Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
They Might Be Giants
- This article is about the band. For the movie, see They Might Be Giants (movie).
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 songs "Particle Man" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)". They are also known for "Boss of Me", the theme to the hit television comedy, Malcolm in the Middle for which they won a Grammy Award.
The two Johns first met as children in Lincoln, Massachusetts. They began writing songs together in high school, but they never officially formed a band. Eventually the two went to separate colleges after high school, and Linnell joined The Mundanes, a New Wave group from Rhode Island. The two finally reunited, and moved to Brooklyn to continue their career.
The band began performing their own music, accompanied by a drum machine, and soon became fixtures on the Manhattan underground. 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 stolen, they set up the Dial-A-Song system with an answering machine hooked up to a tape of them playing popular songs. It soon caught the eye of Bar/None Records and earned them a review in People magazine.
In 1988 they released their second album, Lincoln. This album caused a major shock within the US music industry when in its first week of release it knocked U2's The Joshua Tree off the top of the Billboard College Charts (the US music industry's equivalent to the "Alternative/Independent" charts elsewhere in the world) after only a one week stay at the top (most were expecting U2 to be on top for the remainder of the year). The first single from Lincoln, "Ana Ng", reached number 89 on the UK Billboard charts, and was No.1 in the College Charts, earning the attention of major labels.
In 1989, they signed with Elektra Records, and released their third album Flood the following year. Flood earned them a gold album, thanks to the singles "Birdhouse in Your Soul", which reached number 6 in the UK charts, and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)".
Further interest in the band was generated by a pair of music videos featured in Warner Brothers cartoon Tiny Toon Adventures: "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Particle Man". This reflects the high "kid appeal" that TMBG has, resulting from their often silly or absurd songs and poppy melodies.
Following those successes, Bar/None Records released the B-sides and rarities compilation Miscellaneous T in 1991. The 1992 release of Apollo 18 saw Flansburgh and Linnell attract a supporting band, consisting of former Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone and drummer Brian Doherty . Several albums have followed, including John Henry (1994) and Factory Showroom (1996).
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, drummer Dan Hickey and bassist Danny Weinkauf . 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.
They Might Be Giants have also performed on other movie and television sound tracks, including The Oblongs, the ABC News miniseries Brave New World, and Ed and His Dead Mother . They also perform the theme music ("Dog on Fire", composed by Bob Mould) for the Peabody Award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. More recently, they composed and performed the music for the TLC series Resident Life and a song about the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog.
The decision to include the TMBG single "Boss of Me" as the theme song to the hit television series Malcolm in the Middle, as well as on the show's compilation CD, has brought a new audience to the band. This owes largely to the use of songs from all of the Giants' previous albums: the infamous punching-the-kid-in-the-wheelchair scene from the first MITM season, for example, was done to the strains of "Pencil Rain" from Lincoln. "Boss of Me" became the band's second top-40 hit in the UK.
On September 11, 2001, they released the album Mink Car and were filmed as the subject of a documentary made by AJ Schnack titled . The film, released in 2002, won rave reviews and several awards, and was featured in dozens of film festivals. The film was released on DVD in 2003.
In 2004 they released their first new rock work in years, the EP Indestructible Object. They followed that up with a new album, The Spine, and an associated EP, The Spine Surfs Alone. TMBG teamed up with Homestar Runner to provide music for several cartoons as well as hiring its creators to do an animated music video for their song "Experimental Film". They also went on tour again, visiting over 30 cities.
In addition, they started one of the first artist-owned online music stores, at which customers can buy MP3 copies of their music for US$10 an album. By doing this, the band gets to keep money that would otherwise go to record companies. (TMBG MP3 Music Store)
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 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 left-wing organizations such as Music For America and MoveOn.org. TMBG contributed "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too ", a political campaign song from the presidential election of 1840.
Following the Spine Surfs 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! .
Throughout their career, Brooklyn musical inventor Brian Dewan has been a frequent collaborator and friend of the group. He designed many of their album covers — including the famous podiums of Lincoln — and performs and sings on many of their songs, both in their albums and occasionally live.
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 a reference 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.
The band has made music videos for many of their songs.
- Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head (1986)
- Don't Let's Start (1986)
- Rabid Child (1986) (home video, not released publicly)
- Ana Ng (1988)
- Purple Toupee (1988)
- They'll Need A Crane (1988)
- Birdhouse In Your Soul (1990)
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (1990) (claymation version)
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (1990) (animated, with Tiny Toons characters)
- Particle Man (1990) (animated, with Tiny Toons characters)
- The Statue Got Me High (1992) (two versions exist - the BBC aired a different variation)
- The Guitar (1992)
- Snail Shell (1994)
- Doctor Worm (1998)
- Boss Of Me (2001) (premiered on FOX, some airplay on MTV2 and other stations)
- Courage The Cowardly Dog (2003?) (computer animated, aired on Cartoon Network)
- Experimental Film (2004) (animated, with Homestar Runner characters)
- They Might Be Giants (aka The Pink Album) (1986)
- Lincoln (1988)
- Flood (1990)
- Apollo 18 (1992)
- John Henry (1994)
- Factory Showroom (1996)
- Severe Tire Damage (1998)
- Mink Car (2001)
- No! (2002)
- The Spine (2004)
- Here Come the ABCs (2005) (CD and DVD released separately)
Compilations, Online Releases
- Miscellaneous T (1991)
- Live!! New York City 10/14/94 (1994)
- Then: The Earlier Years (1997)
- Live (1999)
- Long Tall Weekend (1999) (Internet release only)
- They Got Lost (2002)
- Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants (2002)
- Venue Songs (2004) (Internet release only)
- Almanac (album) (2004) (Internet release only)
EPs, singles, and demos
- Wiggle Diskette (1985)
- 1985 Demo Tape (1985)
- Don't Let's Start (1987)
- (She Was A) Hotel Detective (1987)
- They'll Need A Crane (1989)
- Purple Toupee (1989)
- Birdhouse In Your Soul (1989)
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (1990)
- I Palindrome I (1992)
- The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) (1992)
- Why Does The Sun Shine (1993)
- O Tannenbaum (1993)
- Back To Skull (1994)
- S-E-X-X-Y (1996)
- Working Undercover For The Man (2000)
- Boss Of Me (2000)
- Man, It's So Loud in Here (2000)
- Music From Malcolm In The Middle (2000)
- They Might Be Giants In Holidayland (2001)
- Bed, Bed, Bed (2003)
- Indestructible Object (2004)
- The Spine Surfs Alone (2004)
- Official They Might Be Giants web page
- Official band-operated download site
- They Might Be Giants' Dial A Song
- The official Gigantic web page
- TMBGNET.COM - They Might Be Giants network
- This Might Be A Wiki - a wiki about TMBG. As of September 5, 2004, it contained 3109 pages.
- The Unofficial They Might Be Giants Site
- Experimental Film Video
- Unofficial Blood-Mobile Video (Requires Macromedia Flash.)
- They Might Be Giants Release First MP3 Only Album - MP3 Newswire article
- Rachel's TMBG Concert Photos 600+ photos from 30+ shows since 1999
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