Interpretations:The Guitar

From This Might Be A Wiki

I think it's just Flansy being random, and sounding ridiculously catchy while doing so. -TheKarenThing

I believe The Guitar is a song in similar meaning as Rhythm Section Want ad; it is a song that has a statement about They Might Be Giants. They have taken one of the most popular and well known songs and essentially said “This is how WE would do it” and it ends up being an amazing piece of work. I believe it is the best song on Apollo 18 (though I Palindrome I and The Statue Got Me High are absolutely fantastic as well, as is much of the rest of the album). Apollo 18 has been said to be TMBG’s most self-consciously clever album, a statement I agree with, and The Guitar embodies that statement perfectly. They Might Be Giants are different and unique in their music, a message that comes through clearly in this song.

I think it's got a terrific groove, the bass is really nice if you listen hard. It rocks, makes me bob my head every time.--tehbagel ( o ) 03:06, 22 Jun 2006 (MDT)

The bass isn't even too hard to play, either. You just have to move your fingers incredibly fast. - Whirrrlwind (Woosh!) 03:10, 22 Jun 2006 (MDT)
Are you serious? The bass line in this song is pretty basic. But skill with any instrument is relative.--tehbagel ( o ) 01:12, 3 Jul 2006 (MDT)

This song is very polarizing. Fans either seem to love it or hate it. Personally, I think it's one of their best. -Cronny

Recorded in the bleak post grunge 90s when the Giants had gone from being a band touted as the next big thing, to a band completely out of step with the grunge adored by american youth. At this point, I felt that they might break up. This song perhaps best illustrates how lost the Giants felt. Easily the weakest single they ever released the tired kooky inversion of the Lion sleeps tonight is a rare lapse of the Giants being wacky on purpose. Only the ill-advised Planet of the Apes jiggery pokery (Flans again) on Severe Tire Damage and the appalling Spy (Flans yet again) comes as close as being this weak. The only high spot for me was that this where I first heard the Flans discovered Laura Cantrell. Flans hello recording club's great find, her beautiful voice, albeit singing gibberish about lions in spaceships, is the only standout from the whole track. Amazingly popular with the fans its still played to this very day. This is usually the part of the show where I get a drink, and Linnell walks off stage. (Mr Tuck)

??? Possibly a connection to Heavy Metal Music, in which it's so loud and you don't know what's what. -Walrus

I think it's about itself - a sort of jazzy sound picture. There's a guitar, a space ship, and and a lion. It's all about the vocals and the trumpet. Just groove on it.

In Arthur C. Clarke's book Childhood's End, aliens arrive on Earth in a silver space ship. That would be nothing in and of itself, but the same book has someone stowing away to another planet in a display of a squid fighting with a sperm whale. Probably still a coincidence (I think the Johns have said they found the squid/whale picture in a sci-fi magazine), but interesting nonetheless. (To give credit where credit's due, I believe this interpretation was first made by Emble, on the newsgroup.) -VoVat

I think it's just random TMBG randomness.

I think it's about getting used to music (first you hate it, but when you listen to it a few times, it sounds good). They might be talking about the parts where they sing about the silver spaceship and the lion.

Actually, that's what happened with me and a lot of TMBG songs (including this one).

This song is a breakdown of tmbg history. the first part (who's that playing the guitar) is about them beggining to be noticed but not being identified completely. When the lion takes control it's tmbg begginging their live shows with the tape. hush my darling the lion's on the phone. Hmm. Perhaps dial-a-song? Turn up the guitar: ppl want to know more about they might be giants. and the lion waves goodbye part is reaching into the future.

I'm surprised no one's mentioned the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Two excerpts from the lyrics:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle

The lion sleeps tonight

In the jungle, the quiet jungle

The lion sleeps tonight.

Hush my darling, don't fear my darling

The lion sleeps tonight

Hush my darling, don't fear my darling

The lion sleeps tonight.

I think it's pretty clear that the "lion" parts of the song are supermodern parodies of a well-known African doo-wop song.

Oh my, you people are too....i don't even know the word. Let me spell the song out to you : Flansburgh wants to know who is playing the guitar. He thinks it's Jim, but he can't tell. Then, somewhere else, quite possibly next to him, a lion in a spaceship takes control. Catch that much? After the lion takes control, Flansburgh yells to the guy (Jim?) to turn the guitar up 'cause he can't hear it. Then, some lady asks her child to be quiet, because the lion is on the phone trying to talk to her. The whole jibberish part is just jibberish, and is probably best ignored. Then the lion gets the spaceship off the ground, and Flansburgh still can't figure out who's playing the guitar. There.


15 Mar 2006

Here's a guess for the "Jim" mentioned. Is there any evidence that suggests Jimmi Hendrix was an inspiration for any of TMBG? Maybe this is an account of when they were originally inspired by guitar music. Although, there is a lot of trumpeting going on.


This isn't an interpretation, but rather an interesting story about the history of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight":

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa Mar 22, 2006 (AP)- Three impoverished South African women whose father wrote the song known as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" have won a six-year battle for royalties in a case that could affect other musicians.

The story surrounding the song that never seems to go out of date amounts to a rags-to-riches tale, replete with racial overtones.

No one is saying how many millions will go to the daughters of the late composer Solomon Linda, who died in poverty from kidney disease in 1962 at age 53. But the family's settlement last month with New York-based Abilene Music gives Linda's heirs 25 percent of past and future royalties and has broad implications.

Linda composed his now-famous song in 1939 in one of the squalid hostels that housed black migrant workers in Johannesburg. According to family lore, he wrote the song in minutes, inspired by his childhood tasks of chasing prowling lions from the cattle he herded. He called the song Mbube, Zulu for lion.

It was sung, in true Zulu tradition, a cappella. Linda's innovation was to add his falsetto voice, an overlay of haunting "eeeeeees," to the baritone and bass main line. To this day, this style is called Mbube in South Africa.

The song sold more than 100,000 copies over a decade, probably making it Africa's first big pop hit.

In the 1950s, at a time when apartheid laws robbed blacks of negotiating rights, Linda sold worldwide copyright to Gallo Records of South Africa for 10 shillings less than $1.70.

The song became one of the best known songs in the world as "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," attributed to George Weiss, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. American singer Pete Seeger adapted a version that he called "Wimoweh," making it a folk music staple.

Owen Dean, South Africa's leading copyright lawyer, argued successfully for Linda's family that under the British Imperial Copyright Act of 1911, which was in force in South Africa at the time Linda composed his song, all rights revert to the heirs, who are entitled to renegotiate royalties.

Check out it out ok? For starters, Jim is referring to Jimi Hendrix. The person playing the guitar is using an Octavia pedal made famous by Hendrix, this pedal would later be formatted in the 80's to look like a SILVER SPACESHIP. The lion represents the beastly guitar sound created by this pedal as well as Hendrix's overrated ability and persona. When the person is asking who is playing the guitar and if it's "Jim", they're asking if it's Hendrix playing because the tone is similar, but in actuality it is Flanserg playing.


Actually, 'Jim' is referring to TMBG's drummer at the time, whose last name eludes me. Flansburgh speaks about him on the commentary of The Guitar video, as Jim plays the drums on-screen. I believe his last named sounded like "seaball" or "seagull". They wrote the song during a jam session with Jim, hence his name being referenced in the song. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 22:11, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

This song drives me insane.

I cannot make any sense of it, and I am one of the people that hate this song. ~AgentChronon Also the above is wrong, they had no drummer on Apollo 18.

Laura Cantrell's riffing on The Tokens represents the forces of order. Flans represents the forces of chaos. Or something.

First they don't know whos player. Then a person comes in and takes over the player. Then the player is still unknown. Until the person makes a few calls. Then the player becomes popular and the the crowd wants the player to drop the person by ignoring him. I have no idea what the Count is for. But I know the 2nd gibberish is from the computer game monopoly. (auction time) ((I feel nerdy for knowing that)) Eventually the person is taken out. The player is left as a nobody. Hey, life. >_< I mainly added this to point out the gibberish part. I'm trying to figure out what the first gibberish is from, but no luck yet. ((I know, probably irrerevalnt) BUT since it was from the auction on a monopoly, MAYBE they sold out. ^_^ Who knows. ~Simcow~ 20-01-07.

It's a bit strange (or ironic?) that the guitar is rather in the background, though the song is called "The Guitar"... hence "Turn it up, the guitar / I can't hear the guitar"?

I didn't like this song at first, but it's grown on me.

My guess is that it's Flansburgh's cry for recognition. With the success of Birdhouse in Your Soul, Ana Ng, and Don't Let's Start (all Linnell songs), he doesn't want to be known as the anonymous 'other guy' in the band (see John Oates). Perspixx 06:17, 31 July 2007 (UTC)

I think the song is about a guitar. Yeah. Believe it.

For some reason, they do not know who is playing the guitar. Maybe the guitar is on the radio or something, and they do not know who the artist is. And that's what the song is about. It's about as pointless as singing loudly about how shy you are. But I still like it.

I honestly try not to think hard about songs like this, but I think the Cantrell parts are about an astronaut that's also a husband and father. --ZippZapp 00:35, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

It's about a domineering (takes control), out-of-touch (is it Jim?), too-busy (on the phone) career (silver spaceship) Dad who doesn't relate to his Son's musical abilities, and compliant Mom (hush my darling). Dad eventually divorces Mom and leaves (waves goodbye), then everything goes chaotic (cows mooing, brass cacaphony).

Perspixx has it basically right. This is Flansy asking for the respect he believes he deserves. He is referring to himself as the lion, as it is he that is making the growling sound through the silver spaceship -- the Hendrix octavia pedal.

"Is it Jim?" -- this could refer to Hendrix or the drummer; it probably doesn't matter. The implication is that Flansy is telling us: "No, it's not Jim, dammit. It's me that plays the guitar on these tracks. Respect."

Flans cleverly uses the old song (The Lion Sleeps Tonight - Wimoweh), interjecting himself as the sleeping lion. Sleeping, either because he is tired of his treatment, or because he feels like he has restrained himself throughout a period of mistreatment/lack of respect.

Guitar players are always asking for the guitar to be turned up in the mix, as Flans does in this song. Flansy believes that he is not respected, as evidenced by people talking while he is on the phone, not knowing that he is a contributing member of the band, and there is a veiled threat that he will leave -- "the lion waves goodbye."

I submit[edit]

it's time we quit; interpretating this load of garbage.

Dial a Song[edit]

I think that the part that Flansburgh sings is the Lion reacting to Dial-A-Song, trying to figure out who the guitarist is [maybe Jim(mi Hendrix)] and eventually thoroughly enjoying it. I think the Lion represents some rich and powerful person who just took control of a popular record label, or the silver spaceship. The Lion waving goodbye represents They Might Be Giants rejecting the record label and Lion leaves with the "Silver Spaceship", likely never to return.--MidoFS (talk) 15:03, 14 February 2017 (EST)

It's about the guitar[edit]

Huh. This song seems very divisive. Personally, I like it.

There's a lot of tension in the song. Flansburgh's singing seems very passive-aggressive. The lyrics are simple questions, but his tone is very angry. He seems like he himself is trying to be heard, maybe because he's the guitarist for he band, and the guitar is too quiet for his liking. The "Heys" throughout the song seem like the clearest example. When he says, "Hey! Who's that playing, Hey! The guitar?" He's saying "Hey! Pay attention! Hey! Pay attention to me, over here, on the guitar!" While the lion disinterestedly tells him to shut it.

I imagine the intended narrative, assuming there is one, is of a child trying to get the attention of their parent. Maybe the family has a guitar, and the child is discordantly banging on it while their mother is on the phone, in order to get her attention. My mother has sung this line to me before. But, if you're a fan who's overly invested in a story of the band, you could make it more dramatic and say that it's really about the relationship between the Johns, and Flansburgh being resentful or whatever, but I'm sure no one would ever just assume things like that without much evidence ;)

It's a funny joke[edit]

Look, it's just another long line of fun songs where they take a standard phrase then give you something unexpected in the second half. Like, "We wanna rock" instead of being wanting to rock, becomes we want A rock. The rest of the lyrics follow.

What if you took the line "in the jungle" and made it "in the spaceship"? What if you took the line "hush my darling the lion's on the prowl" and made it "hush my darling the lion's on the phone?"

Then medley it up so it's not just a remake.

Pure TMBG standard lyrical fun & games.