David Byrne asked a simple question nearly two decades ago: “Can a song about environmental issues be awesome?”
His answer was the magnificent “Nothing but Flowers.” Recorded in 1988 for the final Talking Heads album Naked, the song explores the human perspective in a post-apocalyptic world without technology. Like I said, a cool song with overtones of environmental activism.
Byrne approaches the song with his usual eccentricity, his lyrics intimating a future narrator talking about the differences between what was and what is — with a brief love story between a billboard and a highway thrown in just for fun.
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it’s only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it’s nothing but flowers
Seem a little strange? Maybe. But it sounds fantastic — take a listen for yourself and watch Byrne perform the song live at the Tabernacle in August 2001 on the video below.
Interesting factoid: If you listen all the way to the very end of the video, Byrne talks about how the back-up parts (sung by Kristy MacColl in the production version) were actually written for Selena. He says they did record a version of the song together, but I’ve never been able to find it — if anyone has it, please forward it along!