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They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants

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This article is about the musical group. For the film, see They Might Be Giants (film).
They Might Be Giants <tr style="text-align: center;"><td colspan="3">Image:Tmbg0105pics06.jpg
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Background information

<tr><td>Origin</td><td colspan="2">Brooklyn, New York, USA</td></tr><tr><td>Genre(s)</td><td colspan="2">Alternative rock
College rock
Geek rock
Children's music</td></tr><tr><td>Years active</td><td colspan="2">1982–present</td></tr><tr><td style="padding-right: 1em;">Label(s)</td><td colspan="2">Bar None Records
Barsuk Records
Restless Records
Elektra Records
Rounder Records</td></tr><tr><td>Website</td><td colspan="2">Official website</td></tr><tr><th style="background: #b0c4de;" colspan="3">Members</th></tr><tr><td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3">John Flansburgh
John Linnell</td></tr>

They Might Be Giants (commonly abbreviated to TMBG) is an American alternative rock duo consisting of John Linnell and John Flansburgh, collectively known as "the two Johns" or "John and John". Known for their experimental pop music, they have been popular on college campuses and earned a reputation for "intellectual rock" or "nerd rock." The band has maintained a loyal following over its nearly 25 years of existence, enough that fans rushed an online poll and landed John Linnell in the top ten results of People Magazine's "Most Beautiful People" in 1998.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

TMBG's most famous songs are probably one single from each of their first three albums, "Don't Let's Start" (from They Might Be Giants), "Ana Ng" (from Lincoln), and "Birdhouse in Your Soul" (from Flood). Their appearance on the show Tiny Toon Adventures also gained recognition for their song "Particle Man" and their cover of the song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)". The song "Doctor Worm" was a surprise hit in Australia, rating 13th in the 1998 JJJ hottest 100. They are also known for their version of the Bob Mould song "Dog on Fire" (the theme song to The Daily Show), and "Boss of Me", the theme to the hit television comedy Malcolm in the Middle, for which they won a Grammy Award. Two They Might Be Giants albums have been certified gold: Flood and Here Come the ABCs.

Contents

[edit] History

The two Johns first met as teenagers in Lincoln, Massachusetts. They began writing songs together in high school, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, but they never officially formed a band. The two went to separate colleges after high school (Flansburgh attended Pratt Institute), and Linnell joined The Mundanes, a New Wave group from Rhode Island. The two finally reunited after moving to Brooklyn (to the same apartment building on the same day) to continue their career.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Then: The Earlier Years (1982–1989)

The band began performing their own music accompanied by a drum machine, and soon became fixtures on the Manhattan underground. Their early work has been described as a type of performance art, in which they used many innovative stage props, including giant cardboard cutout heads of William Allen White.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> Many of these props would later turn up in their first music videos.

Although they had a strong local following, they had a hard time getting a record deal. They did many live performances in New York, but when Linnell broke his wrist in a biking accident and Flansburgh's apartment was broken into and all his guitars were stolen, they set up the Dial-A-Song system with an answering machine hooked up to a tape of them playing popular songs.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> It soon caught the eye of Bar/None Records and earned them a review in People magazine.

The duo released their self-titled debut album in 1986, and it became a college radio hit. The video for "Don't Let's Start" became a hit on MTV, earning them a broader following.

In 1988, they released their second album, Lincoln. The album's artwork, featuring the famous podiums on the cover, marked a high point of the band's regular collaboration with Brooklyn musical inventor Brian Dewan. Beyond artwork, Dewan also performed and sang on many of their songs, both on their albums and live.

See also: Then: The Earlier Years

[edit] Move to Elektra (1990–1992)

In 1989, they signed with Elektra Records, and released their third album Flood the following year. Flood earned them a gold album, largely thanks to "Birdhouse in Your Soul" (which reached number three on the US Modern Rock chart) and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".

Further interest in the band was generated when two cartoon music videos were created by Warner Brothers for Tiny Toon Adventures: "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Particle Man".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The videos reflected the high "kid appeal" that TMBG had, resulting from their often silly or absurd songs and poppy melodies.

In 1991, Bar/None Records released the B-sides compilation Miscellaneous T. The title referred to the section of the record store where TMBG releases were often found as well as to the overall eclectic nature of the tracks. Though consisting of previously released material (save for the "Purple Toupee" b-sides, which were not available publicly), it gave a chance for new fans to hear the Johns' earlier non-album work without having to hunt down the individual EPs.

In early 1992, They Might Be Giants released Apollo 18. The heavy space theme coincided with TMBG being named Musical Ambassadors for International Space Year. Singles from the album included "The Statue Got Me High", "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)", "I Palindrome I", and "My Evil Twin". Apollo 18 was also notable for being one of the first albums to take advantage of the CD player's shuffle feature. The song "Fingertips" was actually comprised of 21 separate tracks — short snippets that not only acted together to make the song, but that when played in random order would be interspersed between the album's full-length songs. (Due to mastering errors, the UK and Australian versions of Apollo 18 contained "Fingertips" as one track.)

[edit] Recruiting a band (1992-1998)

Following Apollo 18, Flansburgh and Linnell decided to move away from the two-guys-with-samples nature of their live show, and recruited a supporting band that consisted of former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone and drummer Brian Doherty.

Through subsequent touring, the new "band" began to function as a collective unit, encouraging the Johns to record new albums in the band format. This decision caused much controversy amongst die-hard fans. Some went as far as to stand outside of the concerts discouraging people from watching the performance, claiming it wasn't the "true" They Might Be Giants.

John Henry was released in 1994, TMBG's first album as a full band. Influenced by their more conventional format as a band, this album marked a radical departure from their previous releases with more of a guitar-heavy sound.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> It was released to mixed reviews amongst fans and critics alike.

Their next album, Factory Showroom, was released in 1996 to little fanfare. The band had moved away from the feel of John Henry and includes the more diverse sounds of their earlier albums, despite the inclusion of two guitarists, the second being Eric Schermerhorn who provided several guitar solos. The song "Spiraling Shape" was featured in the movie Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy, as well as an episode of Malcolm In The Middle.

They left Elektra after the duo refused to do a publicity show, amongst other exposure-related disputes.

[edit] Beyond Elektra (1999–2003)

In 1999, the ever-changing backing band lineup settled on "The Band of Dans", forming a full house line-up of Johns and Dans for almost five years. The Band of Dans was a trio of guys named Dan: guitarist Dan Miller, bassist Danny Weinkauf (both formerly of the band Lincoln) and drummer Dan Hickey. In 2004, however, Dan Hickey left the band and was subsequently replaced by Marty Beller, who had already played with TMBG for kids' shows and other projects.

For most of their career, TMBG have been on the forefront of activity on the Internet. As early as 1992, the band was sending news updates to their fans via Usenet newsgroups. In 1999, They Might Be Giants became the first band to release an entire album exclusively in mp3 with Long Tall Weekend<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>, available through Emusic's "TMBG Unlimited" service. Five years later, the band started one of the first artist-owned online music stores, at which customers could buy MP3 copies of their music for US$10 an album. By creating their own store, the band could keep money that would otherwise go to record companies. (TMBG MP3 Music Store)

In 1999, the band contributed the song "Dr. Evil" to the motion picture Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Over their career, the band has performed on numerous movie and television soundtracks, including The Oblongs, the ABC News miniseries Brave New World and Ed and His Dead Mother. They also performed the theme music "Dog on Fire", composed by Bob Mould, for the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. More recently, they composed and performed the music for the TLC series Resident Life, the theme song for the Disney Channel program Higglytown Heroes, and a song about the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

During this time the band also worked on a project for McSweeney's, a publishing company and literary journal. The band wrote a McSweeney's theme song and 35+ songs for an album that was meant to be listened to with the journal, with each track corresponding to a particular story or piece of artwork. Labeled They Might Be Giants vs. McSweeney's, the disk appears in issue #6 of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern.

Contributing the TMBG single "Boss of Me" as the theme song to the hit television series Malcolm in the Middle, as well as to the show's compilation CD, brought a new audience to the band. Not only did the band contribute the theme, songs from all of the Giants' previous albums were used on the show: for example, the infamous punching-the-kid-in-the-wheelchair scene from the first MITM episode was done to the strains of "Pencil Rain" from Lincoln. "Boss of Me" became the band's second top-40 hit in the UK, and in 2002, won the duo a Grammy Award.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

On September 112001, they released the album Mink Car on Restless Records. It was their first full album release of new studio material since 1996, and their first since parting ways with Elektra. The making of that album, including a record signing event at a Manhattan Tower Records, was included in a documentary directed by AJ Schnack titled Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns). The film, released in 2003, won rave reviews and several awards, and was featured in dozens of film festivals. The film was released on DVD in 2003.

[edit] Recent activities (2002-Present)

In 2002, the band released their first album "for the entire family," No!. The No! CD is an enhanced CD which also contains interactive animations for each of the songs. They followed it up in 2003 with their first book, an illustrated children's book with an included EP, Bed, Bed, Bed.

In 2004, the band released their first new "adult" rock work in three years, the EP Indestructible Object. They followed that up with a new album, The Spine, and an associated EP, The Spine Surfs Alone. For the album's first single, "Experimental Film", TMBG teamed up with Homestar Runner creators Matt and Mike Chapman to create an animated music video. The band's collaboration with the Brothers Chaps also included several Puppet Jam segments with puppet Homestar, and the music for a Strong Bad email entitled "Different Town."<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

TMBG also became slightly involved with the electoral process by contributing a track to the Future Soundtrack For America compilation, a project compiled by John Flansburgh with the help of Spike Jonze and Barsuk Records. The band contributed "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too", a political campaign song from the presidential election of 1840. The compilation was released by Barsuk and featured indie, alternative, and high-profile acts such as Death Cab For Cutie, The Flaming Lips, and Bright Eyes. All proceeds went to progressive organizations such as Music For America and MoveOn.org.

Flansburgh and Linnell also provided voices and an original song or two in Camp, the January 11, 2004 episode of the animated sitcom Home Movies. They voice both a pair of camp counselors and members of a strange hooded male bonding cult.

Following the Spine on the Hiway Tour of 2004, the band announced that they would take an extended hiatus from performing to focus on other projects, such as a musical produced by Flansburgh and written by his wife, Robin "Goldie" Goldwasser, titled People Are Wrong!.

Image:They Might Be Giants3-25-05.jpg
They Might Be Giants perform a free show at Amoeba Music in Hollywood, CA on March 252005.
2005 saw the release of Here Come the ABCs, TMBG's follow-up to the successful children's album No!. The Disney Sound label released the CD and DVD separately on February 152005. To promote the album, Flansburgh and Linnell along with drummer Marty Beller embarked on a short tour, performing for free at many Borders Bookstore locations. Despite their success in the children's music genre, anyone under the age of 16 is currently barred from TMBG concerts (except, of course, shows intended for a younger audience). The reasons stated on their site mention a number of elements uncharacteristic of their typical concerts (such as pot smoking and violent, drunken audience members).

In November 2005, Venue Songs was released as a two-disc CD/DVD set narrated by John Hodgman. It is a concept album based on all of the "venue songs" from their 2004 tour.

Since December 2005, TMBG has been making podcasts on a monthly, sometimes bi-monthly, basis. These podcasts are available on iTunes and their dialasong.com website[1]. Each edition includes remixes of previous songs, rarities, covers, and new songs and skits recorded specifically for the podcast.

TMBG has also contributed fourteen original songs for the 2006 Dunkin' Donuts ad campaign, America Runs On Dunkin', including "Things I Like To Do" and "Pleather".

Recently, the band has produced and performed three original songs for new Playhouse Disney series: one for Higglytown Heroes and two for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. They will also be providing original songs for the soundtrack to the Henry Selick-directed movie of Neil Gaiman's childrens' book Coraline.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>, and the title track to the upcoming Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons.

They are currently working on a new album with longtime producer Pat Dillett (David Byrne) and The Dust Brothers (Beck, Beastie Boys)<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>, which has yet to be named, as well as a follow-up to the Here Come the ABCs album entitled Here Come the 1-2-3s<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>. More can be found on their webpage, http://www.tmbg.com.

[edit] The band's name

The band takes its name from the 1971 movie They Might Be Giants starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward (based on the play of the same name written by James Goldman). The play (and movie) title is an allusion to Don Quixote, who mistook windmills for giants. George C. Scott's character discusses man's ability to invent and analyze past the obvious, saying:

Of course, [Quixote] carried it a bit too far. He thought that every windmill was a giant. That's insane. But, thinking that they might be... Well, all the best minds used to think the world was flat. But, what if it isn't? It might be round. And bread mold might be medicine. If we never looked at things and thought of what they might be, why, we'd all still be out there in the tall grass with the apes.

According to John Flansburgh, the name had been used and subsequently discarded by a friend of the band who had a ventriloquism act. The name was then adopted by the band who had been searching for a suitable name.

A common misconception is that the name of the band is a reference to themselves and an allusion to future success. In an interview John Flansburgh said (paraphrasing) that the words "they might be giants" are just a very outward-looking forward thing which they liked. He clarified this in the documentary movie Gigantic by explaining that the name refers to the outside world of possibilities that they saw as a fledgling band. In an earlier radio interview, John Linnell described the phrase as "something very paranoid sounding".<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

The band's name is parodied in Terry Pratchett's novel Soul Music by the dwarf "rock band", "We're Certainly Dwarfs". Pratchett has repeatedly stated they are his favorite band.[citation needed]

[edit] Discography

They Might Be Giants have released 11 studio albums, 6 live albums, 25 EPs and singles, and have collaborated on many other projects. <ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Studio albums

[edit] Live releases

[edit] Compilations

[edit] EPs and singles

[edit] Contributions, other releases

[edit] Charting Singles

Year Title Chart positions Album
US Modern Rock UK Singles Chart
1988 "Ana Ng" #11 - Lincoln
1990 "Birdhouse in Your Soul" #3 #6 Flood
1990 "Twisting" #22 - Flood
1990 "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" - #61 Flood
1992 "The Statue Got Me High" #24 #92 Apollo 18
1994 "Snail Shell" #19 - John Henry
2001 "Boss of Me" - #21 Music from Malcolm In The Middle

[edit] Music videos

The band has made music videos for many of their songs, including:

Other videos include:

  • "Rabid Child" (1986) (home video, not released publicly, clip can be seen in Gigantic)
  • "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" (1990) (produced by and featured on Tiny Toons)
  • "Particle Man" (1990) (produced by and featured on Tiny Toons)
  • "Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas)" (1997) (animated/live action, premiered on KaBlam!)
  • "Doctor Worm" (1999?) (animated, premered on KaBlam!)
  • "Courage the Cowardly Dog" (2002) (computer animated, aired on Cartoon Network)
  • "Dee Dee and Dexter" (2003) (animated by Klasky-Csupo, aired on Cartoon Network)
  • "I'm All You Can Think About" (2004) (animated in Macromedia Flash by John Linnell)
  • "Damn Good Times" (2005) (animated, appears on tmbg.com)
  • "Bastard Wants to Hit Me" (2005) (animated, appears on tmbg.com)
  • "Dallas", "Los Angeles", "Anaheim", "Vancouver" "Asheville" "Glasgow", "Albany", "Pittsburgh", "Asbury Park", "Brookln" and "Charlottesville" (2005, on the Venue Songs DVD)

[edit] Notes and references

<references/>

[edit] External links

[edit] Official sites

[edit] Unofficial fansites

[edit] Articles

[edit] Other

[edit] Internet Movie Database

They Might Be Giants
John Flansburgh | John Linnell
Dan Miller | Danny Weinkauf | Marty Beller
Brian Doherty | Dan Hickey | Graham Maby | Tony Maimone | Eric Schermerhorn
See Also: Dial-A-Song
Discography
Albums: They Might Be Giants | Lincoln | Flood | Apollo 18 | John Henry | Factory Showroom | Long Tall Weekend | Mink Car | No! | The Spine | Here Come the ABCs
EPs: Wiggle Diskette | 1985 Demo Tape | Don't Let's Start | (She Was A) Hotel Detective | They'll Need a Crane | Purple Toupee | Birdhouse in Your Soul | Istanbul (Not Constantinople) | The Statue Got Me High | The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) | I Palindrome I | Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas) | O Tannenbaum | Back to Skull | S-E-X-X-Y | Working Undercover for the Man | Boss of Me | Man, It's So Loud in Here | They Might Be Giants in Holidayland | Bed, Bed, Bed | Indestructible Object | The Spine Surfs Alone
Live albums: Live!! New York City 10/14/94 | Severe Tire Damage | Live | The Spine Hits the Road | Almanac | Venue Songs
Compilations: Don't Let's Start | Miscellaneous T | Then: The Earlier Years | Best of the Early Years | They Got Lost | Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants | A User's Guide to They Might Be Giants | Venue Songs DVD/CD
Songs
"Don't Let's Start" | "Ana Ng" | "Birdhouse in Your Soul" | "Particle Man" | "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" | "Doctor Worm" | "Experimental Film"
Video Releases
Direct From Brooklyn | Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) | Here Come the ABCs DVD/CD | Venue Songs DVD/CD

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They Might Be Giants

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