They Might Be Giants, The Four Lads, Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

I had no idea that They Might Be Giants didn’t write this song!  It turns out that the Four Lads, in 1953, came up with this incredibly catchy and insane song.  It was a top ten hit and a certified gold record.  Imagine that!  I learned all this from hearing a tape of Bob Dylan’s satellite radio show “Theme Time Radio Hour,” where he spun the original record.  Thanks for the heads up Bob because like most kids who grew up in the 90s, I first learned about the song from Tiny Tunes.  I remember being absolutely mesmerized by the song, and relished every time a repeat of that episode would come on.  The song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” speaks for itself.  It’s one of those rare tunes where the lyrics communicate 100% of the songs idea without a trace of ambiguity.  I love songs like that.  The more modern incarnation comes from They Might Be Giants’ 1990 record Flood which I thoroughly recommend picking up.  As a bonus I’m also including a live performance of the song TMBG did in 1990 for MTV Europe. It’s equally spellbinding and hilarious, especially when the host asks them if the Four Lads had any other good songs, and John Linnell replies in a complete deadpan that “No, that was their only good song.” Too funny.


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