Birdhouse In Your Soul

From This Might Be A Wiki
Music video

song name Birdhouse in Your Soul
artist They Might Be Giants
releases Flood, Birdhouse In Your Soul (EP), Direct From Brooklyn, Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants, A User's Guide To They Might Be Giants: Melody, Fidelity, Quantity, Flood + Apollo 18, 50,000,000 They Might Be Giants Songs Can't Be Wrong
year 1990
first played November 24, 1989 (1410 known performances)
run time 3:20
sung by John Linnell


We're not really into writing songs with secret meanings or coded messages. I mean, for example, "Birdhouse In Your Soul" is a song about a nightlight. That's it. It's written from the perspective of a nightlight serenading the occupant of its room. The thing is, there are so many syllables in the songs that we have to come up with something to fill the spaces. So it ends up being kind of Gilbert and Sullivany.
The melody and chords were cooked up years earlier, and the lyrics had to be shoehorned in to match the melody, which explains why the words are so oblique. I mean beautiful.
There was a point where the song was turning into quite a production with all the bells and whistles on it. And for very selfish reasons, I was like, ‘Hey, guys, this song still doesn’t have a guitar.’ ’Cause I was just thinking if this is going to be the song we’re going to be touring on for 14 months, it would be nice if I had something to do on stage besides shake a tambourine, y’know? Alan Winstanley had the brainwaves to bring in one of those huge Marshall amps, that are as tall as you are, and I had never played one before. I plugged in, and it just sounded insane and bombastic and wild. I just played the bass line, and it’s very much the sonic glue of the song that you hear now. I was so relieved, and he was so generous to figure out a way to have me participate in this thing. Now it seems like my part is like the rhythm spine of the song, but that was not a given at all, and I think that people who were less kind would have just pushed me out of the room.
  • In a move Linnell characterizes as "corny", the song interpolates elements of "Summer in the City" by '60s folk rock band The Lovin' Spoonful. The references were inspired by the intense heat during the recording of Flood in the summer of 1989.[1] The car horn-like trumpet samples in the bridge of "Birdhouse in Your Soul" recall the traffic sounds sampled in "Summer in the City", and the songs use similar rhythms in their chord progressions. Part of the bridge of "Summer in the City" is also incorporated into live performances of "Birdhouse".
  • Regarding the trumpet line, Flansburgh stated: "I sampled the trumpet part from a very successful record, but to get round the copyright laws we got the trumpet player in and paid him for two days' work while he performed it again, note for note."[2] The original samples were from Frank London's trumpet solo in LL Cool J's "Going Back to Cali" from 1988, and London used similar plunger mute and growl techniques when recording his parts for "Birdhouse."
  • The song's video was one of many directed by Adam Bernstein, and was filmed inside the New York County Surrogate's Court and Hall of Records building located at 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan. Linnell once said in an interview, "I tell people it's my house." The video reportedly had a budget of $82,000.
  • Flansburgh designed and created the William Allen White "eye sunglasses" for the video.[3]
  • "Blue Canary"[4] is the title of a 1953 song by Vincent Fiorino, which has lyrics on the sadder side about loneliness and comforting but has "happy" music.
  • Linnell mentioned in an interview on [1] that the title was inspired in part by Charles Mingus's "Better Get Hit In Your Soul".
  • "Bluebird of happiness" is a common trope stemming from the widespread belief in bluebirds as heralds of good luck to come. This may have inspired the "bluebird of friendliness" line.
  • After appearing in an advert for Clarks Shoes[5] in 2010, the song returned to the UK Singles Chart for three weeks, after a 20-year hiatus.
  • References to this song appear in the episode "Pigeon" of ABC's show Pushing Daisies. The episode won a Primetime Emmy for its music. You can view a clip on YouTube.[6]
  • Featured on ABC's Private Practice in the opening scenes of the episode "Yours, Mine and Ours" on April 30th, 2009.
  • Blue nightlights inspired by this song were sold as promotional items for Flood. These did not actually resemble blue canaries, but blue canary-shaped nightlights available from Internet venues have become a popular novelty item, leading to their inclusion as an offering of 2012's They Might Be Giants Instant Fan Club.
  • In the UK, official sheet music appears to have been issued and is included in the 2014 Faber catalogue. The arrangement is in C major (the key of the original recording; it is usually played live in D major — probably because it's much easier for guitars in that key) and displays a few minor discrepancies in the melody, harmony and chord inversions in comparison with the original song. The arranger and detailed publication history is currently unknown.
  • Featured BBC 1's Peter Kay's Car Share in the opening scene of episode two, originally broadcast on 27th April 2015
  • According to Gary Ray, the band once performed this song at Darinka.[7]

Song Themes

1964 World's Fair, Animals, Beach, Bells, Clothes, Colors, Death, Friendship, Hearing, Letters Of The Alphabet, Loneliness, Mythology, Numbers, Oblique Cliches, Occupations, Oxymorons, Paradoxes, And Contradictory Statements, Recursion, Religion, Sailing, Screaming, Size, Sleep, Stories, Trade Names, Transportation


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  • Watch it on Youtube.png - Tonight Show performance

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