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They Might Be Giants
— with Think Jet opening —
The Rollick in Atlanta, GA
January 23, 1987 at 11:00 PM
Fan Recaps and Comments:
Tickets were $5 and the doors opened at 9 p.m.
Preview of the show from the Atlanta Constitution, Jan. 23, 1987:
This band plays loony little tunes over the telephone for intimate audiences of one.
According to John Flansburgh, guitarist, and John Linnell, "rock accordionist," with They Might Be Giants, the band has reached out and touched a brand new public with its Dial-A-Song service. (For samples, call Flansburgh's answering machine at 718-387-6962, which plays a new ditty each day. You pay for the call.) "They're not real night-lifers," says Linnell of his phone followers. "They're usually people who work in offices and are sick of their jobs and just want to call somebody."
On the other side of TMBG's "piebald demographic" are fans of its live shows at New York City hot spots such as Danceteria, CBGB, Pyramid and Darinka. This week the group performs outside the New York metro area for the first time, in the "They Might Be Giants 'Bring Me the Head of Kenny Rogers' World Tour 1987." TMBG will be at the Rollick tonight. The tour doesn't truthfully circle the globe, but it does amble across much of the United States in a pattern that resembles a noose. "I hope that's not ominous," says Linnell.
If their pathway is ominous, so is their music — cheerfully ominous, dark, silly and surreal. All the people are so happy now their heads are caving in/I'm glad they are a snowman with protective rubber skin, is the message in "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes," a tune from their debut album on Bar/None records. Speak softly, drive a Sherman tank/Laugh hard, it's a long way to the bank, they sing on "Rhythm Section Want Ad." Among the 19 compositions on the record, there is a lusty drinking song ("Hope That I Get Old Before I Die") a country lament ("Alienation's for the Rich") and a stolen melody from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, ("Rhythm Section Want Ad.")
While their pieces adhere to the honored pop conventions, with ABBA construction and Elvis Costello-ish cord changes, they emply fractured meaning and bizarre instrumentation, including a phoned-in guitar solo on one tune called "Absolutely Bill's Mood." If this sounds like a couple of goofy art rockers with no commercial potential, consider that TMBG has put a song in regular rotation on MTV ("Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head,") has been featured in People and Spin magazines and reviewed in The Village Voice and The New York Times and has become a regular on the "Joe Franklin Show."
Of their lyrics, Flansburgh says "Most of them are pretty oblique. We're not that worried about being misunderstood, but Gordon Lightfoot would say the same thing... It's very positive, in a Bertolt-Brecht-meets-the-Lovin'-Spoonful sort of way."
Collaboration between the two Johns, both natives of Lincoln, Mass., began in high school when they invented a mimeographed underground comic book called Dark Brown Funnies. Both moved to New York about five years ago. "And we started working together, realizing that we were both musical geniuses," says Flansburgh. What happens when geniuses collide? "Oh, it's been really jolly," he adds. Though they performed once at a Central Park Sandinista rally under the name Circle Gets the Square, the pair adopted their present handle from a 1971 movie featuring George C. Scott, whose addled character thinks he is Sherlock Holmes. Linnell says the movie's Quixotic overtones are suited to the band, which he describes as either an exercise in futility or a noble quest.
In addition to accordion, Linnell plays baritone sax. He adds that "At this moment I am studying the banjo, from across the room. I've been thinking about starting another band called BanJovi."
"We're ready for the bootleggers," says Linnell. "We have a lot of songs and we desperately need to get rid of our backlog. That was the purpose of the Dial-A-Song service." In that function, Flansburgh's answering machine has served well. It has also accepted numerous recorded messages, both clean and obscene, from followers around the country, but very few of them have turned out to be from attractive single women. Says Linnell, "As a dating service, it's been a failure."
They Might Be Giants. Tonight at The Rollick, 688 Spring St. N.W. Doors open 9 p.m., music begins 11 p.m. with Think Jet. Tickets $5 at the door. Call 881-1193 for information.