#OTD in 1980: Prince “Dirty Mind” Vs. Talking Heads “Remain in Light”

Remain in Light and Dirty Mind
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(Sire/Warner Bros)

October 8, 1980, was a monumental day in record stores across America. Breakout R&B artist Prince would release his pivotal and groundbreaking album, Dirty Mind. On the very same date, art-rock icons Talking Heads would debut the equally paradigm-shifting full-length, Remain in Light.

Both acts would achieve these staggering works of musical genius in their own inimitable ways. For Prince, he was already two albums deep with Warner Brothers, both packed with plenty of solid R&B tracks and a handful of standouts. But he was ready to break out of the confines of the genre with Dirty Mind, and he did so in shocking fashion.

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Embracing a new wave sound closer to The Cars’ 1978 debut than anything on the R&B charts at the time, label execs weren’t exactly ready for what they heard when Prince turned in the album.

According to Prince’s former guitarist Dez Dickerson, Warner Bros was "scared to death” after that fateful first listen to such jaw-dropping songs as “Head” and “Sister.” “I remember being in L.A. shooting ­videos, and the execs pulled up and took Prince on a long ride, on a break, to talk about the record. They thought they were signing the new Stevie Wonder. They didn't know they were getting a cross between Wonder and Johnny Rotten,” he told Billboard in 2016.

Talking Heads were still riding high on the commercial and critical success of 1979 album, Fear of Music. Reaching No. 21 on the Billboard 200, the full-length spawned single “Life During Wartime,” which generated boatloads of FM radio spins as it crept into the Hot 100, peaking at No. 80.

With Remain in Light, the defining influence would come in the form of Nigerian music legend, Fela Kuti. The band would decamp to Jamaica’s legendary Compass Point Studios with Brian Eno to work on such seminal tracks as “Crosseyed and Painless” and the Talking Head’s signature single, “Once in a Lifetime.” The album would also inspire the group to add the likes of keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Adrian Belew, percussionist Steven Scales and vocalist Dollette McDonald for the resulting monumental tour.

“Not only is it brainy and sonically beautiful, but it’s also really great to dance to,” Talking Heads bass player Tina Weymouth told NPR in 2018. Indeed, as the album was honored in 2017 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry.

For both artists, these vital releases that arrived in the world on the very same date would go on to become among their finest full-length collections. Dirty Mind and Remain in Light continue to resonate with a scope and influence that can still be heard throughout contemporary music.

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