Talking Heads, Psycho Killer: the lyrics & the meaning

Posted by

Psycho Killer is the most famous song ever made by one of the most prominent new wave bands ever lived. David Byrne’s band published it in 1977, and although so many years have passed, the song still sounds fascinating, triggering curiosity. The song has a particular story and cryptic lyrics that deserve an explanation. This article will explore the song’s meaning and provide the complete lyrics at the end.

You can find the official streaming of the song below.

Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (Official Audio)
Watch this video on YouTube.

Psycho Killer: the story, lyrics, and meaning of the song

David Byrne started to write Psycho Killer in 1975, years before it was published. The idea was to represent the dazed thoughts of a killer with multiple personalities. According to Talking Heads’ autobiography, the main inspiration for the song was Alice Cooper’s representation of evil: David Byrne wanted to write his version of a disturbed mind.

The song was published in 1977, a few months after the arrest of David Berkowitz, a.k.a. Son of Sam. Everybody was talking about the killings that shocked the U.S. that summer and the band’s label proposed to complete and release the song in order to ride the wave. It worked perfectly: the song entered the music charts of many countries worldwide and helped boost their debut album, Stop Making Sense.

The first lines of Psycho Killer lyrics describe the confusing sensation of the killer, who can’t sleep, thinking about what he did, probably overwhelmed by guilt. The protagonist seems unable to face reality and feels an aversion to any contact with other people. Many lines are actually a personal expression of David Byrne, who has Asperger Syndrome.

I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous, and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me, I’m a real live wire

The multiple personalities come up through the usage of an alternative language, French, in the chorus and the bridge:

Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh

Those seem just confusing words coming from a chaotic mind. People believe that the repeated “fa-fa-fa” is inspired by a conversation in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, where Norman Bates stutters while saying the word “falsity” to Marion Crane. Others think it comes from Otis Redding’s Fa Fa Fa Fa Fa (Sad Song). Both interpretations could be accurate.

The second verse also comes from Byrne’s perspective about interaction with others: he’s an introvert and doesn’t like long conversations, so he perfectly describes how an introvert hates small talk.

You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

The bridge presents some lines in French and represents the aspirations of a killer who finds realization in his crimes. Here are the original lyrics and the English translation:

Ce que j’ai fait, ce soir-là
Ce qu’elle a dit, ce soir-là
RĂ©alisant mon espoir
Je me lance, vers la gloire, okay

What I did that night
What I said that night
Achieving my wishes
I jump into the glory

That’s the real meaning of Psycho Killer lyrics: a sick representation of the confused thoughts of a psychotic person who has already killed and probably will not stop. Talking Heads’ picture of evil, in the form of a broken personality.

Read other popular song lyrics meaning on Auralcrave

The complete lyrics

I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous, and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me, I’m a real live wire

Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh
Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya

You start a conversation, you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh
Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya

Ce que j’ai fait, ce soir-là
Ce qu’elle a dit, ce soir-là
RĂ©alisant mon espoir
Je me lance, vers la gloire, okay
Aye-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-ya-yeah
We are vain and we are blind
I hate people when they’re not polite

Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh
Psycho killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?
Fa-fa-fa-fa, fa-fa-fa-fa-fa, fa, better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away
Oh, oh, oh, oh, aye-ya-ya-ya-ya