Most of you have probably heard any of They Might Be Giant’s catchy Here’s Your ABC’s or Here’s Your 123’s, where they teach kids about numbers and letters, one new for each song, but did you know they’ve been doing their music for over 20 years?
This is probably one of those bands where you recognize the song but never put the title or artist name on your mind. Before they did the Here’s Your-series, their most known song is one almost all kids born in the 80’s and 90’s have heard: Boss Of Me. The song was used as the theme song for the global success Malcom In The Middle. They won their first Grammy in 2002, 20 years after they started the band, for this very single.
They have done a variety of styles and for most of their career they were on several of the worlds biggest rock charts, including Modern Rock and CMJ. TMBG formed in 1982 and was founded by the bands two only members John Flansburgh and John Linell. The name was taken from one of their favourite movies, the 1972 flick They Might Be Giants, which in turn got its title from Don Quixote, from the passage where the protagonist mistakes windmills for giants.
As wide as the array of genres they’ve played is also their way of publishing music. For example, Boss Of Me was released in 1999, a year before the TV show was first aired, in something as uncommon at the time as a Internet Only collection. You couldn’t get the physical disc, you could only download it, making TMBG one of the worlds first internet music publishers, in a time where dial-up modems ruled and broad band was only a dream for most people, when people had to wait 5 minutes just to get on the internet and there were no commonly available portable digital music players.
This isn’t the most odd of their releases thou. In the late 80’s, both Johns had accidents, Flansburgh was robbed and Linell broke his wrist in a biking accident, and they had to put the touring on the shelf for a few years. This didn’t stop them thou, because they had years of recordings stockpiled. They put all their recordings together in an answering machine and advertised it as Dial-A-Song, so people could call them and hear a song or a message from the band. This wasn’t any 0800-number thou, it was a regular phone number, so they didn’t make any money on this directly, however due to the popularity that arose from this unique concept, BAR/NONE Records picked them up and signed them to their label.
Dial-A-Song had a rooster of over 500 different songs, making TMBG one of the worlds most prolific bands. The answering machine helped in making even more songs, as they noticed in 1988 that the machine had picked up a conversation in the background from one of the callers who were questioning how they made any profit from this. The recorded voices were later used as a hidden secret track on their EP (She Was A) Hotel Detective and inspired to the phone scene in their top-billing single Ana Ng.
Today they are quite content with doing children’s songs, but their career have taken yet another upswing, as one of their first songs that got a music video made in the early 80’s, Birdhouse In Your Soul, has been playing a lot on different internet radio stations, including the global channel Audio Nation Radio.
They Might Be Giants have had an odd career, so I guess it’s not so surprising they didn’t get their mainstream fame until after they themselves toned down their music. Don’t misunderstand me now, they are still touring and putting out music, but they have taken it a lot slower in later years, concentrating on their podcasts instead.
I don’t know how to sum this duo up, and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone ever needs to. They Might Be Giants is to music what Tesla was to technology, what Lovecraft was to literature and what Van Gogh was to art. They are what they are, and for that we are grateful!