Today is the birthday of John Flansburg, singer and
guitarist for They Might Be Giants, who was born in 1960 in Boston,
Massachusetts. TMBG has always been a bit of an anomaly, playing something that
could only be called "geek pop" with its awkward, non-sequitur lyrics and
offbeat rock & roll melodies.
The group is comprised of Flansburg and
longtime co-conspirator John Linnell, who sings and takes care of the
keyboard-playing and accordian-squeezing. The duo were childhood friends who
began writing songs together in high school and found they had a knack for it.
They named themselves after a George C. Scott film and, after many years of
struggling, released their self-titled debut in 1986.
The single for "Don't
Let's Start" scored well in college circles, and its video was picked up by MTV
(although it was often associated with Weird Al Yankovic). Their second album,
Lincoln, spawned a single with "Ana Ng," and "Istanbul (Not
Constantinople)" came along with their third release, Flood. Although
TMBG were well-received in the States, English fans adored them; Q
magazine readers voted them the best new act in 1990 (despite the fact that
they were six years old by then).
Apollo 18 was released in 1992;
soon after the two Johns were joined by bassist Tomy Maimone and drummer Brian
Doherty, and the group recorded John Henry as a foursome. That record
yielded a college radio hit with "Snail Shell," although its followup,
Factory Showroom, featured no singles. The group just released a
retrospective double CD called Then: The Early Years, which features the
group's first two albums plus a slew of outtakes and previously-unreleased
Other birthdays: Colin Earl (Mungo Jerry/Foghat), Bob Seger, Mary
McGregor, Larry Steinbachek and Mark Hennessy (Paw). -- Beth Winegarner