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They Might Be Giants Essay, Research Paper

“They Might Be Giants” is a band that is not very heard of. But, more people have heard of them than you think. To these certain people, this band is their favorite. They are a unique group with unique people, sounds, and ideas. This is what makes them so good. The band mixes so many genres of music, so it is sort of hard to put them in one category. They combine pop, folk, salsa, country, jazz, R&B, polka, along with children s type songs.

They Might Be Giants is a 2 person band. They are unique in their own unusual way. The two members of the band are John Flansburgh and John Linnell. The two metin junior high in the mid 1970’s. From then until they both moved to Brooklyn in 1981 they would occasionally make tapes of their songs and things that weren’t really songs.

Their first performance together, unaccompanied, was at a Sandinista rally in Central Park in the summer of 1982. It was there that they were introduced as “El Grupo de Rock ‘n’ roll.” About six months later they performed their second show under the name “They Might Be Giants.” The group took their name from a 1972 George C. Scott movie Their first shows included Linnell playing accordion, keyboards, woodwinds, vocals; Flansburgh playing the guitar, vocals, and a home-made taped rhythm track. They kept up as a duo with a tape recorder because it was very cheap.

The instrumentation of the band has been evolving since the release of the first album back in 1986. Originally (and through the Flood tour in 1990) the band toured as just John and John backed with synthesizers and tapes. Then, during the Apollo 18 tour, the band started adding talent such as J. D. Feinberg (drums) and Kurt Hoffman (horns, keyboards) to live tours. When John Henry was released, John and John used Brian Doherty (drums) and Tony Maimone (bass), among others, in the recording sessions as well as tours.

Later on, they had become “4-track recording enthusiasts.” It was still just the two of them, so they needed to get a rhythm section going. They created the “rhythm section” of the band from a variety of sound sources: the Moog synthesizer, an abandoned drum kit, Music Minus One-type records, tape loops and embryonic versions of drum machines designed to accompany lounge acts. Help arrived in the mid- 80’s when the “cheap, gloriously robotic, programmable” drum machine was introduced.

Another breakthrough of the early 80’s that would play a major role in gaining exposure for the band was the introduction of the phone machine. After a burglary cleaned out Flansburgh’s new apartment and Linnell broke his wrist in a bike accident, the band was unable to perform live for a few months. Suddenly, their dream of using a phone machine as an outlet for their music, like Dial-A-Poem or Dial-A-Prayer, seemed worth investing. They used pre-recorded songs with simple instrumentation so the quality was clear over the phone. People could call and listen to songs when they wanted to.

“They Might Be Giants” began their rise to fame by performing around downtown Manhattan about once a month. Then they began playing in performance clubs. In 1985 they began playing out weekly in tiny clubs packed with wildly enthusiastic crowds. This is where they began selling their cassettes. While the band was getting noticed on the downtown scene for their live performances, many people in and outside the New York area discovered They Might Be Giants through their Dial-A-Song service. Years before any other fan line, They Might Be Giants’ service offered songs recorded especially for their phone line, and the only charge is that of a regular call to Brooklyn.

Soon after their 1985 demo tape was reviewed in People magazine, Hoboken’s Bar/None label approached the band about releasing an album, and a quick succession of events vaulted the band into the national spotlight. This company released their first two albums; “They Might Be Giants” in late 1986, “Lincoln” in 1988, and also four EP’s which included many of the Dial-A-Songs. After the release of their second album, LINCOLN, the band signed with Elektra records and in 1990 put out their enormously successful FLOOD album.

Soon after “Lincoln” was released, MTV picked up on their “quirky visual appeal”, and Lincoln became the biggest-selling independent album of 1989 in the USA. Their self-titled first album was widely praised and a solid commercial success, selling over 100,000 copies in its first year of release. Through a series of striking and creative videos the Giants became MTV regulars – a rare feat for a band on an independent label.

They Might Be Giants have many popular songs out. They have 12 full length albums out, along with many singles and EP’s. In 1986, their self-titled album came out, with the famous song “Don’t Let’s Start”. 1988, “Lincoln” was made. In 1990, “Flood” was released. In 1991 “Miscellaneous T” was produced. Apollo 18, with the popular “Fingertips” was released. “John Henry” was out in 1994. “Factory Showroom” came out in 1996. In 1997 “Then; The Earlier Years” was out. This is a 2 CD set containing their first two albums and then many bonus unreleased tracks. Then their latest out is “Severe Tire Damage” which is a live performance recorded. 1990 saw They Might Be Giants’ first major label single, “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” become a top ten hit in the UK. They toured around the world and performed over 160 shows in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The band made numerous television and radio appearances, including The Tonight Show, where they played with Doc Severinsen, Today, and Late Night With David Letterman.

“They Might Be Giants” videos are not very well known on MTV anymore. I have never had the chance to view one. I have had the chance to see the band perform twice though. It is a lot different than a recording of them. They now have the modern technology to aid them in performances when they are in need of more instruments. They have hired musicians to play for live performances and for recordings just so they could have the full sound they would like. During their performances, they are very down to earth. They don’t do the whole dress up thing. They show up in their every day clothes and be themselves. They don’t put on an act. They want their fans to know them for who they really are, not by their acts they put on for an audience.

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