Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

From This Might Be A Wiki
Music video for "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
Music video for "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"

Screenshot from the regular music video.
Plucky as Linnell and Hamton as Flans in the Tiny Toons music video.
Postcard advertising the song from the TMBG Info Club

song name Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Flood, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (EP), Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants, A User's Guide To They Might Be Giants: Melody, Fidelity, Quantity, Rhino Hi-Five: They Might Be Giants, Flood + Apollo 18, 50,000,000 They Might Be Giants Songs Can't Be Wrong
year 1990
first played March 26, 1988 (1220 known performances)
run time 2:38
sung by John Flansburgh, John Linnell


When we were recording the Flood album, we had bought these Casio FD-1 samplers. I basically spent a couple of weeks in my house recording every single thing I could figure out how to record and playing it back on the keyboard. And so all these things that you hear on Istanbul are samples, except for the violin solo at the beginning and the trumpet in the middle. The thing that sounds like an accordion is actually a melodica that's been sampled. In the 'Even old New York' part, it's a Coke bottle being blown into a chord. The song's got a very unusual texture.
This song I knew from my childhood, and we learned it simply to have more songs in our repertoire. It was in the show for a couple of years, and John and I would perform without the drum machine. It had a very spaced out middle section where we would basically yodel into an echo effect and it all went very, very trippy. It always got a good response, and when we got our fancy Casio FZ-1 samplers, this track was one of the things we put together to test it out.
  • During live performances, Dan Miller almost always plays a long, improvisational, acoustic guitar intro before the full song kicks in.
  • Two videos were made for this song:
    • Official music video - Features stop-motion animated papier-mâché sculptures by Mark Marek and hand-drawn animation by J. Otto Seibold. This version appeared at The Angelika Film Center Jan. 18, 1991 in a film fest about recent animations. The New York Times reporter called it "inane Fluff."
    • Tiny Toon Adventures video - The Tiny Toons video is partly a spoof of the 1964 movie, Topkapi (starring Melina Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, and Peter Ustinov). The movie is about a petty con guy enlisted by international jewel thieves to steal a dagger with a huge emerald in the hilt, from the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul (dagger replaced by an emerald Plucky Duck in the video).
  • Featured in:

Song Themes

Cartoons, Cities, Educational, Fade Out, Geography, History, New York City, Oxymorons, Paradoxes, And Contradictory Statements, Places (Real), Questions, TMBG Remakes, Two Chord Songs


  • Watch it on Vimeo.png
  • Tonight Show performance, April 3rd, 1990. Watch it on Youtube.png
  • Tiny Toons music video. Watch it on Youtube.png

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Istanbul (Not Constantinople) is currently ranked #264 out of 889. (158 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.54)