Alienation's For The Rich

From This Might Be A Wiki

song name Alienation's for the Rich
artist They Might Be Giants
releases 1985 Promotional Demo Tape #7, 1985 Demo Tape, They Might Be Giants, Then: The Earlier Years
year 1985
first played July 18, 1982 (33 known performances)
run time 2:25
sung by John Flansburgh


  • In November 2014, Flansburgh discussed the idea of alienation being for the rich[1]:
It's actually not a concept we invented, and I can't remember the older iterations of the expression but the current popular expression that runs parallel is "first world problems" (although I wouldn't ever want to make a song called that!). The notion is that because their troubles and issues are immediate, working people don't have time to feel alienated from the world in the abstract, highfalutin way that existential dread is described. THAT seemed like an interesting point of view to write a song from--just like "Okie from Muskogee" has an interesting point of view that isn't necessarily first person direct. But the more I write about the whole concept here the more suspect the basic notion seems!
  • Flansburgh originally wrote this while in an earlier band called The Turtlenecks.
  • This was one of the songs played at TMBG's very first live show.
  • "We're gonna do a song that was written by my father, Mr. Earl Flansburgh, and it's called 'Alienation's for the Rich'." - John Flansburgh, June 23, 1987
  • Flansburgh frequently replaced the lyric "and the TV is in Esperanto" with "and the TV's talking Spanish" during earlier live performances.
  • Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. The name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof first published the Unua Libro in 1887. The word itself means "one who hopes". Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy and flexible language as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding.
  • Flansburgh's voice extends from a D2 to a Bb5 in this song as well as a Bb4 without falsetto, demonstrating well over three octaves of vocal range.
  • At the end of the song in the 1985 Demo Tape and in the seventh 1985 promotional demo tape, someone can be heard saying "That last thing's kinda weird." It is much more prominent on the latter of the tapes.
  • The band once performed this song (along with 'Cowtown' and 'Maybe I Know'), while busking on the Brooklyn promenade, according to the Summer 1999 info club newsletter.

Song Themes

Criminal Activities, Drinking, Language, Loneliness, Money, Occupations, Self-Reference, School, Spoken Word, Swear Words, Swing Feel, Trade Names, Transportation


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Alienation's For The Rich is currently ranked #634 out of 910. (111 wikians have given it an average rating of 7.70)