Friday, September 21, 2007

me and john and john

in middle school and junior high, i would come from school at three, pull up a chair and stool in front of the 13" tv on the kitchen counter, prop up my feet, and watch afternoon cartoons. the tv had a knob to be turned, no remote, and got only the five basic channels: cbs [channel 4], abc [channel 6], nbc [channel 11], pbs [channel 13], and fox [channel 15]. i didn't need a remote because it stayed on fox the whole time: gummibears, tiny toons, rescue rangers, animaniacs, tail spin, and sometimes batman: the animated series.
i didn't have mtv, which i'm grateful for now but felt a little left out back then, and so music videos were a rarity. in the early 90s, there ran a sort of psa/music video by this group of weird looking guys called the barenaked ladies. the lead guy was dressed up like some sort of goofy alien and they sang about racial harmony. a few years later i saw that they had just released a new cd called 'maybe you should drive' in my cd club magazine and bought it. i liked it but no one else i knew knew who they were, so i gradually lost interest and sold it.
around this same time, tiny toons did a sort of 'mtv' episode, where they played animated music videos. most of them were to oldies, such as 'respect' and 'money (that's what i want)'. but they also did TWO songs by a group called they might be giants that i found really cool, one about 'istantbul' and the other about 'particle man'. i really liked the songs but gave little thought to hunting down the tapes.

in sixth grade my best friend told me about this really cool tape he had gotten, i think from his older sister. one of his favorite songs was about a particle man. i couldn't believe it--these songs actually existed somewhere! at this budding age of adolescence, it seemed to me that teenagers listened to music, so it was time for me to start building a music collection [and with large that's grown, i wonder if my parents wish i'd have held an early interest in the stock market]; for Christmas i asked for 'flood' by they might be giants on compact disc. no one in any of my extended family had heard of 'they might be giants', but at grandma's that year i got one of my very first cds [i had actually received 'joyride' by roxette early that year for my birthday, on the recommendation from the mother of popular girl in the neighborhood, but that never really caught on with me].
jamie and i were they might be giants fans. we rode our bikes to best buy and looked through the cd selection. not much, though they did have 'lincoln' on tape. jamie bought it. he eventually acquired 'miscellaneous t' and i got the pink album. and when 'apollo 18', my mom bought that for me--this was back when cds came in the long box; a lot of waste, yes, but that was when cds were new and cool, when it was exciting to look forward to being a teenager, and i kind of miss that.

in sixth grade we had to write about our perfect day. jamie and i both decided that the greatest day possible would be spent at the local video arcade with john and john of they might be giants, where we would have unlimited quarters and could play until our hearts content.
when we had to fill out a personal questionaire, i listed 'birdhouse in your soul' as my favorite song.
that year also mtv did a day called 'al tv', where they let weird al [also one of our favorites] take over for a day. jamie taped it so i could watch it. one afternoon we were sitting on the recliners in his house and al showed the next video. opening shot of the coffee cup and saucer seemed familiar, and we had both recognized the song and shot out of the chairs to get a closer look on the floor before 'the statue got me high' title appeared on the screen. it was a sign that we were not the only ones who had heard of the 'they might be giants'.

in junior high i bought an 'apollo 18' tour shirt from the catalog that jamie had. at this point, the internet was still a very primitive and obscure thing. i was learning how to use compuserve to talk with people in germany, while jamie had a service called america on-line. no one even thought about shopping on the internet. i wore my shirt with pride amidst the sea of pearl jam, metalica, and cyprus hill shirts. i still wear mine now. i doubt any of those other kids wear their shirts.

jamie's dad was a director for the theatre department in one of the local colleges, so we would spend some time hanging out with the older college kids. they had heard of the they might be giants, which further brought some liberation from wondering if they might be giants might be listed in the guiness book of world records as the most unknown band ever.
one night the college radio station broadcast a concert of they might be giants in brooklyn. jamie had them record it and made a copy for me. you can't do that with cds.

to think of they might be giants being played on an actual radio station was as plausible as having my own hoverboard.

shortly after jay leno took over the 'tonight show', they might be giants were the musical guests, playing 'the guitar' and 'the statue got me high'. seeing them on tv was thrilling, and i taped it on my special tape of things to keep forever.

shortly before the start of our freshman year, 'john henry' was released. this was the first new they might be giants cd since we had discovered them. it felt like my own personal moon landing. i remember laying all of my tmbg cds on the floor in my room, just to admire them. i also stood them into a cube because there were six of them.

one day during our junior year i was walking down the basement hall of school with jon [my other best friend and fellow tmbg enthusiast] when jamie came bounding up behind us, not unlike tigger. 'guesswhatguesswhatguesswhat!!!' he exclaimed. 'they might be giants are coming in concert!!'
we had waited our whole lives for this moment. [in fargo, little alternative bands done come by often. guns 'n' roses and metalica seemed to be there regularly, though]
what he actually meant was that hootie and the blowfish [remember them?] were coming and tmbg were opening for them. hey, we aren't choosers. we bought our tickets for $32.50 [agian, this was when you had to go to the counter at sears and buy tickets. buying things on-line was something out of '2001'], dressed up in all our tmbg apparel [i still wish i had that bright orange shirt with green writing that jamie had], painted our faces and put as much gel as we could in our hair [borrowing from the crazed-football fan crowd]. our tickets were quite a ways away and i don't remember much of what they played, but to see them live was thrilling nonetheless. we cheered until they were finished or until our throats were sore, whichever came last. the set ended first, and so, being much too cool to like hootie, we went outside and yelled for john and john to come out. they never did, but we did find some other fans out there.

about a week after we heard about the hootie concert, we found out that they might be giants were giving their own concert down in minneapolis. tickets were $20 and i talked my dad into driving [and even talked jon out of letting his dad take us, for some odd reason; though his dad owes me--the drive coming home was so snowy that my dad to this day still talks of how trecherous the journey home was]. finally, we were at a they might be giants concert. the opening band was a group called 'cub', a three girl punk band who originally wrote 'new york city'. at some point someone called for them to play it and they responded that john had asked them not to [i'm pretty sure it was flansburgh]. then someone offstage obviously said something to them, the band looked back to us and said, 'ok, we can play it.' so they did.
the highligh that i remember from the concert was that, during 'exquisite dead guy', they brought out little puppet heads on very high poles [12-15' if i remember correctly], shone the spotlight on them, and the puppet heads sang the song [or at least the opening 'ba-bada-ba-ba-ba's']

in july 2005 i was in oregon shooting a movie. the day before i drove home i received a number of texts from different friends, all telling me that they might be giants were in springville giving a free concert, that it was awesome, and why on earth wasn't i there.

after 200+ attempts, i have finally won tickets to their concert tonight.

so, yeah, i'm pretty excited.


Brian, Stephanie, Whitney, and Taylor said...
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Brian, Stephanie, Whitney, and Taylor said...

I remember that it was in home room, 8th grade, 1990. Amos Colletti sat next to me. He was a really cool kid that had a Walkman with headphones that were amazing (the ear buds fit inside his ears!). He said "Hey, listen to this" and handed me the headphones. It was one of the best sounds I had ever heard, a funny song about everybody wanting a rock to wind a piece of string around. I wasn't sure what a prosthetic forehead was but I wanted one. I asked him who it was and he told me. I ran out that weekend and bought the tape, CD's weren't owned by the "common folk" back then. I listened to it so much I eventually wore out the tape and replaced it with the CD, those don't wear out fortunately. I still remember, in the days before driving, my friends and I would walk to the cute girls' houses at night and sing every song in order from that album, all of the instrumental parts included. I have seen them three times live. They are amazing live. I'm just now realizing that my wife is learning about this for the first time. Love ya Steph!

Em said...

Now I'm really excited for the concert recap. You've either set yourself up for an all-out night of awesomeness, or a considerable let-down.
So let us know.

Em said...
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Becky said...

I would just like you to know that I do read your blog :P

L'Afro said...

I didn't know they came out with giant puppet heads for Exquisite Dead Guy!

I'm excited to drum me up a lover someday so I can hear that tune and say, "Listen...they're playing our song."