It was December 1977 when Talking Heads released the second single from the emerging post-punk outfit's debut album, Talking Heads: 77: "Psycho Killer." The song's stark, plodding groove made it both menacing and disarmingly catchy. The inspiration behind this distinctive sound?
'When I started writing this (I got help later), I imagined Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad," Talking Heads frontman David Byrne explained in the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads. "Both the Joker and Hannibal Lecter were much more fascinating than the good guys. Everybody sort of roots for the bad guys in movies."
The tune even cracked the Hot 100, peaking at #92 for the week of March 11, 1978. The #1 song in America that week: Andy Gibb's "(Love is) Thicker Than Water."
"I'm going to go with the first song we ever wrote, "Psycho Killer," because it's all mixed up: It's a little bit crazy and it's a little bit funky," Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Songfacts when asked what he considered the group's signature song. "It's kind of like Alice Cooper meets Sam & Dave. It hits the mark."
When pop star Selena Gomez sampled "Psycho Killer" for her song, "Bad Liar," David Bryne approved: “I really like the song… and her performance too”.