Number Three

From This Might Be A Wiki
They Might Be Giants performing "Number Three" with papier-mâché hands, 1985.

song name Number Three
artist They Might Be Giants
releases They Might Be Giants, 4 From They Might Be Giants, The Frank O' Toole Show, Then: The Earlier Years, Dial-A-Song: 20 Years Of They Might Be Giants
year 1986
first played March 1, 1985 (262 known performances)
run time 1:27
sung by John Flansburgh, John Linnell harmonizes for the majority of the song


  • The baritone saxophone sample in this song comes from a 7" single featuring the song "Skinny Lena" by Lou Monte, a recording later released under the name "Bony Lena." Linnell found the record while helping his roommate (and the building's super) Chris Lawrence, of Annabouboula and formerly with The Turtlenecks, clean a deceased couple's apartment. Says Linnell: "Skinny Lena was an Italian song in 6/8 with a humorous verse in English and a staccato Bari Sax riff. At some point I figured out a way to make the record skip in 4/4 during the riff while the 45 was played at 33, which became the repeating figure on TMBG's recording of Flansburgh's 'Number Three.'"[1] You can hear the skipping sample at its original speed here.
  • The 1985 Demo Tape version contains a slightly different mix. It begins with a fade-in of the saxophone loop, and contains a quieter guitar and an accordion part.
  • The verses contain every possible three line rhyme scheme (ABB, AAB, ABA).
  • This song is actually track 3 on They Might Be Giants' debut album and They have claimed that it was the third song they ever learned to play. Linnell has said this in concert at least once.
  • This song was once performed on the Joe Franklin show in 1986. From Newsday:
They Might Be Giants were doing a live number on Joe's show for the first time. They had been discovered by Joe earlier in September when he played their record "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head."
And now they were doing their hit song "Number Three." It begins "There are only two songs in me / And I just wrote the third." It was a hilarious piece of TV featuring group members John Flansburgh and John Linnell in green-gold fezzes.
  • According to John Flansburgh, the band would perform this song live in the 1980s using papier-mâché hands[2] since the song did not require the band to play any instruments onstage.
  • A backing track used for the song can be heard playing over a Flansburgh message left on a 1989 Dial-A-Song recording of Ant.[3]

Song Themes

Animals, Accents, Creative Drought, Money, Music, Numbers, Occupations, Oxymorons, Paradoxes, And Contradictory Statements, Precious Metal, Presidents, Questions, Self-Reference, Songs With Samples, Titles And Honorifics, Writing


Current Rating

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Number Three is currently ranked #581 out of 1009. (148 wikians have given it an average rating of 8.06)