Road Movie To Berlin

From This Might Be A Wiki

song name Road Movie to Berlin
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Flood, Flood + Apollo 18
year 1990
first played June 23, 1988 (154 known performances)
run time 2:22
sung by John Flansburgh


This song was actually written back when the Berlin Wall seemed like something that would actually never go down. It's weird, it's really a dated—I feel like it's actually sort of a topical... It's like, you know, pulling out my anti-Vietnam song. It was written at a time when it was just obvious that the Berlin Wall was gonna be there forever. So, it's kind of strangely dated.
This song was designed to feel like a fragment of some bar room song just starting up again and again. Even though the verses resolve, there is a little bit of tension that is left hanging each go around, and that hopefully is a bit more unsettling with each verse. My voice is slowed down, which is kind of creepy. Indicative of the speed with which a lot of the second half of the album was recorded, we inadvertently left out one of the verses we had been performing, and then didn't feel we had the time to fix it.
  • The liner notes for Flood included the lyrics to this missing verse, which was not featured on the album recording:

You said you were the King of Liars
And I believed you and called you sire
But I realize now that I have been deceived

  • Flansburgh explained: "There were a bunch of alternate lyrics written, but it didn't seem like the song should be that long."[1] He later elaborated: "It was one of those things as we were tracking the song, we just miscounted the number of verses or just forgot to sing that one when we were putting down a reference vocal, and it wasn't discovered until it was too late."[2]
  • All early live performances of the song included the cut verse in place of the "Time won't find the lost" verse. Since the year 2000, the band has typically included both verses.
  • The cut verse is present in the studio recording of the song, but is almost inaudible. The beginning of it can be faintly heard in the gap of silence after the second verse.
  • Flansburgh on the source of the orchestra hit sounds in the instrumental section: "If memory serves, a combination of a Sammy Davis Jr. blast and a stock Casio FZ1 brass sound."[3] He also stated: "The trumpet blasts, entirely synthetic or sampled, include the sample of the very same Frank London trumpet heard on ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul'."[4]
  • John Flansburgh and John Linnell were present in Berlin as part of the Berlin Wall was torn down. On February 19 1990, after their Berlin gig, the band and their crew witnessed a section of the wall fall. John Linnell recalled in a 2015 interview:
The Berlin Wall had officially come down, but that evening they told us that they were going to be tearing down the section in front of the Brandenburg gate. So after the show, we went out and walked there and stood on top of the Berlin Wall and looked down; and somebody had set up a mattress on the other side, so we were able to jump down over the wall. And, at that point, we didn't know whether we were supposed to be carrying our passports or not. But there was this sense of, like, 'This is a whole new world and nobody knows what's going to happen next.' You know, it was a very fun and exciting time to be somewhere in the world when something like that was happening. It felt like we were a part of it, in some weird way.

Song Themes

Cities, Death, Drinking, German, Movies, Problems with Liner Notes, Religion, Supernatural, Skeletons, Swing Feel, Time, Transportation


Current Rating

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Road Movie To Berlin is currently ranked #385 out of 1010. (141 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.47)