Can't Keep Johnny Down

From This Might Be A Wiki
Official music video (featuring Rip Torn)
Winning submission in fan video contest
Artwork by Paul Sahre

song name Can't Keep Johnny Down
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Join Us (Four Advance Tracks), Can't Keep Johnny Down (Promo), Podcast 41, Join Us, Album Raises New And Troubling Questions (videos), Them Ain't Big Eye Ants, Idlewild, 50,000,000 They Might Be Giants Songs Can't Be Wrong
year 2011
first played July 15, 2011 (178 known performances)
run time 2:22
sung by John Linnell; John Flansburgh sings "down" in the chorus


I was very pleased with comments about [Can't Keep Johnny Down] early on where people understood that — first, of all our songs aren’t biographical and everybody knows that — the song isn’t about me. In a way, the song is a joke in the way that both of our names are John. That wasn’t a mistake. The guy in the song is a complete and utter asshole and the song is in the perspective of [him]. Some of the characters [in our songs] aren’t very nice people, but we try to be nice people.
It’s kind of a classic, unreliable narrator type of song. I don’t feel totally comfortable trying to sum it up. The lyric is about a guy who seems like he’s got some mixed emotions about the world. He’s sort of reading everything in a hostile way. But “Johnny” isn’t us, although we do share a name with him.
...It's a song of defiance. It's an incredibly catchy song. That's a very nice, bittersweet concoction of a very bitchy lyric with an incredibly sunny arrangement. It's sort of Brit-pop. I'm very excited about how that one came out. It's one of those tracks that as we were putting it together, I was like "wow, this is so strong." John [Linnell] did an outstanding job with the track. The man is a genius.
  • On June 24, 2011, TMBG announced a fan video contest for the song, to be judged by John Hodgman. About 100 submissions were posted to the band's Facebook page. Hodgman selected the winner and runners-up on July 18. The winning video was made by Mohit Jaswal, Eduardo Urueana, and Justin Dean, who received a prize of $1,000. Runners-up received free pizzas.
  • The official music video for this song stars Rip Torn and is directed by Surround. It was released on October 4, 2011.
  • The line "Hitting golf balls on the moon" likely refers to the lunar golf shots taken by Alan Shepard during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
  • The title for John Hodgman's animated detective show Dicktown was lifted from the lyric "All of the dicks in this dick town".[1]

Song Themes

Bad English, Body Parts, Cities, Clothes, Forgetting And Remembering, Funny But Sad, Hands, Heads, Misanthropy, Numbers, Occupations, Paranoia, People (Imaginary), Pointing, Problems With Liner Notes, Size, Space, Sports, Swear Words, This Town, Transportation


  • Watch it on Youtube.png - Official music video
  • Watch it on Youtube.png - The winning fan video
  • Watch it on Youtube.png – Recorded live on November 13, 2011 at Amoeba Music
  • Watch it on Vimeo.png (Live at The Pop Machine in Indianapolis)

Current Rating

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Can't Keep Johnny Down is currently ranked #21 out of 1010. (245 wikians have given it an average rating of 9.20)