So what does this…

…have to do with this?

Not much to most people.  They Might Be Giants and Superman have about as much in common as Batman and Conway Twitty but to me the album Lincoln and Adventures of Superman Annual #2 will always be joined at the hip.

Yeah, there’s a story.  Be patient.  I want this one to build.

In the summer of 1990 I was fourteen years old and had just barely escaped the eighth grade.  I say barely because when I was in junior high and high school I was less than a stellar student.  Oh I was smart enough, but I had no discipline and zero in the way of work ethic.  I just wanted to read my comics and act in the school play.  That was pretty much it.  I don’t advise anyone to take this course of action.  It hasn’t served me well later in life.

In any case that summer I was to embark on another adventure with my paternal grandparents Mama Gertie and Papa John1.  In the summer of ’88 they took me and my cousin Jeff to Niagara Falls.  In 1989 I spent three weeks with them in Georgia and went to see a whole heck of a lot of movies and man that was a summer to go see movies.  In 1990 the stakes were upped considerably because not only were they going to take me to Texas to see my Uncle Tim, Aunt Emily2 and my cousins but we were also going to travel from El Paso, Texas to Durango, Colorado and I was going to take my first airplane ride from our home near Allentown3 to Atlanta.

I was pretty stoked.  Getting out of the house was a big deal to a fourteen year old me.  I could use this paragraph to make some pithy comment about how it was nice to get away from my three older sisters and throw in words like, “therapy” and “oppression” but in all honesty I loved the fact that I had a big family growing up and even though I would fight with them, especially my sister Jane, I was very fortunate to grow up in the family I did.

The fact that I grew about three or four inches while I was away is just coincidence.  I think.

Actually I have my sisters Ginny or Jane to thank for one half of the images from above.  One night, shortly before I left, I was in their room4 I was searching through their music, found one of the many unmarked tapes, popped it into their stereo and heard Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants.

It was technically the second TMBG song that I ever heard.  The first was the little intro to Flood but right after that came Birdhouse in Your Soul which was and is my favorite TMBG song ever.  I was blown away.  At the time I had not found my music grove yet.  Nothing had reached out and grabbed me until that moment.  This was before I got into Meat Loaf, Garth Brooks, oldies and musicals in a big way.  TMBG’s Flood was a revelation.  There wasn’t a single track on that album that I didn’t like.  Well, except for Istanbul.  I know that was a big hit for the guys but I never really got into it all that much5.

I don’t remember if I made a copy of the tape or if I just took it.  Some things are a little stronger memory wise for me than others.  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  Somehow that tape made it into my luggage along with Danny Elfman’s score to Batman and the score to Superman, which I had finally purchased with money earned from mowing lawns6.

So I flew down to Georgia, we load up the camper, hop in to the truck and off we go.  At some point I asked to ride in the camper instead of the truck and stayed there for the rest of the three day ride.   I had  with me a little boom box I got for my birthday that year, the three tapes I mentioned above and the entirety of my Superman collection at the time, which consisted of everything from Man of Steel until the most recent issues of the three series that were being published at the time with the exception of Action Comics Weekly, which I wouldn’t decide I needed until later.  I listened to those tapes over and over and over again as I read the Superman saga that I had become so enamored of.  I washed, rinsed and repeated on the ride home until it got too hot and I had to rejoin my grandparents in the truck.

The trip was a roaring success and I returned home content to spend the rest of the summer reading and doing what I normally did; a whole heck of a lot of nothing.  Sometime after getting back I found Lincoln in my sister’s room7 and devoured that album as well.  While Birdhouse was my favorite song Lincoln became my favorite album and it still is.

For some reason one of my strongest memories of that summer after getting back from Colorado/Texas/Georgia was sitting in my room reading Adventures of Superman Annual #2 and listening to Lincoln.  Couldn’t tell you why if you put a gun to my head.  It is what it is.

So every time I see that book I think of TMBG’s Lincoln and every time I hear a song from Lincoln I think of that book.

See?  Superman and They Might Be Giants.  There is a connection.

It only means something to me but there is a connection.

More to follow…

Fortress Footnotes

  1. Yes, we called my grandfather Papa John.  The man was presented with his last grandchild about ten years or so before that fine chain came into existence.  We weren’t about to drop a name that had been in place for decades because some dude started delivering pizzas.
  2. Yes, I have an Auntie Em to.  My family is just full of pop culture icons.
  3. Well, we went to the airport.  It’s not like Dad loaded me up in a giant slingshot and away I went.
  4. Ginny and Jane shared a room.  It was kind of neat actually.  Jane took to writing on the walls at one point and it was quite artistic.  Dad made her paint the room when we eventually sold the house, but that is neither here nor there.
  5. This led to a big disappointment that fall when Tiny Toons did not one but two TMBG videos.  Did they choose Birdhouse?  No.  Istanbul and Particle Man.  It was neat.  I was glad they did it, but still.  Disappointing.
  6. Another disappointment there.  I wait years to buy the thing and the one piece of music I wanted to hear wasn’t there.  The Helicopter Sequence.  It wouldn’t be until 1998 that I was able to have that in my music collection and even then it wasn’t the original score but a re-recording of it.  Then in 2001 or so they finally released the full score and it was mine.  Some things are worth waiting for.
  7. Man, I scavenged in that room a lot.  What the hell was wrong with me?
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