Talk:John Henry

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To the people who bash this album and say it's the worst...[edit]

I love this album. It is, by far, my favorite TMBG album, and one of my all-time favorite albums out of the litany of bands and musicians I listen to. So truly...powerful and deep, sweet and moving, dark and angry. It's not even my favorite out of bias or John-preference, because Flansburgh's songs on this album are amazing...Subliminal (he wrote it; Linnell sang it), AKA Driver, Sleeping in the fact, all his songs on this album are worth multiple listens. But this album is a shining point for Linnell, with his deepest and darkest material, and still his sense of humor shines through the gloom. I don't understand why people choose to hate this masterpiece so. Every band needs to change their style or else they get lost in the stream of has-beens. Devo never changed their style, and look what happened to them. Now, I DO think that They changed their style prematurely, maybe one more album with just the duo, but Their transition was, IMO, seamless. It sounds like TMBG, but enhanced! And I've always had a thing for horns used in rock songs. But after listening to this album through multiple times, I have come to a conclusion: John Linnell, bless his soul, has serious problems. But that's with as much respect and love as possible. - Overjoy

Devo never changed their style? That's entirely incorrect. They went from being a twangy, surfy guitar band to a streamlined new wave band to full on synthpop and dance music. No two Devo albums sound alike. As for John Henry, it's always been one of those albums where I look at the track listing and can't point to any songs I don't like, yet the album as a whole doesn't gel for me. I remember hearing a lot of these songs in concert before the album came out and then being sorely disappointed with the final product. It's not the horns, as I love TMBG with horns. I think it's in the production and length. I don't want to say this album is the most "mainstream" thing they ever did, but I do feel it's the one album where they most blended into what was going on at the time. You could have made a video for any one of these songs and had it sit comfortably next to anything else being shown on "120 Minutes" at that time. "Snail Shell" did just that. At any rate, this album has several songs that I'd rate with anything They ever did ("A Self Called Nowhere," "No One Knows My Plan," "The End of the Tour"), but on the whole, it's just less interesting to me than almost any other TMBG album. I remember thinking Factory Showroom was a big improvement over this. Mink Car would probably be my least favorite of their albums. --The Vanishing Dot 05:22, 2 December 2011 (EST)

Well, John Henry is my favourite album too. I really can't see why people hate it that much. My favourite songs have got to be Destination Moon and Snail Shell, with No One Knows My Plan coming in at a close third. This was the second album I bought (after Mink Car) and it's been the one i've listened to the most. When I went on holiday in April, this was nearly the only thing I listened to, and I didn't get tired of it one bit, and I'm still not tired of it. So, could someone please explain to me why this album is so horrible, because I've never thought it was, and I can't imagine why anyone else would - ( Herwwiyal ? )/ 07:29, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

John Henry is definitely my favorite album. However I kind of disliked it at first because of the switch to a live band. But after I listened to it a few times I picked out a few songs that I liked (Subliminal, A Self Called Nowhere, Destination Moon, Spy) so I listened to them alot and then started creeping up on the rest. I realize how great this album is, though they switch away from their past they put a lot of work, and showed a lot talent with the new style of things. It is really amazing just listening to this album. My favorite song now has to be No One Knows My Plan, I think its the best on the album. Snail Shell which is my ringtone, is one I like a lot too. - HowardTCo 04:04, 21 August 2006

Some albums take a lot of time for me to get into, but this was one of those "love-at-first-listen" ones. I tend to enjoy sad music, and this one was right up my alley--sad, but not "oh God this is so freakin' depressing I'ma go commit suicide out of despair" sad. It's a beautiful sadness. and underneath all that, there seems to be a tiny glimmer of hope. The music is amazing as well. Destination Moon carries on their tradition of having very bouncy, upbeat songs with dark undertones, as previously exemplified by songs like They'll Need A Crane, Don't Let's Start, and Twisting. Other songs veer into genres TMBG has rarely crossed into--especially Stomp Box, with its distorted, metalloid sound. And then there's The End Of The Tour, which is simply the most brilliant and amazing song I have ever heard. As usual, all the songs are lyrically exemplary, particularly A Self Called Nowhere (I have no idea what the hell it's about, but that rhyme scheme is amazing!) and the aforementioned The End Of The Tour. I could go on for hours describing how brilliant this album is, but I'm rambling now, so I'll shut up and just say that it's the best album ever. The end. Of the tour. ~Anna Ng: The Only TMBG Fan In Her Class

I'd call it... creepy. Lyric-wise. I find this to be a combonation of old and new. The guitar-heavy Snail Shell but then the stylistic values of their old stuff; I Should Be Allowed To Think reminds me of a song that would be shorter on an earlier album (Lincoln comes to mind). Subliminal, though a bit guitar-heavy after the first few measures, reminds me of something of an early album. Maybe it's the accordion. Anyway, back to lyrics. Some dark stuff on this album! Anna Ng said it right: bubbly music with dark lyrics. Great stuff from both John and John, and a favorite album of mine. Took me a while to actually like Sleeping In The Flowers (which is a great song) and Why Must I Be Sad, among a few. And since I play the saxaphone, I appriciate the horn section. Pshyeah. :) --Lemita 21:56, 15 May 2007 (UTC) is their best.

TMBG had a serious weakness early on. Drum machines and synthesized bass. Their creativity and songwriting carried them through those years. But the sound itself could be uncomfortable , maybe even difficult. Take a song like...Ana Ng. Listen to the bass and drums in the original. It's very stiff. Then listen to the version on Severe Tire Damage. Bringing on live musicians adds so much - I can't really listen to the old one when there's such a better alternative. The sound itself is real and the players add subtlety and way more skill than John and John could program.

This is why John Henry is such a revelation. I was so happy and relieved to hear it. They really broke out. Of course the songs are all good, some are great. I Should Be Allowed To Think, Destination Moon, No One Know My Plan, Thermostat and Out Of Jail are all fantastic. Any song by TMBG with a horn section kicks ass. They should always tour with horns. You can't do these things with a drum machine and synthesizer. --Corky k 05:37, 24 August 2010 (UTC)


This is, by far, my least favorite album, barring Here Come The ABCs. I can't explain why, I just can't stand listening to the whole album through.--tehbagel ( o ) 16:38, 19 May 2006 (CDT)

It's my favorite. By a relatively large margin, in fact. (Second place goes to Lincoln.) Just a matter of opinion, I suppose. ~Anna Ng: The Only TMBG Fan In Her Class 00:37, 24 May 2006 (CDT)

Mythological question: Who is the girl on the cover?

Seriously, who is she?

Well, I've decided that her name is Joan Henry. ~Anna Ng: The Only TMBG Fan In Her Class

I think I heard that all of the kids are the kids of people in connection to the band or the label or something. -Ecks

Just like to say[edit]

Notice how much acoustic guitar this album has? Seems it's height of TMBG usage is this album.

I deem John Henry the Album of the Acoustic Guitar!

Acoustic Guitar? No, this is the album of the severely overused rock organ and not nearly enough accordion. Don't get me wrong though, it's a great album, and a lot longer than the others, which I consider a bonus.
Hey, I love the organ on this album! whenever i hear it in any other tmbg song that's not on john henry, it always makes me think of john henry.

Henry Linnell?[edit]

is there any connection between henry linnell the john henry album?
maybe he was named after the album?

Yeah, that's often discussed among fans (or my friends at least). I suppose no one knows except John and Karen. -CapitalQtalk ♪ 07:44, 20 Jun 2006 (MDT)
I have been told that John supposedly said in some interview that they met during the recording of this album and so it is a reference but I have never found confirmation of this anywhere myself. --Self Called Nowhere 09:04, 26 February 2010 (UTC)

This is the album of horns!--Corky k 05:39, 24 August 2010 (UTC)


And probably Flansburgh, too. :) I think John Henry the album name is a multi-level joke. John Henry the folk hero's losing fight with the machine refers to Them struggling with Elektra, which insisted they add a back-up band, even if they weren't keen on the idea at first. John Henry is the doomed underdog quixotically shaking his fist at larger forces. Sort of like, well, Don Quixote?

I suspect also it's a bit of a private off-color joke, especially if they both saw North Dallas Forty. Elliot and Maxwell are like musicians in the film, and like John Henry in the legend, in that they had one thing they did well - football/music/driving steel - and they have bosses who try to work them until they break, because they're valued for what they produce, but their persons aren't respected at all. Get the job done even if you die trying!

In re little Henry Linnell, would you name your only son after a record album? Nah. Even if it was special to you and your wife? Ehh, maybe, but ... I would bet that Henry Linnell is named after a Henry in John or Karen's families or circle of friends.

~~Christina Miller, September 2006

I have no idea...[edit]

Why anyone hates it. It comes in a very close second for me (Flood barely beats it)

A Milestone[edit]

This is the first TMBG album I have avar heard anyone to name their child after. No, not Henry Linnell. Here's the story:

A Latin teacher of mine recently had a child. He mentioned that he was going to be named John Henry. I asked if that was after the folk hero. He replied that, no, it was after his favorite TMBG album.

Very, very cool, even if he was probably joking.

Well, given the choice, it wouldn't be too bad to have my child named "John Henry", as opposed to something like "The Spine."
That's just great. That's it, my first child will be named "No!". "No!, come eat your supper." — User:ACupOfCoffee@ 01:12, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Text on the inside cover of the John Henry promo[edit]

"THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS have undergone a major transformation, trading their drum-machine for the big sound of their six-piece band. fter two years of road work and woodshedding with the band, JOHN LINNELL and JOHN FLANSBURGH have returned with their latset electra release "John Henry". The disc moves from strength to strength, expanding on Linnell and Flansburgh's formidable melodic talents. As JH moves effortlessly from crafted ballads to the most full-throttle rockers of their career, it becomes clear that the album is a breakthrough achievement.

The recordings, many of which were cut live, capture the sonic power and immediacy for the new line-up. The Hammond B3 organ and the electric guitar are prominent in many of the hard-hitting arrangements, echoing the high energy of THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS' new show. "Snail Shell", the first single, is the perfect showcase for the talents of the new rhythm section. The album also takes maximum advantage of the band's horn players, from the sax-stylings of "Dirtbike" and the improvised ending of "Spy" to the latin flavor of "No One Knows My Plan" to the pure pop pulse of "Sleeping In The Flowers" and "Thermostat".

The album began at Excello, a small Brooklyn studio where the band demoed all the songs. Since then, the band has been playing many of the songs live, including performances at a number of summer and fall's larger radio festivals. The final recordings were made at Bearsville studios- site of the legendary recordings by The Band and Bob Dylan- with PAUL FOX (XLC, 10,000 Maniacs, Sugarcubes) sharing the production chores with Linnell and Flansburgh.

Given the muscial lineage of the band, it is no surprise that THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS' new line-up has been the talk of the live circuit since they hit the road in the summer of '92.

=> Bassist TONY MAIMONE'S musical career began in Cleveland's seminal punk-rock band Pere Ubu. Before coming on board full-time with TMBG, Tony also worked with Bob Mould. => Drummer BRIAN DOHERTY has recorded with the Silos, Freddy Johnston and XLC. => Former Ordinaires' leader KURT HOFFMAN plays sax and clarinets. He is also the leader of New York's Band Of Weeds. => Trumpeter FRANK LONDON has worked with everyone from LL Cool J to Mel Jarme, and currently leads the Klezmatics. => Trumpeter STEVEN BERNSTEIN is in downtown trio Spanish Fly, and is the musical director of the Lounge Lizards.

=> Notable guests include: punk legend ROBERT QUINE, lead guitarist of Richard Hell And The Voidoids and later of Lou Reed's "New York"-era band; Manhattan vocal group HUDSON SHAD; and rig rock guitarist JAY SHERMAN GODFREY of the World Famous Bluejays.

The much-awaited release of their fifth album is not the only cause for celebration in the Giants' Brooklyn homes, however. A gold record was recently awarded to THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS for their first Electra release "Flood".

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS are as hard to catagorize as they are to forget. Now, with their expanded line-up, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS begin a world tour to spread their unique musical message. "JH" is the striking debut of THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, the band.

RANDOM FACTS =>TMBG have recorded more than 100 songs.=>TMBG have performed more than 1000 shows in the United States, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. =>TMBG have made 10 videos, and won an MTV Breakthrough award for "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)". =>TMBG scored a national chart hit in the UK with "Birdhouse In Your Soul". =>TMBG maintain their Dial-A-Song service, which is still a regular charge call. It features new and unreleased material. 718-387-6962. =>TMBG's Flood was recently certified gold in the Unites States (500,000 copies sold) by the RIAA. =>TMBG have appeared on David Letterman three times, twice on the Tonight show, and on the Today Show, Conan O'Brian, and England's Top Of The Pops. Their first ever television appearance was on the Joe Franklin Show in 1985, where they appeared a total of three times. =>Their name is from a movie from the early seventies, They Might Be Giants, starring George C Scott and Joanne Woodward.

OF PERSONAL NOTE...=>JOHN LINNELL played sax on both the Jon Spencer Blues Expansion and Frank Black debut albums. =>JOHN FLANSBURGH directed two videos for Frank Black (formerly Black Francis of the Pixies) in 1993, as well as TMBG's "The Guitar". =>JOHN FLANSBURGH and Marjorie Galen started the Hello CD Of The Month Club in 1993. =>JOHN LINNELL will be recording four selections from his Fifty State Songs this summer."

Girl on the cover[edit]

This question has likely been asked before, but I'm to lazy to check. So who's the girl on the cover of John Henry? And what does she look like now? Not just her, but any of the kids on the album. -- DidgeGuy (आ ज) 15:57, 11 May 2010

Check out the trivia/info section of the article.--Duke33 16:24, 11 May 2010 (UTC)
I just want to point out HOW FUCKING CREEPY that girl is. She like gives me nightmares. But I think she's very appropriate for what is (arguably) Their darkest album. --Self Called Nowhere 00:00, 12 May 2010 (UTC)
Oh, yeah, totally. That's why I put off buying the album for so long. -- DidgeGuy (आ ज) 12:54, 12 May 2010


A coming soon page has appeared for the JH vinyl on the Asbestos site. ~ veggieman 00:20, 4 April 2013 (EDT)

Sweet! -CapitalQtalk ♪ 08:00, 4 April 2013 (EDT)

Double LP?[edit]

So what will be on the second LP? TMBG mentions that it will be "more deluxe". Any ideas or am I misinterpreting this? --Altermanncam 01:42, 20 May 2013 (EDT)

Um, my understanding has always been that it's a "double LP" because the album is too long to fit on a single LP, that's all. It's not going to be anything more than the John Henry we've always had. --Self Called Nowhere (talk) 02:08, 20 May 2013 (EDT)
One side of an LP generally holds around 25 minutes, meaning 50 for two sides, which the album just passes. So regardless of whether there's additional material or not, four sides are needed for just the album itself anyway.

Interesting album this. I always felt that it could have been a bigger success if they'd got the singles right. Given the mood of the time - grunge - they should have gone with AKA Driver and Self Called Nowhere as singles. Snail Shell was never going to work. Overall some good tunes, Dinner Bell is great, as is Subliminal. Patchy when compared to the first three albums, but still a lot better than most stuff out there at the time. (Mr Tuck)

Dinner Bell is definitely one of my favorites off of John Henry. Right along with Twisting and Snowball In Hell. (Yes, this is poking a bit of fun at Mr Tuck's simple mistake.) -Bouncer15111

Advance Copy distinction?[edit]

I just got a copy of John Henry, and to my surprise, it's an "advance copy" but has the same catalog number as the normal American release: 61654-2. Discogs has a separate page for advance copies of John Henry, but TMBW makes no distinction... should this be added to the wiki (and if so, how?) or should I just add it to my collection as normal ol' John Henry? --Bluef00t (talk) 19:42, 13 January 2020 (EST)

the promo i have has the standard catalogue on the insert, but the disc itself has the "PRO" prefix. unless you're referring to a gold-stamped retail copy, in which case no, we don't distinguish. --ant 20:09, 13 January 2020 (EST)

John Henry Girl Theory[edit]

I have a strange theory that this album is about the girl on the album cover (I LIKE TO CALL HER JESSICA BECAUSE WHY NOT?!) and her relatives and their lives. I made an interpretation on The End Of The Tour and I explain how it connects to Jessica's life. I might make more interpretations of different John Henry songs, hell, I might do the entire album! Anyways, you should check out my interpretations sometime because I write them A LOT. Mrs.Xcitement (talk) 13:45, 24 March 2023 (EDT)