Severe Tire Damage

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Severe Tire Damage live album cover
Severe Tire Damage
Live album by They Might Be Giants
First released August 11, 1998
Release details / collectors: Show | Hide
Tracks 24
Label Restless Length 56:33

Severe Tire Damage is They Might Be Giants' first commercially-released live album, and their second release on the Restless label after departing from Elektra.


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The idea for the album came after the band recorded a live session for the Spin Radio Network on November 1, 1996. The session was recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, with a small audience gathered in the control room. Eight members of the audience had won tickets in a radio contest on REV105 the day before.[1][2] The band liked the recording and decided to put together a live album around it. The rest of the album is compiled from various live shows and radio sessions, which cover a few different incarnations of the band. Out of the 24 tracks on the album, 21 are live recordings. John Flansburgh announced the album in an August 1997 interview on WFNX. The band's 1997/1998 tour was named the "Severe Tire Damage Tour", during which they debuted a number of then-unreleased new songs. They recorded a few of their late-1997 live shows, including much of their two month long weekly residency at the Mercury Lounge.

Included at the end of the album is a series of live improvised songs centered around The Planet Of The Apes. These tracks were originally "hidden tracks", as the back of the CD doesn't list them and they play after 2:20 minutes of silence at the end of the track "About Me". Some of the tracks were taken from fan-submitted bootlegs of the shows they were played at, as the band hadn't originally planned to immortalize the improvised songs. The Planet Of The Apes theme was chosen because it was "something that seems particularly of a time and has a real strong set of cultural baggage."[3] John Flansburgh described the songs in a 1998 press release: "The Planet Of The Apes tracks are perhaps the least significant work of our careers, but, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, it's not always important to be important."

Although ostensibly a live album, Severe Tire Damage contains 3 studio tracks: "Doctor Worm", "Severe Tire Damage Theme", and "About Me". "Doctor Worm" was recorded in 1998. "About Me" was recorded in 1993, in the same recording sessions as the Why Does The Sun Shine? EP and the John Henry Demos. The "Severe Tire Damage Theme" might come from the same 1993 sessions.[4] At one stage "Reprehensible" was in consideration for the album.[5] A stripped-down version of the album, simply titled Live, was released in 1999. It features 10 of this album's 24 tracks.

Severe Tire Damage debuted on the Billboard 200 albums chart the week of August 29, 1998, and spent one week on the chart, peaking at number 186. "Doctor Worm" was released as a single in the UK and also saw a promotional release in the United States. Although it was never released as a true single in the US, it remains a fan favorite, and is one of TMBG's most played songs in live shows.

John Flansburgh explained the intentions behind Severe Tire Damage in an October 1998 interview:

Part of the reason [for releasing a live album] is that we finally had enough material. The reason that new bands don't do live albums is because it's redundant; they just don't have enough songs. Having put out six or seven albums at this point, we had a whole catalogue of songs to draw on, a lot of which had evolved into radically different arrangements, or in some cases, improved arrangements based on the same idea. With a song like "She's Actual Size," the live version is actually in the same spirit as the original version, but it's just a whole lot better. The way we've been doing it live for the past few years is just more full-blown. The original recording that's on Apollo 18 sounds like a demo to me. In other cases, like "Why Does the Sun Shine?" it's actually a different version of the song. The song selection on the record was specifically designed to push the stuff that had changed forward.

I think the legacy of crappy live albums is so strong that you really have to actively work against it. There are some well-known songs on this record, but it's not just rocking through the hits live. There are five new songs on it, plus all these crazy Planet of the Apes songs at the end. It's an interesting package, and I think it serves the band well as a live document. It's not as crazy as the actual live shows are; it holds up to repeated listening better than if you took a board tape of the show.

Track listing[edit]

# Title Length  Lyrics Guitar Tab
1 Doctor Worm 3:01 
2 Severe Tire Damage Theme 0:39 
3 They Got Lost (Live) 3:42  N/A
4 Why Does The Sun Shine? (Live) 2:16 
5 Birdhouse In Your Soul (Live) 3:11 
6 She's An Angel (Live) 3:20  N/A
7 XTC Vs. Adam Ant (Live) 3:39  N/A
8 Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (Live) 3:07  N/A
9 Ana Ng (Live) 3:00  N/A
10 First Kiss (Live) 1:35 
11 Spider (Live) 0:52  N/A
12 Particle Man (Live) 2:09  N/A
13 She's Actual Size (Live) 2:16 
14 S-E-X-X-Y (Live) 3:06  N/A
15 Meet James Ensor (Live) 1:30  N/A
16 Till My Head Falls Off (Live) 2:51  N/A
17 About Me 3:01 
18 Planet Of The Apes 2:35  N/A
19 Return To The Planet Of The Apes 2:45  N/A
20 Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes 1:40 
21 Escape From The Planet Of The Apes 1:08  N/A
22 Battle For The Planet Of The Apes 1:56 
23 Beneath The Planet Of The Apes 2:00 
24 This Ape's For You 1:13 

Recording Dates[edit]

The sources of the live recordings featured on the album are as follows:

  • Tracks 4, 7, 13, 14 & 16 are from a live-in-studio session recorded for the Spin Radio Network at Pachyderm Studios, November 1, 1996.
    • Tracks 8 and 11 are speculated to be from the same source, but credit Tony Maimone on bass instead of Graham Maby, so they might come from a different, earlier source.
  • Tracks 5, 6 & 9 are from a live-in-studio session recorded at Sony Music Studios, October 14, 1994. The whole session was previously released on the promotional CD Live!! New York City 10/14/94. The songs were remixed for Severe Tire Damage and feature a few changes, including an extended intro to "She's An Angel" and an overdubbed vocal in the bridge of "Ana Ng".
  • Track 15 was recorded at the Paramount Hotel in 1995 for the charity benefit album REV 105 Radio Archive, Volume 1.
  • Tracks 3, 10, 12 & 18 are from a soundboard recording of a show at the Mercury Lounge, December 18, 1997.
  • Track 19 is from a fan bootleg of a show at the Mercury Lounge, November 20, 1997.
  • Tracks 20 & 22 are from a show at the Mercury Lounge, December 4, 1997. Track 20 is from a fan bootleg of the show, track 22 is from a soundboard recording.
  • Track 21 is from a fan bootleg of a show at the Mercury Lounge, November 6, 1997.
  • Track 23 is from a soundboard recording of a show at Mississippi Nights, October 21, 1997.
  • Track 24 is from a soundboard recording of a show at the Mercury Lounge, December 11, 1997.