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They Might Be Giants

Alt-rock pioneers “They Might Be Giants” are rocking again. They’ll be with us.

They Might Be Giants (Shervin Lainez)

They Might Be Giants (Shervin Lainez)

Back when Gun n’ Roses and Twisted Sister were big, two young guys with coke bottle glasses, dorky hair cuts, and an accordion walked on stage, turned on a drum machine, and made alt-rock.

“They Might Be Giants” was a great name that became a great, fresh player in the alternative rock universe.  The forever young grand-daddies of Green Day and a lot more.  They’re back.

This hour On Point:  “They Might Be Giants”.

-Tom Ashbrook


John Flansburgh, , singer, guitarist, and co-songwriter for They Might Be Giants.

John Linnell, singer, co-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist for They Might Be Giants – playing instruments like accordion, saxophone, clarinet, and keyboards for the group.

Marty Beller, drummer for They Might Be Giants since 2004.


Can’t Keep Johnny Down – Join Us
Cloissoné – Join Us
Birdhouse In Your Soul – Flood
Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – Flood (live)
Canajoharie – Join Us
Particle Man – Flood
Bed Bed Bed – No!
Judy is Your Viet Nam – Join Us
The Lady And The Tiger – Join Us
Three Might Be Duende – Join Us
Dog On Fire written by Bob Mould
When Will You Die – Join Us
Celebration – Join Us

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  • Hidan


    These guys were awesome when I was a kid.

  • Hidan
  • Cory

    “Tour the world
    with a heavy metal band,
    but they run out of gas
    the plane can never land.”  -Shoehorn With Teeth

    Spent a lot of time in college listening to these guys.  After a show at UW Milwaukee in the early 90′s the fez could be seen on many students heads in the days and weeks following the show.  Very talented musicians.  Glad to hear they are still making music. 

  • Cory

    Could the artists PUH-LEASE explain the song “Triangle Man”?  Who are particle man, triangle man, and universe man?  Listened to the song many times and love it, just want to know where it came from.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.winikka Chris Winikka

      Sorry, Cory, but I almost don’t want to hear TMBGs explanation for fear my interpretation is wrong, or even worse:that it might be correct.

    • Ausgal

      Not an official explanaiton, but check this out: http://tmbw.net/wiki/Interpretations:Particle_Man

  • Ausgal

    Can’t wait. I’m so glad you’re streaming.

  • Lucy J.

    Grateful to the Johns and their band for being such a fixture in my family for sooo many years.  My 5 kids have grown up with their lyrics as a second language!  When my son was diagnosed with bone cancer in his leg at age 12 four years ago, they very graciously autographed his crutches after a concert in Northampton a month before his leg was amputated.  He loved the fact that he had a Linell crutch and a Flansburgh crutch, and we still have them.  Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1631791436 Suz Carter

    Why is the world in love again?Why are we marching hand in hand?Why are the ocean levels rising up?It’s brand new record for 1990.They Might be Giants’ brand new album:Flood

  • Akelly99

    This is so exciting! My son can sing all of “The Alphabet of Nations”, and I’m sure he will get much assistance years from now when he’s learning human biology from “The Blood Mobile” (it would have helped me when I was a kid ;-). They love 7 days of the week and get a sick pleasure out of E eats everything. lol.
    Hubby and I were brought back in time when your science cd brought back The Sun song….we’d loved you long before you did kid music but we’re so grateful you do! Birdhouse in your soul will always make me smile.
    Thanks again!

  • Fan of all 3

    My brother ate cheese whiz and crackers with TMBG in Frankfurt Germany after wandering into these guys’ room (different security in Germany in the late 80s) and talked for years about how awesome and down-to-Earth they were. I wasn’t allowed to attend that show (even though I introduced TMBG to HIM) because I was only 13 or so, and man did he rub it in. Tell me guys, did this really happen?

    Still get so happy when I hear these guys, and the kids’ music is loved by all of us in the family. Cracks us up, so nice to have an alternative to garbage like the Fresh Beat Band. My daughter is getting a kick out of listening to me sing along with Instanbul, a high school anthem. Woo hoo!

    reagan outside boston

  • Lee Benningfield

    I’ve been a fan of TMBG for about 15 years now.  I thought I was somewhat over them, but when the new album was announced I came running back like a squealing fanboy.  I joined the Instant Fan Club without a second thought.  I’m wondering if there will be any other members at the shows tomorrow night…

  • Dan

    I never realized how much “Istanbul” sounds like “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.

  • Deb233

    One of my favorite memories: At a TMBG cd release tour in a local bookstore – my husband and I calling out “Play Ana Ang!  Birdhouse in your Soul” and our 4 year old son yelling “Fibber Island! Robot Parade!”
    Good times!  Thanks guys.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pamohearn Pamela Paasche O’Hearn

    Oh, how I’ve loved these guys for ages!  Thanks for this show!  I remember getting to see them live for the first time, and they did a ‘request’ session in their show. I almost yelled out for “frankenstein” as it was both obscure and challenging at that time, and then they did it on their own as an encore.  Way cool shows. 

  • orwellio

    I loved TMBG’s brief tune “Other Father Song” on the soundtrack for the stop-motion animation film Coraline.  Might they play it? 

  • Justin

    Did John and John get any animation cells from tiny toon adventures?

  • Art in Bowling Green KY

    I have always been impressed with how emotionally stirring some of thier lyrically wonky songs feel.  They’ll Need A Crane is one of the saddest songs ever.  But I still have no idea what Boat of Car Means.  Any ideas???

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ALIJYBHIEFN3X25CASC7WXNXOA Jennifer

    I went to college in 1987, found Them on MTV when they played videos, and they’ve shaped my musical tastes since.  SO glad to hear “Join Us” – back to John and John singing for me – a purported grownup – and not the kids I don’t have.  Also, songs with both of you singing are so good to hear.

  • Amy B

    I remember seeing you guys with the reel to reel way too many years ago…. Hooked instantly! Thanks for all of the great music!

  • Grace

    I first heard They Might Be Giants on an old TechTV program called The Screen Savers!  I still listen to Leo LaPorte on his postcast, TWiT (This Week in Tech) and he recently said on his show that he’d love to have you guys back on his show.  He’s got a newly built studio in Petaluma, California – you should contact him – would love to hear/see you on his show!

  • Leo

    I remember being a kid and LOVING Partical Man. I mean it just doesn’t get better than that. Partical Man Partical Man! hahaha, I always wondered why Triangle man beat up Partical Man…..also love SEXXY…more than enough..the x is for extra! I finally saw you guys in VT several years ago and it was a great show! I was so surprised when I got there, I figured there would be all these old cats (lets face it us nineties folk are getting old) but the place was FULL of kids! So glad you guys are still around for the next generation. You played a song about taking out the trash? I can’t remember the name maybe you could refresh the memory? Thanks!

  • Robert B. Pierce

    Do They Might Be Giants related to Tom Lehrer?

  • Sara

    When I was in high school in the 90s, my mom let me skip school and we went to see a free show at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. It was so much fun! Thanks for the great memory!

  • Jenn

    what makes a concert fun for YOU (john, john & the band)?
    last night’s show in richmond was fantastic. thank you!

    btw, i miss the “no one knows my plan” conga line at concerts : (

    • Val

      me too!!!!!  an early 90s concert best!!!

  • Mocha Fiend

    I have become a crazed fan after being exposed to TMBG belatedly, decades after my sweetie discovered them and fell in love with them. Over the last 2 years, I have gone back and listened to pretty much everything they’ve ever done, and watched the delightful videos– and I have to say, “Join Us” is already one of my favorite albums of theirs.

    This might be the hippest that Ashbrook has ever been. Thanks, guys.

    • Mocha Fiend

      also forgot to mention that the sheer musicality of TMBG’s stuff eclipses almost anything else on the airwaves these days.

  • Patloheed

    I saw Earl Flansburgh and his wife at the TAC
    Xmas party the day the band signed their first record
    contract! I remember he was amazed and blown away that their kid’s garage band might cash in and do better than he
    had in a lifetime of architecture. We are an architect husband and landscape architect wife with film kid children so
    this was of interest! I went out and bought tapes of the band
    for kids. High school daughter wanted to know
    how I new of esoteric new issue.
    I still like your music it makes me smile
    and grin. Love your success, Patricia Loheed

  • Nancy roth

    TMBG is coming to Spokane on their current tour, and I’m hoping to be able again to get a short interview with John and also with John for my public radio station, KPBX. They were so gracious and generous with their time the last two times they were here that I’m hoping they might be able to do it again. I haven’t had a response from their publicist.

    Nancy Roth
    Spokane Public Radio

  • Baseballpajamas

    Egads! Why is their awesome cover of “Tubthumping” not in regular rotation on tour?

  • Amy

    I was smiling in the car all the way home listening to They Might Be Giants. It brought me right back to senior year in high school ’90 and my college years.  TMBG was the soundtrack to many a road trip in those days.  Birdhouse in my soul always went right to my gut – what was that song about for them? Thank you for having them on air today. What a pick me up!

  • Ausgal

    Pleeeeease! Tell us about ‘Duende’. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1631791436 Suz Carter

    TMBGs gave me the best educational experience of my life …
    from them I learned about Palindromes and mammals, the Sun, Etc.
    Kind of like the Khan Academy of underground rock, with tschotchkes!
    Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Lauren McLaughlin

    A hearty THANK YOU to TMBG for providing a killer soundtrack to us science nerds who came of age in the 90s… and now to our kids, growing up in the eternal age of Disney and other boring swill. Keep on keepin’ on!

  • Scott

    TMBG saved my sanity by providing a incredible music to listen to with my kids. I listen to the Science CD even when my kids aren’t around. No Wiggles!

  • Erika

    I’d like to “thank” TMBG for encouraging my impetuous children.  In our house when the kids are asked to pitch in & aren’t in the mood they often say, “I am not your broom mom!” 

  • Rex

    It’s all making sense:They Might be Giants and Particle Man.  I can finally stop watching tiny toons and get those songs out of my head.

  • Clare

    A fond memory-in 1994 when I was 14, I was hanging out with an angry heavy metal type crowd who hated school and life… Well, through school I met a crowd of “smart kids” and was invited to a party. When I arrived, “flood” was playing and it was like an awakening. These kids loved life and learning and they were happy! Well, I joined that group and thank goodness. TMBG has always represented that love of life and a celebration of being smart and happy. My wife and I plan to share both the child-centered and “grown-up” music with our daughter. We want her to have the chance to know TMBG as well.

  • Amy in Lexington, KY

    Ha! My 10 month old daughter loves lady and the tiger! Squeals, claps, and dances every time I play it for her. Been a fan since title album… Passing the torch to the next generation.

  • Rachael

    My 2 and a half year old is obsessed with ROY G BIV
    I had to go out and buy a prism today so he could “see the rainbow man” on the wall at home.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1113227553 Bryan Hoerber

    I want to give a huge thank you to John and John of They Might Be Giants. If I had never seen them on Tiny Toons long ago I probably would be stuck in a world listening to the likes of Beyonce and Justin Bieber. Now my tastes are very eclectic listening to more indie music like HELLOGOODBYE and weird stuff like Coconut Monkeyrocket and Tipsy. Cant wait to see you guys in November in Anaheim, CA

  • Gregorclark

    Dear Guys from They Might Be Giants,

    My 11-year-old daughter got hooked on spelling last year, and her team went to the Vermont state spelling bee. On the drive to the state bee, we listened to an entire album of alphabet-related They Might Be Giants songs chosen by another mom of a spelling bee member: “Go for G”, “D is for Drums”, “Alphabet of Nations”, etc.

    My daughter loved the songs, and went on to win the Vermont spelling bee, ultimately competing in the national bee last year in Washington DC. We still sing your songs around the house, and thank you for your crazy, inspiring lyrics and infectious beats.

    Gregor Clark
    Middlebury, VT

  • Tina

    Tom, your comment at the end of the segment when a mom wrote about her child’s crutches (your “mojo” comment) was so spontaneously heartfelt that my eyes welled up immediately.  You revealed one of the principle reasons you are such a wonderful journalist:  you can see and articulate the Life in all the situations you bring before us.  Thank you, and my Best Wishes to the family who brought this story to us — I have a very good feeling that everything is going to be fine!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/Theodore.Wilkinson Ted Wilkinson

    TMBG entertained and bonded my kids with me after their mother and I divorced.  TMBG was the sound track during many of our drives to enjoy our alternate weekend visitations.  My son is now in college and my daughter is a HS junior living with me full time.  We all saw a kids show at Town Hall in NYC 8 years ago.  My daughter dreamed that John L. was her uncle after that show.  My daughter & I will be front row – Mezzanine for both of tomorrow’s Boston shows.  See you there, Ted W.

  • Sue

    We listened to FLOOD (over and over again) on a car trip from Lincoln NE to Northern Idaho when our sons were teenagers; my daughter wrote a freshman college paper on “A Little Birdhouse in My Soul” and I purchased the ABC’s and 123′s cd/dvds for my grandson.  Also have the Science CD/DVD.  Love the music and songs. I still love listening to TMBG music.

  • Andy

    Here’s what I think keeps TMBG fresh: it’s just what you said earlier about creating their own musical universe. Watch the documentary “Gigantic” and you’ll see this goes right down to the name. THEY means (originally) not John & John, but all the rest of the world Might Be Giants.

    P.S. In 1999 I was in a molecular biology lab and “Why Does the Sun Shine” came on the college radio station & it freaked me right out with its amazingness. Thanks for 12 years of freaking me out since!

  • Karen in Vermont

    Thank you TMBG for your songs “Science is Real”, “Electric Car”, Why Does The Sun Shine”, “Your Racist Friend” and others like them – solid subjects disguised as kick-ass rock and roll (or the other way around?), I’m thrilled to have them to play for my kids.  25+ year fans, love you!

  • Sarah C.

    They Might Be Giants infuses a kind of playfulness in their music that is enlivening for both kids and grownups.  I feel genuinely sentimental about listening to their music, because it brings back so many memories of playing with my kids, who learned to read and add right alongside the CDs.  The group is a true inspiration to the way that we all should play and live, because it makes learning fun.  My family and I are HUGE fans.  Thank you!!!

  • Anna

    I sing Dr. Worm as a lullaby for my 3.5yr old daughter. She loves it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1113227553 Bryan Hoerber

    They are also pioneers in the digital music age. The first digital only album, Long Tall Weekend, that was available only through eMusic. However I signed up just to get the sweatshirt. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=724472029 Timothea Sugrue Frost

    Have to say you’ve ruined me.  I cannot hear the word “Istanbul” without immediately thinking, “not Constantinople”.  ;)  

  • David

    TOM!  For a Boston boy – you should know that the term “Duende” was coined by the famous Boston columnist George Frasier to describe that ethereal, special quality distinguishing too few personalities.
    Other – great job – again
    David Horton

  • BHA in Vermont

    If they hadn’t hit the ‘big time’ before, they have now :)

    Getting on NPR shows like ‘On Point’ and ‘Fresh Air’ brings the attention of a whole new group of people: the ones who only have NPR stations preset on their radios.

    I, for real, can not remember the last time I tuned in to a non NPR station. 

  • guest

    Thank you John and John so very much for your music. I immensely regret missing the broadcast; I surely would have phoned in to express my experience. I discovered TMBG six years ago when I was 42! I am a classical pianist and composer who has known and experienced the greatest music. In my student years I was an orchestra groupie that let myself be swept away in the music right to the edge, with waves of euphoria as well as the other dark side of emotions that music can spark. Later, after I grew beyond those tumultuous phases, past family estrangements and divorce, my mind quieted and I settled into calm solitude. I never thought I would experience my intense love of music again as I had in the past.

    Then I caught a crush.
    That friend of a friend lent me a record that he thought I might like. I cringed, having seen and heard what I thought was the best, I was worried the record would be just something ordinary and the usual pop, alternative, metal, whatever sound. This, given to a classical connoisseur. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played in a rock band, jazz, ragtime, I tried it all. But I never expected to be able to share that beauty of music just from an album. He let me borrow “Flood”.

    I gasped at the words in the opening choral, and my eyes grew moist by the middle of “Bluebird in Your Soul”. For the next few months I could not stop dancing and actually lost over 10 pounds just from dancing to Flood. Later I obtained Lincoln and John Henry, and spent time meditating over the lyrics and marveling at the compositions as I studied them. The melodies, the rhythms, the genres and styles, the instrumentation, the importance of just one note, each and every one. I could site dozens. It’s like Mozart!.

    This music became the backdrop and it’s colors filled the space of our exploring a lifetime relationship and the “bluebird of friendliness” was our companion. Later in July2007 we attended TMBG at the Beachcomber, my first “rock” band concert (you might remember me right up front jumping pretty high and trying to match your rhythms, had lots of practice..)

    I’ve often thought of writing to John and John to thank them and could not pass up this chance to do so here in this forum. It is a dream of mine to transcribe some or their works for solo piano. Mr. Linnell and Mr. Flansburgh, thank you for your inspiration.

  • Anonymous

    Dog On Fire written by Bob Mould — Bob has a new book out and would be an interesting guest for On Point.

  • http://www.dogoodgauge.org The Do Good Gauge

    I’ve noticed They Might Be Giants mixes on various NPR programs.   Blending music to the background of audio presentations adds to the quality.   TMBG’s topic of music lends itself to many opportunities.    Damn I wish they were here to participate in this query.   What are the thoughts of music, copyright laws, and social media?

  • http://twitter.com/stevenberkowitz Steven Berkowitz

    Possibly the greatest moment in all of radio is Tom being blown away and rendered darn near speechless by Cloissoné.

  • http://www.ondvdshow.net/newhart-on-dvd-show.html Newhart dvd

     you lessen the force on other areas of the body much like the back and hips. As you grow more accomplished belonging to the basic exercises that are ready for just a greater challenge, advanced Pilates training focuses turn out to be long and lean body removed bulk often of repetitive exercises.

  • kittydogmom

    I have to confess that I might be the only person of my age who couldn’t name a single TMBG song.  I guess I have a lot of catching up to do.  I have to confess, though, that I have totally enjoyed the music I have heard – as well as what John & John have said. 

    • Ray in VT

      They’re pretty quirky, maybe to the point of weird, but they’re fun.  I started listening in college, and now we’ve got the kids hooked.  I remember when my not yet 3 year old started singing Paleontologist.

  • ingrid_lilly

    I play the song “Mesopotamians” every time I mention Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal, or Gilgamesh in my course, “Old Testament” at Western Kentucky University.  We talk about Sargon and Hammurabi when I review the quick Ancient NEar Eastern historical background of the BIble.  Gilgamesh comes up when we talk about the biblical creation and flood stories.  I mention Hammurabi again when we talk about the Mosaic covenant and law code.  Finally, I throw in a quick reference to Ashurbanipal when we talk about the Assyrian period Hebrew prophets.  I play it as class starts each of those days, and the students love it.  Thanks so much for the Ancient Near Eastern class-room mood music!

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