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23.5.11 0728
The 7 - Music - What the hell is "Burning down the house" about?
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Guru Zim
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#1 Posted on 29.1.06 0046.06
Reposted on: 29.1.13 0047.32
I made the mistake of using my TiVo to display the lyrics of this song when I was playing it back in my Music Library.

I've listened to this song hundreds of times... yet I realized today that I have absolutely no idea what this song is about.
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Crimedog
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#2 Posted on 29.1.06 0048.26
Reposted on: 29.1.13 0049.03
They burned down the house for the insurance money and they're skipping the country.
drjayphd
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#3 Posted on 29.1.06 0052.43
Reposted on: 29.1.13 0053.24
The consensus of songmeanings.net is either:
* Nothing
* Nuclear war

So it's whatever you make of it.
Stilton
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#4 Posted on 29.1.06 1133.21
Reposted on: 29.1.13 1135.26
I always thought the song was a very clever neo-dadaist/post-structuralist critique of the pop song genre, demonstrating that any song can be a hit, that the frat-boy crowd, for example, would play it at parties, even though that demographic wasn't their primary audience, and regardless of how little sense it makes, as long as it has a killer hook/memorable chorus.

Either that or, yeah, it's about nuclear war.

Or, you know, maybe Byrne was completely blitzed when he wrote the lyrics.

(edited by Stilton on 29.1.06 1234)
The Goon
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#5 Posted on 29.1.06 1215.02
Reposted on: 29.1.13 1216.33
Aaron, I was expecting a detailed breakdown and analysis much like you did with Frampton's "Do You Feel Like I Feel?"
Guru Zim
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#6 Posted on 29.1.06 1255.38
Reposted on: 29.1.13 1259.01
I wonder if that still exists in electronic form somewhere.
ICEMAN
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#7 Posted on 29.1.06 1300.30
Reposted on: 29.1.13 1303.04
"Three Hundred Sixty Five degrees"


I always end up screaming that line and I really have no clue what its about.
Mr. Heat Miser
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#8 Posted on 30.1.06 0759.49
Reposted on: 30.1.13 0801.17
No links to back this up since it's from memory, but I think that the Talking Heads recorded the song shortly after Frantz and Weymouth went to a P-Funk concert, and couldn't stop singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire...we don't need no water etc.etc.etc."

Byrne just decided to do a Talking Heads version of George Clinton's stuff.

Also, wasn't that track on Speaking In Tongues? On that album, they went through the songs once with Byrne singing nonsense syllables that they thought sounded good - then they took another pass banging the sounds into words.

(So, I agree with everyone -- It's pretty much nonsense, but excellent fun, nonetheless.)
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#9 Posted on 31.1.06 0105.19
Reposted on: 31.1.13 0106.17
    Originally posted by The Goon
    Aaron, I was expecting a detailed breakdown and analysis much like you did with Frampton's "Do You Feel Like I Feel?"


Strangely so was I.
Wolfram J. Paulovich
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#10 Posted on 31.1.06 2238.31
Reposted on: 31.1.13 2241.53
    Originally posted by Mr. Heat Miser
    No links to back this up since it's from memory, but I think that the Talking Heads recorded the song shortly after Frantz and Weymouth went to a P-Funk concert, and couldn't stop singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire...we don't need no water etc.etc.etc."

    Byrne just decided to do a Talking Heads version of George Clinton's stuff.

    Also, wasn't that track on Speaking In Tongues? On that album, they went through the songs once with Byrne singing nonsense syllables that they thought sounded good - then they took another pass banging the sounds into words.

    (So, I agree with everyone -- It's pretty much nonsense, but excellent fun, nonetheless.)

This gibes with everything I've always heard about the song. They were into a funk at the time, having fun playing a funky groove, Byrne started basically singing random lyrics and throwing in some "scatting" (I hope it's supposed to be spelled that way) sounds, and then they turned some of the sounds into some passable lyrics later. Maybe it's my brain playing tricks on me, but I thought they gave this explanation in the liner notes to their Greatest Hits double CD. I'd go check it myself, but some unfeeling bastard liberated my copy from my dorm room years ago, and I still haven't gotten around to replacing it.
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#11 Posted on 1.2.06 0740.47
Reposted on: 1.2.13 0742.47
Taking my cue from Jeb, I pulled out Talking Heads "Popular Favorites 1976-1992 Sand in the Vaseline."

The liner notes have a quote from Tina Weymouth:

"This song started from a jam. Chris had just been to see Parliament/Funkadelic in its full glory at Madison Square Garden, and he was really hyped. During the jam, he kept yelling 'burn down the house!' which was a P-Funk audience chant, and David dug the line, changing it to the finished version, 'Burning Down the House.'"


Mystery solved.
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