Under The Influence: They Might Be Giants Join Us
Indie pop institution They Might Be Giants’ most recent record, Join Us, is a jump back to the group’s formative, hyper-alliterative rock and its most mature (meaning, not specifically crafted for children) release in years. To walk us through some of the major Join Us touchpoints is none other than TMBG principal member John Flansburgh. Flansburgh provides the tease; “Here are some videos that I am always thinking about. They are mostly performed by women. You can draw whatever conclusion from that you like.” Take it away my man!
1. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – “This Land is Your Land”
Sharon Jones actually guested on a track of ours a few years back and it is exciting to see how far she’s come. She is a massive talent and a electric, hilarious person to chat with. This performance is live at Ameoba Records in Los Angeles, and obviously pretty much just a plug-in-and-play type scene. This is just good music — no chaser.
2. The Living Theater
I was exposed to this video via the always inspiring Dangerous Minds blog. I don’t even know how to describe what this kind of theater. It’s a lot of collective screaming, raga and semi-nudity. Hearing people chant “You can’t live if you don’t have money” reminds us all that New York has always been a shitty place to be a bohemian.
3. Sandie Shaw – “Long Live Love”
Sandie Shaw is an amazing British singer from the sixties. This video really sums up some of her unknowable appeal. She famously performed barefoot, and here she is walking through a rehearsal for Top of the Pops . Although the broadcasts were typically populated by hoards of teenage dancers and on-lookers, here it’s just Shaw and the cameramen blocking her lip sync performance in the Twighlight Zone-like void of the blinking soundstage. Like everything Shaw did, it is both beautiful and a bit haunting.
4. Laurie Anderson – “O Superman”
When this song was at the top of all the rock critics lists, and a bona fide hit in the UK, it seemed like the pop music world might fall off its axis. What a time.
5. One of the first Vocoder Machines
If you love Laurie A. you’ll get a kick out of this odd bit of archival footage. Hope this comes through Main Drag Music sometime soon. I got a store credit there!
6. Robin Goldwasser with They Might Be Giants – “I Hear A New World”
This track is a cover of a Joe Meek song from the ’60s, and sung here by my good friend Robin “Goldie” Goldwasser. I put together this video as a way to teach myself editing on iMovie.
7. Eartha Kitt – “I Want To Be Evil”
Eartha Kitt delivers her mission statement here in this fabulously filmed clip from Japanese television.
8. Norma Tanega – “Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog”
Norma Tanega had a hit with this song in the mid-sixties, and as a small child I really dug it’s crazy point of view. She wrote a number of ballads for Dusty Sprinfield after this, but this is the song I can never forget.
9. N.A.S.A. – “Way Down”
I really don’t know much about N.A.S.A. It seems to be a set of interesting, double-cred collabos with RZA and Tom Waits. This powerful song is magnificently sung by a woman named Barbie Hatch and her voice has an amazing vibe. Maybe this was a big hit somewhere — I have my finger off the pulse — but I heard this song on an in-flight audio channel and never heard it except on my iPod since!
10. Hine – “Ana Ng”
This is an animated puppet recreation of an early TMBG video. Hine is an amazing crafter and visual artist who has appropriated a lot of They Might Be Giants music in to her work.