Length 3:41
Label Sire
Writer(s) David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
Producer(s) Brian Eno, Talking Heads
Talking Heads singles chronology
"Take Me to the River"
"Life During Wartime"
"I Zimbra"
"Life During Wartime (Live)"
Single by Talking Heads
from the album The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Released 1982
Format 12"
Genre New wave, post-punk
Length 5:52
Label Sire
Writer(s) David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth
Producer(s) Gary Goetzman
Talking Heads singles chronology
"Houses in Motion" (alternate mix)
"Life During Wartime" (Live)
"Burning Down the House"

"Life During Wartime" is a song by the American new wave band Talking Heads, released as the first single from their 1979 album Fear of Music in 1979. It peaked at #80 on the US Billboard Pop Singles Chart.

The song is also performed in the 1984 film Stop Making Sense, which depicts a Talking Heads concert. The performance featured in the film prominently features aerobic exercising and jogging by David Byrne and background singers. The Stop Making Sense live version of the track is featured in the film's accompanying soundtrack album. Its official title as a single, "Life During Wartime (This Ain't No Party... This Ain't No Disco... This Ain't No Foolin' Around)", makes it one of the longest-titled singles.[1]

The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[2]


  • Origin 1
  • Lyrics 2
  • Charts 3
    • Chart runs 3.1
  • Other versions 4
  • References 5


In David Bowman's book This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century Byrne is quoted as describing the genesis of the song: "David wrote nine of the album's eleven tracks. Two numbers came out of jamming. The first would be called "Life During Wartime." David's lyrics describe a Walker Percy-ish post-apocalyptic landscape where a revolutionary hides out in a deserted cemetery, surviving on peanut butter. 'I wrote this in my loft on Seventh and Avenue A,' David later said, 'I was thinking about Baader-Meinhof. Patty Hearst. Tompkins Square. This a song about living in Alphabet City.'"[3]

Allmusic's Bill Janowitz reviewed the song, calling attention to its nearness to funk, saying that it is a "sort of apocalyptic punk/funk merge" comparable to Prince's later hit single "1999".[4]


The lyrics are told from the point of view of someone involved in clandestine activities in the USA (the cities Houston, Detroit, and Pittsburgh are mentioned) during some sort of civil unrest or dystopian environment.[4]

The line "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB" refers to two New York music venues at which the band performed in the 1970s.[4]

"The line 'This ain't no disco' sure stuck!" remarks Byrne in the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads. "Remember when they would build bonfires of Donna Summer records? Well, we liked some disco music! It's called 'dance music' now. Some of it was radical, camp, silly, transcendent and disposable. So it was funny that we were sometimes seen as the flag-bearers of the anti-disco movement."


Chart (1979) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100[5] 80

Chart runs

Billboard Hot 100[6] (5 weeks, entered November 3): Reached #80

Other versions

The song was covered and is used at live shows by Welsh indie alternative band The Automatic. The song is occasionally played in concert by American jam bands Widespread Panic and Umphrey's McGee. It was covered by the Brazilian band Os Paralamas do Sucesso on their MTV Unplugged show. During their 1997 Popmart Tour, the band U2 would often inject portions of the song into performances of "Discotheque."


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1997). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 869.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Bowman, David (2001). This Must Be the Place: The Adventures of Talking Heads in the Twentieth Century (1st ed.). New York: Harper Collins Publishers. p. 152.  
  4. ^ a b c AllMusic - Life During Wartime
  5. ^ "Talking Heads Album & Song Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1997). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles. Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research Inc. p. 603.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.