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Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime (1981)

David Byrne Talking Heads lip syncs and sporadically dances to the 1980 single Once In a Lifetime.


Toni Basil, David Byrne


David Byrne


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Credited cast:
David Byrne ... David Byrne


The music video features a bespectacled David Byrne in a tight-fitting suit and bow tie, appearing out of breath but still dancing around, much like a marionette against a video representation of blue/green waving field, possibly a liquid (water). Speaking the lyrics he makes sudden jerking movements and flings his arms, taps his head and gets onto his hands and knees to make patting gestures near the floor. Later, against a blank white background, smaller video images of himself appear, behind him, dancing in perfect synchrony; in the foreground, he gets progressively out of sync with the rhythm of the song, as the background occasionally flashes with segments of old films with tribal dancing and ritualistic arm and body gestures, similar to his own. At the end a serene Byrne appears, dressed in white, but also chanting. The closing shot briefly sees the original Byrne, small against the entire video colourfield, apparently waving for help, but then fading into the "water". Written by Peter-Patrick76 (peter-patrick@mail.com)

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Release Date:

August 1981 (USA) See more »

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Did You Know?


It was an early MTV staple and was one of the most heavily played videos upon MTV's debut in August 1981. See more »


Featured in The 100 Greatest Pop Videos (2005) See more »


Once In A Lifetime
Written by David Byrne, Brian Eno, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth
Performed by Talking Heads
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User Reviews

Same as it ever was. And that means very good!
11 September 2016 | by Rodrigo_AmaroSee all my reviews

You may find yourself watching this crazy Talking Heads video. And you may find yourself trying to understand what on the earth is going on. And you may find yourself heading towards here to read this review. And you may find yourself getting some enlightenment...I hope. Once in a lifetime! And we try.

I might be wrong but this is Talking Heads very first video, a little earlier before MTV come to the scene and show what video clips was all about and how they could make an impact to audiences. Therefore, all what's wrong with this clip can't and won't be thrown here (OK, my only complaint is that it's an edit version of the actual song). While David Byrne's song reflects a pounding and immortal existentialism about the question we make while going through life ("How did I get here?" among others), the video presents the man himself dressed in a 1950's style (those huge glasses) making some spasmodic dance and movements, lip-synching the song against those old chrome-key background - revolutionary then, strange to look at it now. Sweating, nervous, out of control...but it's all we need to see when he gives us the lyrics, a desperation that won't go quietly, everything that pounds into our brain when we had lived long enough to understand the ways life go without we notice.

I might be looking far too objectively to the video and that's not the ideal. You can watch it and still find it positively amusing, hysterically funny because everything Byrne does here is out of this world. Million dollar question: the 1950's thing was a look back at the American Way of Life and how it turned out to be in the following decades, so there we have Byrne's appearance as if he was transported 30 years later to ask himself what happened or it's just something the band liked? After all, how many 1980's groups looked back to the 1950's style/fashion/culture to introduce to the then current audiences? Several groups.

Good classic clip that despite the age hasn't lost its charm. Letting the days go by...9/10

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