1985 Demo Tape

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For the various promotional demo tapes released by TMBG in 1985, see 1985 Promotional Demo Tapes
1985 Demo Tape demo tape cover
1985 Demo Tape
Demo tape by They Might Be Giants
First released July 4, 1985
Release details / collectors: Show | Hide
Tracks 23 Last demo tape 1985 Promo Demo Tape
Label TMB Music Length 39:07 Next demo tape TMBG / Joshua Fried Split Single

They Might Be Giants (known by fans as the 1985 Demo Tape) is the first album-length release by They Might Be Giants.

The tape was originally distributed by the Johns at TMBG concerts in 1985-86 as a self-released cassette-only album. The material was recorded onto standard store-bought audio cassettes, with black-and-white photocopied inserts on different colored paper (commonly yellow, but also on white and blue). Although it was self-released, the cassette was reviewed[1] by Michael Small in People magazine, giving the band the attention they would need to score a record deal with Bar/None.

Flansburgh described the recording process[2]:

We had jobs, and had been playing out pretty much every weekend from '84 on, so we took the money we earned from shows and dedicated it to acquiring the very cheapest studio time available (often evenings or late nights). But we were also home taping enthusiasts, so we had been recording demos of songs for years, and because we were creating backing rhythm tracks for the show we were kinda half way there if we put demos together in a studio.

We went to a cassette duping place and just made them in batches, and again plowed the money back into the project.

There are at least four 'batches' of the tape with noticeable differences in both the printed cover as well as differences in the songs. See below for the differences.

The tape went out of print not long after The Pink Album came out, but was re-released in 1993 as a promotion by the Hello CD Of The Month Club (limited edition of 3,000 copies). If subscribers added $5 to their subscription fee, they would receive a copy of the reissue, which had a glossy color insert and this message on the back:

Hello Recording Club, PO Box 551, Palisades, New York 10694 - 1 year subscription send $41 check or money order (NY residents add 8.25% sales tax) or call 1-800-HELLO-41 for credit cards - For an additional $5 receive this cassette - All proceeds from the sale of this cassette go to the People With Aids Coalition - All songs written by They Might Be Giants, published by They Might Be Giants Music ASCAP, administered by WB Music Corp. - ℗ & © 1985 They Might Be Giants Music. All Rights Reserved. HEL-T

Track listing[edit]

# Title Length  Lyrics Guitar Tab
1 (Put Your Hand Inside The) Puppet Head 2:10


2 When It Rains It Snows 1:18


3 Number Three 1:41


4 Don't Let's Start 1:06 
5 You'll Miss Me 1:53


6 Hope That I Get Old Before I Die 1:12


7 Biggest One 1:23


8 32 Footsteps 1:36


9 Boat Of Car 1:14


10 Cowtown 2:22


11 Chess Piece Face 1:21


12 Rabid Child 1:31


13 Youth Culture Killed My Dog 2:58


14 Alienation's For The Rich 2:25


15 The Day 1:24


16 (She Was A) Hotel Detective 2:19


17 Which Describes How You're Feeling 1:24


18 Toddler Hi-Way 0:25


19 Become A Robot 1:18


20 I'm Def 1:25


21 Hell Hotel 1:54


22 They Might Be Giants 2:59


23 Nothing's Going To Change My Clothes 1:49




There have been at least four different versions of the 1985 Demo Tape, with possibly more existing, as it seems the band was constantly tinkering with the songs during this year, as evidenced by the other mixes and versions on the promotional demo tapes of this time.

1985 Demo Tape Example 1[edit]

  • Possibly the earliest, this tape features a simpler track-listing layout on the inside of the J-card compared to others, with the tracks and credits vertical in one column.
  • The cassette is a black C46 cassette tape with either a hand-written or typewriter-typed label, only on Side One, which reads: "P. & C. 1985 TMB Music / They Might Be Giants / Side One" Another example however includes a typed message on Side Two that reads "P.S. They Might Be Giants love you."
  • You'll Miss Me is a different mix which lacks tom drum and cowbell fills, panning on the handclaps, and noise stabs at 1:08, which later versions contain.
  • The Micromoog synth line in Cowtown is one voice and panned center (like in the 1985 Promotional Demo version), not doubled with delay and panned hard left/right as in the later 1985 Demo Tape versions.
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 1a)[edit]
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 1b)[edit]
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 1c)[edit]

1985 Demo Tape Example 2[edit]

  • Possibly superseding Example 1, and the more well known version, this tape features a more elaborate layout for the track-listing on the J-card, orienting the layout 90 degrees to the previous example and splitting the track-listing into two columns of "Side One" and "Side Two"
  • The cassette is a smoky clear or black plastic C46 cassette tape with a red stamped label on both sides, reading "Side One / They Might Be Giants / ℗ & © 1985 TMB Music" and "Side Two / They Might Be Giants / ℗ & © 1985 TMB Music"
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 2)[edit]

1985 Demo Tape Example 3 / Hello 1993 Reissue[edit]

  • Possibly the final version of this tape.
  • This demo tape version is the basis for the 1993 Hello Reissue.
  • Visually identical to to Example 2 above, the only difference here are two songs on the tape.
  • Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head (Demo 3) is a rougher mix of the final 1986 album version. Notably, this song lacks the "Things! Gotta do! Head! Puppet Head!" backing vocals and changes “subway” to “carwash”.
  • Hope That I Get Old Before I Die is a rougher, more monaural mix of the final 1986 album version that also includes a more prominent bass drum beat. Notably, this is an entirely different recording than the other examples contain.
  • Some copies contain The Famous Polka (Demo) as the last track on side A without being mentioned on the J-card. Notably, one such copy was given to Gary Ray of Darinka.
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 3, found in the Darinka Archives)[edit]
Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Hello 1993 Reissue)[edit]

1985 Demo Tape Example 4[edit]

Images: 1985 Demo Tape (Example 4)[edit]


  • "Hell Hotel" was the only song from this tape that had not been reworked and/or released elsewhere until the 1983 demo version was released as part of Podcast 32A in 2008. It is the only song on the tape that has never been released on another physical format.
  • Interestingly, there are 23 tracks on most versions of this demo tape. The number 23 plays an important role for the band. The following is from the liner notes of Then: The Earlier Years, referring to the band's second show, the first under their present name: "In spite of a heavy snow storm, 23 supportive friends came out, and the show was a big success." (The show was previously believed to have been on the 23rd of the month, either January or February, but evidence now suggests it was on February 13, 1983.)
  • The 1985 Demo Tape found in the Darinka Archives is a Demo Tape Example #3 with the addition of The Famous Polka (Demo) (identical to the Frank O’Toole version), following Rabid Child at the end of Side One without mention of it on the J-card. Example #4 also includes the demo as well, once again with no mention.
  • Bill Krauss explaining the recordings from the tape on the Don't Let's Start fan podcast:[3]
[...] we were always recording because we needed to record for the shows, because all of the tracks were on tape for the live shows. [...] and so things that started out as demos made their way onto what became the 23-song collection. We didn't set out to make a 23-song cassette, we just started accumulating stuff and we had a bunch—and it became a thing.
And finally, for something completely different, from New York City come They Might Be Giants and their self-titled cassette.
They Might Be Giants contains 23 of the crazisest, most original and well-performed songs (all about two minutes or less) available anywhere. I caought them live, recently, and want to state for the record that this duo is onto something. Here's a tape worth looking for, no matter how far you have to travel. That's a promise!

Promotional & Print Material[edit]