TMBG.ORG FAQ

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TMBG.ORG FAQ
Questions 1-15 | Questions 16-30 | Questions 31-45 | Questions 46+

This page contains the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) often seen in postings to the They Might Be Giants mailing list and the "alt.music.tmbg" newsgroup. It is posted to help reduce volume in the mailing list and newsgroup and to provide hard-to-find information of general interest.

This FAQ was imported over from tmbg.org a few years ago, and naturally, many of the answers to questions are a bit outdated. Feel free to edit the questions/answers to keep everything up to date.

How can I find out more about They Might Be Giants? How do I join the TMBG fan club?[edit | edit source]

First, listen to all of their music.

Secondly, you can surf the official They Might Be Giants page ("http://www.tmbg.com/") and check out the Unofficial They Might Be Giants Page ("http://www.tmbg.org/"). The latest official Giants news is always available at "http://www.theymightbegiants.com/".

Thirdly, you can join the official e-mail newsletter by emailing tmbgdot@aol.com.

Fourthly, go see them in concert. For tour dates, your best bet is "http://www.pollstar.com/tour/searchall.pl?By=Artist&Content=they_might_be_giants"

Fiftly, read the FAQs (this file and others). The latest edition of the They Might Be Giants Answers to Frequently Asked Questions file (this FAQ file) is always available using the World Wide Web at "http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/faq/". A plain text version of this FAQ file is available at "http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/faq/FAQ.txt". The They Might Be Giants Early Years Handbook is (temporarily) available at "http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/early-years/". The best They Might Be Giants concert history can be found at "http://www.tmbg.net/shows.html". The They Might Be Giants Who Sings What list is available at "http://www.tc.umn.edu/~cab/whosings.txt". A Mono Puff FAQ list is available at "http://www.monopuff.org/faq.html".

Lastly, you can join the They Might Be Giants mailing list. The mailing list is for the discussion of the music and recordings of They Might Be Giants (the band and the cereal). The mailing list is distributed as both a "bounce" list, in which every message posted to the list gets sent out individually, and a "digest" list, in which a week's worth of messages are compiled into one large "digest" message. For more information on the TMBG mailing list, read "http://www.tmbg.org/discussion/mail/". If you are concerned about the number of messages you receive, you may want to subscribe to the "digest" list rather than the "bounce" list. The TMBG mailing list is administered by Leo Bicknell. Once you have subscribed, you will be sent a welcome letter which includes instructions for submitting articles to the mailing list. Please save this welcome letter for future reference. If you have any other questions or problems, send e-mail to <tmbg-list-approval@ufp.org>.

To join the "bounce" list, send the command

subscribe tmbg-list

in the body of an e-mail message to <majordomo@tmbg.org>.

To join the "digest" list, send the command

subscribe tmbg-digest

in the body of an e-mail message to <majordomo@tmbg.org>.

And finally, you can read the Alternative Newsgroup "alt.music.tmbg". If your site carries the Alternative Usenet news groups ("alt" groups) then you can read this newsgroup. Check with your local system administrator or consultant for details. Some information is available at "http://www.tmbg.org/discussion/news/".

How do I get off the mailing list?[edit | edit source]

To cancel your subscription to the TMBG "bounce" list, send the command

unsubscribe tmbg-list e-mail@address

in the body of an e-mail message to <majordomo@tmbg.org>.

To cancel your subscription to the TMBG "digest" list, send the command

unsubscribe tmbg-digest e-mail@address

in the body of an e-mail message to <majordomo@tmbg.org>.

(Note: your "e-mail@address" is optional if you have subscribed with the address you use to send the command.)

Thank you for your mind.

What are TMBG doing now and when will the next record be released? What are the tour dates?[edit | edit source]

The Malcolm in the Middle soundtrack, with three TMBG tracks has a current release date of 2/6/01. The best MitM website can be found here. They Might Be Giants are slated to release No!, an album of songs for children in spring of 2001. The disc will be enhanced. You can preview six of the songs from the album here. They also plan to release their next regular album of songs for childish adults, Unreliable Narrator, soon thereafter. A single of Working Undercover for the Man was released by emusic in May 2000; their first MP3 release, Long Tall Weekend was released on 7/19/99. Both can be had on emusic.com.

For the most up to date list of TMBG tour dates, check pollstar.com. Also, theymightbegiants.com is usually pretty up to date and contains the latest TMBG news.

John Linnell's album, State Songs, was released by Zoë Records on October 26, 1999. John Linnell said in an interview that choosing states as a subject gave him 50 guaranteed song titles.

The Hello Recording Club has shut its doors, the last installment having been sent to subscribers in April of 1997.

Is Dial-A-Song for real?[edit | edit source]

Yes, it is. The correct number for Dial-A-Song is still 718-387-6962. Always just a regular call to Brooklyn. No extra charges.

Dial-A-Song is now available via the web on the official They Might Be Giants page ("http://www.tmbg.com/"). Dial-A-Song now has its own website ("http://www.dialasong.com/").

Do the Johns know about the mailing list? Do the Johns know about the alt.music.tmbg newsgroup? Do the Johns read this list? Do the Johns read the newsgroup? Can I talk to John and John via e-mail?[edit | edit source]

Do the Johns know about the mailing list?

Yes.

Do the Johns know about the alt.music.tmbg newsgroup?

Yes.

Do the Johns read the list?

No.

Do the Johns read the newsgroup?

No.

Can I talk to John and John via e-mail?

No.

Thanks to Chris Bongaarts.

Joshua Hall-Bachner adds:

What if John and John were on the list, e-mailing us under a penname?

They'd leave.

Are there TMBG lyrics and/or archives of the mailing list available? Where can I get the latest TMBG discography?[edit | edit source]

Check out the Unofficial They Might Be Giants Page ("http://www.tmbg.org/"). Back issues of the digest are available via the Web at "http://www.tmbg.org/discussion/mail/list/", and via FTP from from ftp.tmbg.org [209.249.97.244], in the directory "/pub/tmbg-digest.archive/".

The TMBG discography is available at "http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/discography/". The FAQ is available at "http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/faq/".

Where does the name "They Might Be Giants" come from?[edit | edit source]

They Might Be Giants is the name of a film starring George C. Scott, as a classic paranoiac who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes, and Joanne Woodward, as his psychiatrist Dr. Watson.

Fred Wolf adds:

[The] film you cite was previously a broadway play. The play's title . . . comes from a section of Don Quixote da la Mancha by Miguel Cervantes, where Don Quixote's trusted servant Sanch Panza asks the Don why is preparing to attack several windmills (common in Spain) with his lance. Don Quixote replies "Why, because they might be giants."

(TMBG, the play, was never performed on Broadway. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They_Might_Be_Giants_%28film%29)


Russ Josephson writes:

For me, the key dialogue of the movie, where the title comes from, follows:

Holmes: Here, what do you make of it?

Watson: God, you're just like Don Quixote, you think everything's always something else.

Holmes: Heh, heh, heh, well he had a point. Of course, he 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.

John Linnell explains: "It's the name of a movie made in the early seventies. We wanted a name that was outward-looking and paranoid."

However, The Rev. Midnight Tree Bandit says:

One evening a couple of years ago, I was hanging out at a radio station on a Sunday Night (I was there every Sunday, but not a dj... long story) and came across one of those "how the bands got their names" books. I was quite surprised to find tmbg were one of them. The story given is a little different. According to the book (which cited both Flans and Linnell), neither of the Johns had seen the movie in question, nor were they quite aware of who they were. They got the name from a ventriloquist act, a friend of theirs, who used that name. After an unsuccessful run at a talent show, the guy told them they could use the name if they wanted. The Johns were wavering between that and "Dumptruck", choosing tmbg immediately before their first club date -- and a good thing too since there was a Boston band of the same name making the rounds of the East Coast.

What is the "long long trailer"?[edit | edit source]

The Long Long Trailer is a film starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They take a trip towing their house trailer behind them. The dishes get broken. The car keeps driving. Nobody stops to save her (because Desi can't hear her, she's in the trailer).

What does the Morse code spell in "The Pencil Rain"?[edit | edit source]

Ben Nicholson writes:

Anyway, my girlfriend got all the letters, but she couldn't make out what it said. She then read me the sequence and I recognized it from my high school Spanish class. The message:

Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, canta y no llores

It is a Spanish folk song translated the first line means "Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay, sing and don't cry."

Dave Zobel adds that the song is "'Cielito Lindo,' which some folks may recognize as the song once sung by the Frito Bandito."

Sadiye Guler adds:

"Cielito Lindo" translates to "Pretty Little Sky"

and i say, there we go!

. the spanish song is saying "don't cry pretty little sky" . our song is "pencil rain", and the rain is how skies cry, right? i mean as a commonly used metaphor . so, the bullet/pencil rain is the sky's tears, and the morse code says "sing and don't cry" to the sky.

i take it as an antiwar message, ironically morse-coded by gun shot noises.

HEY!!! responds:

Gunshots? sorry to bring it up again but it sounds NOTHING like gunshots...

What are the missing lyrics to "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair"? What are the lyrics to the bridge section in "Letterbox"? Why did they leave out one line of "Road Movie to Berlin"?[edit | edit source]

The missing lyrics to "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair" are as follows:

Mr. Horrible / Mr. Horrible / We're not done with you yet Mr. Horrible / You have to try on these pants so the Ugliness Men / can decide if they're just as embarrassing as we think. / We have to be sure about this.

Jimmymeister writes:

I posted a question about the Letterbox bridge several months ago. Here's the compiled response I got:

Too late or soon to make [noise about] love and there's no time for sorrow. Run around in the rain with a hole in the brain till tomo-rrooooow.

Kirsten Brodbeck says:

They cut [the line in "Road Movie to Berlin"] out because They thought it made the song too long.

What is the dialogue in "Snowball in Hell"?[edit | edit source]

Ted Rathkopf writes:

Paul: I didn't expect to find a salesman drinking coffee this late in the morning. How long you been here, Joe?

Joe: I don't know. I guess 30, 45 minutes maybe. Why do you ask?

Paul: You must be making a lot of sales. Piling up a good income.

Joe: Ohhhhaaaa I'm doing alright. I could do better, but.... Ohhhahaha I get it Paul. Back on that old Time Is Money kick, right?

Paul: Not back on it Joe, still on it.

Mike Levy adds:

John Flansburgh has mentioned that the source of this recording is a motivational record that Bill Krauss gave him. From a recording of a live show where they performed this song, I have evidence that there is an edit. The actual line is, "I get it, Paul. You've got the needle out and back on that old time is money kick, right?"

Why does "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" sound so familiar?[edit | edit source]

The bridge part is the melody to "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah", and the final section seems to be a twisted mixture of the theme to "Perry Mason" and the theme to "Mayberry R.F.D."

Miles Taber adds:

I've always heard something strikingly similar to the theme of The Patty Duke Show, which actually seems (just barely) consistent with the lyrics of the song.

Who is speaking in the song with no name? (track 13 on Miscellaneous T)[edit | edit source]

This song was originally released as one of the B-sides to "(She Was a) Hotel Detective".

Tess writes:

Dial-a-Song was . . . Flans' answering machine. In the old days, before they might have been giants, people would leave messages after listening to a song. That is where the woman from Misc T comes from. I guess she is just some random message that was left on John's answering machine. Once, the 94th precinct of the police called in to say how great they thought the guys were. and left a message.

[And that's where the message in "I'll Sink Manhattan" comes from as well.]

John Flansburgh (They Might Be Giants) says:

This is a very frequently asked question. Back when very few people called Dial-A-Song the phone machine that played the songs took messages. I came home one day and found the message tape full, instead of the ten or twenty messages it usually had. I rewound the tape and found that most of it was taken up by a woman who had called on a conference call with her friend, listened to the song and then proceeded to have a private conversation unaware that the Dial-A-Song machine was recording them. The recording on track thirteen is just an excerpt of the first couple of minutes of their conversation. It actually got much stranger, but it was unrelated to the band, and too freaky to put on a record.

What is the backwards voice saying Manhattan"? What is the backwards message in "Which Describes How You're Feeling"? What's the backwards message at the end of "Hide Away, Folk Family"? What's the backwards music at the end of "Subliminal"?[edit | edit source]

Cat "had the enormous good fortune to interview John F. for The Cornell Daily", and John says, concerning the backwards voice in "I'll Sink Manhattan":

It's actually a New York Cop who left a message on Dial-A-Song, saying [thick New Yawk accent] "John and John... the NYPD love you!" It was so strange because... it's really weird having, like, POLICEMEN telling you things like this...

Eric Peterson writes:

The message is: "Thanks a lot guys." "From the N.Y.P.D." "We love ya." It's actually three separate messages; the first is at normal speed and the other two are slowed down a bit.

Andrew Weiskopf writes:

In the song "Which Describes How You're Feeling," there is a passage which has been cleverly recorded backwards. Our research staff has decoded the secret message in the song: and now, you will be the first to know these all-too-powerful words of wisdom....

It is as follows:

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS WANTED TO INCLUDE A VERSE ABOUT THE SUFFERING PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, BUT WE COULDN'T FIGURE OUT WHERE TO PUT IT INTO THE SONG.

Note: This message only appears on the DEMO version of "Which Describes How You're Feeling", which is available on Then: The Earlier Years and on some of the singles for The Statue Got Me High.

About "Hide Away, Folk Family", thanks to Joshua John Buergel for this answer:

The secret message is total gibberish. John and John just babbled into the mic while recording it backwards.

However, Steve points out:

. . . the message in Hide Away Folk Family wasn't even recorded backwards, John & John just used their "fake backwards singing". I read this in an info club issue.

And finally, about "Subliminal", the backwards section is just the drums and vocals from the ending of the song reversed.

Whose face is in the video for "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head"?[edit | edit source]

William Allen White. His face was also used for props at TMBG concerts, appears on the CD single of "Don't Let's Start", appears in the "Don't Let's Start" video, and otherwise can be found associated with TMBG.

WHITE, William Allen, American writer and journalist: b. Emporia, Kans., Feb. 10, 1868; d. there, Jan. 29, 1944. He grew up in El Dorado, Kans., 60 miles south of Emporia, studied at the University of Kansas (1886-1890) but did not graduate, quitting instead to become business manager of the El Dorado Republican; he was editorial manager on the Kansas City Star from 1892 to 1895. In 1895 he bought the Emporia Gazette, which he edited and published during the rest of his life; through its columns he became famous throughout the United States as "the sage of Emporia," a genial and warmly human person who epitomized the middle-class Midwest; a Republican and a liberal who endeared himself to all, including those who differed with him, because of his integrity, tolerance, and understanding; a writer of great versatility and appeal. His editorial, "What's the Matter with Kansas?" (Aug. 15, 1896), attacking the People's Party (Populists), attracted nationwide attention and helped the Republicans elect William McKinley to the presidency. His essay, "Mary White," on the death of his daughter, aged 17, in 1921, in a riding accident is considered a classic. For his editorial, "To an Anxious Friend" (July 27, 1922) he received a 1923 Pulitzer Prize. His books include collected short stories and sketches, such as The Real Issue and Other Stories (1896), The Court of Boyville (1899), and In Our Town (1906); novels -- A Certain Rich Man (1909), The Martial Adventures of Henry and Me (1918), and In the Heart of a Fool (1918); a biography of Woodrow Wilson (1924) and two of Calvin Coolidge (1925, 1938); collected newspaper writings -- The Editor and His People, selected by Helen O. Mahin (1924) and Forty Years on Main Street, compiled by Russell H. Fitzgibbon (1937); and other works such as Masks in a Pageant, political sketches (1928), and The Changing Midwest (1939). His autobiography was published in 1946 and reissued in 1951.

[Consult Hinshaw, David, The Man from Kansas (New York 1945); Johnson, Walter, ed., Selected Letters, 1899-1943 (New York 1947); id., William Allen White's America (New York 1947).]

Thanks to John Iacoletti.