I'll Sink Manhattan

From This Might Be A Wiki

song name I'll Sink Manhattan
artist They Might Be Giants
releases They'll Need A Crane (EP), Don't Let's Start (Album), Miscellaneous T, Then: The Earlier Years, Podcast 46
year 1988
first played April 29, 1988 (51 known performances)
run time 2:32
sung by John Flansburgh


  • According to John Flansburgh in a 2022 Tumblr post, "This song was created in a tiny room-like a walk-in closet, in the apartment directly across the street from the Hello Studio project space where I lived and John L. and I rehearsed from the mid-80s thru the 90s (and where Dial-A-Song was housed). The man who facilitated the sample-making and recording was named John Eric Greenberg, a jazz musician and a dear fellow who had a small studio set up with a sampler right as sampling was starting up. Although the song credit says it was made at Hello Studio, I think it was fully tracked at his spot and then just mixed at my spot. Evidently Eric died in 2011 in Brazil, which came as a total surprise as I believed he was a fair bit younger than me."
    • Additionally, Flansburgh named the instruments and samples used in the song: the sound of a phone ringing, a sample of a string section, a backwards recording of a message left by a NYC policeman left on Dial-A-Song, a backwards cymbal, a vocal, a sample of Flansburgh singing “hey” and played on a sampler as chords, a sample of a typewriter, a vocal sample of Flansburgh signing “ohhh” played as chords, and a drum machine kick and snare.
  • "This song is about falling in love, and then falling out of love with that person, and then killing everyone in Manhattan." -Flansburgh at a concert on November 11, 1989
  • "A song about a guy who somehow figures out how to sink the island of Manhattan just to kill his ex-lover, so it's his apology to the other people he's gonna kill in between. He's just gotta do it!" -Linnell in NME Magazine, March 11, 1989
  • The title of this song came from lamppost graffiti that Flansburgh noticed and found intriguing, though he discovered after the song's release that the graffiti was for Philadelphia-based industrial-noise band Sink Manhattan, and that they were "pissed" about the song (according to show banter on February 21, 1997).
  • The unusual vocal sample in the introduction of the song is a message left on Dial-A-Song (back when it was taking messages) by a member of the New York Police Department, played backwards. When played normally, it says: "Thanks a lot guys. From the NYPD. We love you." In the Spring '94 Info Club booklet, Flansburgh said, "since the song had a New York theme, it seemed relevant". The unreversed sample is archived here.

Song Themes

Backwards, Bad English, Cities, Criminal Activities, Death, Fire, Forgetting And Remembering, Friendship, I've Got A, Love Gone Sour, New York City, No, Not In Common Time, Oblique Cliches Or Idiom, Plans, Rhymes, Sadness, Sea, Size, Songs With Samples, Telecommunication


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I'll Sink Manhattan is currently ranked #326 out of 1009. (100 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.56)