Road to Nowhere

Released September 1985
Format 7″ single

Recorded October 1984 – March 1985
Genre Pop rock, new wave
Length 4:19
Label Sire
Writer(s) David Byrne
Producer(s) Talking Heads

“Road to Nowhere” is a rock song written by David Byrne for the 1985 Talking Heads album Little Creatures. It also appeared on Best of Talking Heads, Sand in the Vaseline: Popular Favorites, the Once in a Lifetime box set and the Brick box set. The song was released as a single in 1985 and reached number 25 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks and number 6 in the British, German and South African singles charts. It also made number 8 on the Dutch Top 40.

“I wanted to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom,” recalls David Byrne in the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads. “At our deaths and at the apocalypse… (always looming, folks). I think it succeeded. The front bit, the white gospel choir, is kind of tacked on, ’cause I didn’t think the rest of the song was enough… I mean, it was only two chords. So, out of embarrassment, or shame, I wrote an intro section that had a couple more in it.”

The video for the song was directed by Byrne and Stephen R. Johnson and features the band and various objects revolving, as if in their own “road to nowhere”. It was nominated for “Best Video of the Year” at the MTV Video Music Awards 1986. Some parts were shot in the back yard and pool of actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who was co-writing Byrne’s film True Stories at the time. Director Johnson re-used some of the effects techniques in award-winning videos for Peter Gabriel the following year: “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”.

Cover versions and other uses

The Kalamazoo, Michigan based bluegrass band Greensky Bluegrass recorded a version of this tune on their 2007 release Live at Bell’s.
The British a cappella group The Flying Pickets covered the song on the album The Original Flying Pickets.
The French band Indochine recorded a cover to support Reporters Sans Frontières.
The French band Nouvelle Vague recorded a cover for their 2009 album 3.
The song was featured in the 2008 documentary Young@Heart.
Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko uses the lyrics and composition to end her song “Over & Over” on her 2009 album As Day Follows Night.
The song appeared during the ending credits to the 1989 movie Little Monsters.
The song also appears in the 1994 movie Reality Bites.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing of Hobgoblins has Tom Servo crooning the first verse over the background music playing inside a room (a trap) as the movie lot security guard runs inside to fulfill his rock-star fantasy.
The song accompanies the end-credits of the 2008 movie Religulous.
John Nolan of Straylight Run and Taking Back Sunday covered the song on his 2010 EP, Songs I Didn’t Write.
Charlie Crist, in his unsuccessful 2010 run for the U.S. Senate in Florida, used the song in a campaign video without obtaining permission. David Byrne sued for copyright infringement and, in a legal settlement, Crist issued a video apology for his improper use.
A cover of the song was used in the Season 1 finale of Shameless.
A cover of the song by Release the Sunbird was featured in the series finale of the television series Gossip Girl,[3] as well as their 2012 album Imaginary Summer