Don't Let's Start

From This Might Be A Wiki
Official video
Screenshot from the video (which features the single mix)
Another screenshot

song name Don't Let's Start
artist They Might Be Giants
releases They Might Be Giants, 4 From They Might Be Giants, A User's Guide To They Might Be Giants: Melody, Fidelity, Quantity
year 1986
first played July 3, 1986 (584 known performances)
run time 2:36
sung by John Linnell


  • The single mix of this song is the more frequently heard version, and this was used for the music video. It added a bass synth overdub under the "I don't want to live in this world anymore" section, additional reverb throughout, and has a more airy stereo mix. It was also used in place of the original album version on Then: The Earlier Years.
  • In a 2003 interview on NPR's Fresh Air With Terry Gross, Linnell said the music was written first, and a large portion of the lyrics were decided on simply because the words fit the correct number of syllables for the melody. He also said that they almost put this song as the leadoff song on their debut album, but they changed their minds at the last minute because he felt the lyrics were too meandering.
  • According to Jamie Kitman, the song grew in popularity after a programming executive saw them perform at the Electric Banana in 1987 and began playing it on their local radio station.[1] John Flansburgh would also talk about the song's airplay on radio stations in a 2019 interview:
A very small commercial radio station in Pittsburgh began playing a song off the album called Don’t Let’s Start — and not just playing it, but playing it like it was a big hit. And then their sister station in Long Island, NY started playing it as well. Then all these college radio stations, which had recently coalesced around the indie scene, started playing it. So it was quickly determined we should make another video with Adam for Don’t Let’s Start.
  • The song's video was directed by Adam Bernstein with cinematography by Mark Shprintz. From the archive:
We shot the outdoor scenes at Flushing Meadows park in Queens, NY, site of the 1964 World's Fair, which both Flansburgh and I attended as children and remember fondly. Several of the pavilions are still there, including the New York State pavilion which has an enormous map of the state (badly chipped up) covering its floor.
Our director, Adam Bernstein, pretty much worked with us on the video. What we did was we took a lot of our stage stuff, like the hats and giant faces; all the aspects of our live show, we condensed into a single video. And Adam, for his part, got us up at about five in the morning to shoot this thing, so we were complete zombies and basically did whatever he told us, which is his incredibly successful method of shooting videos. He wakes people up really early so that he can control them. And I take my hat off to him, I think it worked.
  • The large question mark sign seen in the black & white video is actually bright red and was constructed by John Flansburgh.
  • Briefly discussed in the "Telephone" episode of This American Life, which featured Sarah Vowell talking about the origins of Dial-A-Song.
  • The lyric "No one in the world ever gets what they want and that is beautiful" is referenced in the 2011 novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. The line is the main character's access phrase to log into his account on an online simulation called the OASIS. You can read an excerpt from the book here, in which the character "burned through the entire They Might Be Giants discography in under two weeks." The lyric reappeared in the 2020 sequel Ready Player Two.
  • A snippet of lyrics from "Don't Let's Start" is used in Jimmy Eat World's "A Praise Chorus," in the line, "Don't don't don't let's start, why did we ever part?"
  • This song is referenced by Open Mike Eagle in the song "Sadface Penance Raps."
  • This song has been covered by Common Rotation.

Song Themes

1964 World's Fair, Animals, Bad English, Body Parts, Cartoons, Death, Funny But Sad, I've Got A, Letters Of The Alphabet, Loneliness, Love Gone Sour, Money, Music, Nonsense Words, Oblique Cliches Or Idiom, Questions, Screaming, Self-Reference, Telecommunication, The Senses, TV And Movie Themes


  • Watch it on Vimeo.png
  • Watch it on Youtube.png - 2019 "best quality" video

Current Rating

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Don't Let's Start is currently ranked #3 out of 1008. (450 wikians have given it an average rating of 9.43)