They Might Be Giants Biography

John Flansburgh (6 May 1960, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA) and John Linnell (b. 12 June 1959, Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA) formed this New York, USA-based band in 1984 after an initial meeting in Massachusetts. The duo took the band’s name from a 1971 George C. Scott movie. Their original intention to recruit a full band was abandoned, but Linnell learned the accordion and Flansburgh mastered the guitar. Following Linnell’s broken wrist which decimated their early tour dates, they devised the ‘Dial-A-Song Service’, premiering their intelligent pop skills. A self-titled debut album in 1986 collated many of these early songwriting ventures, gaining the band a considerable cult reputation. MTV picked up on their quirky visual appeal, and Lincoln became the biggest-selling independent album of 1989 in the USA. With wry and perverse lyrics such as ‘I can’t help but feel jealous each time she climbs on his knee’ (‘Santa’s Beard’) they struck an immediate chord with college radio. The independent label Bar/None released the album before the duo finalized a major contract with Elektra Records.

The 1990 release Flood showcased the duo’s obtuse lyrical approach, contrasting influences as diverse as the Ramones and Love. The UK Top 10 hit ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ was a beautifully crafted pop song highlighting the band’s affection for the naïve charm of the 60s ballad, and the duo also enjoyed a minor hit in the UK with a cover version of the 50s standard ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’. While Apollo 18 (1992) brought minor hits in ‘The Statue Got Me High’ and ‘The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)’, John Henry (1994) saw Flansburgh and Linnell introduce a full band for the first time, including Brian Doherty (drums, ex-Silos) and Tony Maimone (bass, ex-Pere Ubu).

In 1995, They Might Be Giants made an unlikely appearance, with the track ‘Sensurround’, on the soundtrack to the children’s movie Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Doherty, Graham Maby (bass) and Eric Schermerhorn (guitar) joined Flansburgh and Linnell on the following year’s Factory Showroom, their last album for Elektra. In 1999, they attracted media attention by making their new album, The Long Tall Weekend, available exclusively via the Internet as an MP3 file. Two years later they won a Grammy Award for ‘Boss Of Me’, the theme to the American sitcom Malcolm In The Middle.

In 2002, They Might Be Giants released the children’s album, No!, and the following year teamed up with fine artist Marcel Dzama on the bedtime picture book Bed, Bed, Bed. Flansburgh and Linnell returned to the world of adult songwriting in 2004 with the Indestructible Object EP, a precursor to their new studio album, The Spine. A low-key educational children’s album appeared in 2005.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.