They Might Be Giants (Vagabond Joy)
From This Might Be A Wiki
|They Might Be Giants
|Unreleased, Dial-A-Song, Power Of Dial-A-Song
|3:42 (full song) / 0:56 (Dial-A-Song version)
|Peter Stewart, Christopher Pennington backing
- For decades, this song was bootlegged extensively and referred to by They Might Be Giants fans as "I Might Be Giants, Too," and the musician responsible for the song was unknown.
- The song's author, singer-songwriter Peter Stewart, was first publicly identified by a fan in May 2023 in a YouTube comment. Stewart, a musician originally from Montreal, moved to New York City in the early 1980s and began gigging at clubs like CBGB. In New York, Stewart formed a band and recorded a single, "Luxury Life", which found airplay on The MTV Basement Tapes and led to a sold-out show at The Limelight, where he worked. Taking advice from record industry members in New York, Stewart headed for London in late 1985, where he soon formed a new band called Vagabond Joy, recording, performing and opening for acts including Tears for Fears, Bob Geldof and The Alarm.
- In June 2023, Stewart confirmed that the song, officially known as "They Might Be Giants", was written and recorded by him, and he was delighted to learn that John & John had received the recording in the '80s, and that fans had been circulating the song for decades. Stewart and his friend Pat Naud were both Montreal-based early fans of They Might Be Giants, having seen them at their first Montreal show in 1984 as well as many New York City shows soon after. Stewart wrote the song shortly after moving to London in 1985, while waiting for the tube at London's Tottenham Court Road station. In a moment of inspiration, the whole song came to Stewart, who sang it into a Dictaphone and ran home to put chords to it.
- Stewart described what the song's lyrics meant to him in a YouTube comment in June 2023:
I think the band's name was so in my consciousness that it made sense it came out in a lyric, and then became the song's title. For me the song is about how we are destroying the planet, ecology being at the forefront of my mind when I wrote it. The "giants" representing the corporations, the ruling elite, and the destruction by them of "poor Mother Earth", with the realisation that all of us in one way or another play a part in that system even though most of us are against it. Hence the realisation or conclusion of the song that "I might be giant too" - the idea once you realise you are really a part in the stripping of the world's resources and exploitation of peoples - because of it then you're in a better position to do something about it.
- The song received multiple demo versions in the years following 1985, and a 1988 demo recording ended up being the one featured on the cassette that Stewart's friend Naud passed to Warner Chappell Music, intended for John and John to hear, and which later circulated among They Might Be Giants fans. The demo featured Christopher Pennington on backup vocals and fingerpicked acoustic guitar.
- After receiving the cassette from Warner Chappell, They Might Be Giants featured the song on their Dial-A-Song service, and occasionally played the cassette in the middle of their shows during moments like technical difficulties, such as a 1989 show where it was played when John Flansburgh needed to replace guitar strings. Flansburgh introduced it by saying, "You know, when you're in a rock band, you get a lot of interesting tapes in the mail, but this is by far the most interesting one we've ever gotten. Not really, but, it's got our name in it—it's kind of strange." The song was also later used as a walk-on intro at some TMBG "Then and Now" concerts in 1997, and showed up on Radio They Might Be Giants and in "Taking It To The Bridge (We Reinvented The Remix)."
- The song was later rerecorded in 1989 with producer Hugh Jones at Rockfield Studios in Wales for release on Vagabond Joy's 1990 debut album, Baby's Not a Guru, but after a year of delaying the release, SBK Records (an EMI label) canceled the album after two singles had been issued. As such, that version of the song and the album are still unreleased. "They Might Be Giants" was slated to be the third single, and the Tamworth Herald praised the song, stating:
"They Might Be Giants" is an absolute epic by anyone's standards and if there is any justice these days in chart positions then this would be a number one for a couple of months.
- In 2023, Stewart completed a new recording of the song featuring the Prague Symphony Strings, and Vagabond Joy bandmate Christopher Pennington returning on background vocals and guitar. The new recording is available on Bandcamp. The 1988 demo was also briefly available for purchase.
- Stewart lives in Berlin now, and has released four albums to date under the name Louderman.
- In 1997, decades before Stewart was discovered as the song's author, John Flansburgh told a fan that Deep Blue Something recorded the song as a demo and sent it to them, but Deep Blue Something had not yet formed when the song was recorded, and later confirmed that it was not by them. Later on, Flansburgh stated on Tumblr that he'd lost the tape containing the artist's information printed on it.
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They Might Be Giants (Vagabond Joy) is currently ranked #412 out of 1005. (33 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.42)