Saturday, June 17, 2017

Letterbox: More mail order oddities from They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants had an active mailing list for over a decade.

I wrote yesterday about my early experiences as a fan of They Might Be Giants and how the band communicated with its fans by means of a mailing list through the late 1980s and '90s. Today, I thought I'd share with you some more TMBG related goodies from the past. Here, for instance, is a letter from 1988 announcing the formation of a fan club, then called The Official TMBG Correspondence Department. This endeavor would later become known as The TMBG Info Club.

A letter from Melony V.W. (1988)

That particular missive was xeroxed, but the following postcard is handwritten. It's from Glenn Morrow, the head of Bar/None Records, TMBG's label at the time.

A postcard from Glenn Morrow. (1988)

The "new TMBG album" he's referring to is Lincoln, released in September 1988. By June of the next year, the band was still releasing singles off that sophomore LP. "Purple Toupee" got its own music video, but a promised EP never materialized. But the group did send out a press release concerning the song. I'm showing you the envelope it came in because of the purple stamp on the outside.

"Purple Toupee" press release envelope. (1989)

And here's the press release itself, printed on now-faded purple paper. The letter explains some of the historical references in the song and encourages fans to request the Adam Bernstein-directed video on MTV. I don't remember the clip getting a lot of play there, though.

"Purple Toupee" press release. (1989)

Naturally, a big part of the TMBG Info Club was promoting official Giants merch. And to do that, you need a catalog. Here's one of the earliest I can find, probably from 1989. Back then, "The Whole They Might Be Giants Catalog" could fit on a single sheet of paper, front and back. Lincoln was a new album back then, and the group only had a small selection of T-shirts. The most interesting item in the catalog is the TMBG fez, which I never actually purchased.

TMBG merchandise catalog. (1989)

"TMBG approved headgear": The $15 fez. (1989)

Note the address: "TMB Productions, Dept. PPFNP." That abbreviation stands for Pure Pop For Now People, a reference to a 1978 Nick Lowe album. I must admit, I bought my fair share of merchandise from these catalogs over the years. The EPs (or maxi-singles) were mainly available on cassette and vinyl in those days, but TMBG also experimented with putting them out on absurdly tiny 3" CD singles. The format never caught on, for good reason, but I still have a few of them. The CD versions all came out, I believe, in 1989. As you can see from the catalog above, the "Hotel Detective" single quickly became a collector's item.

"Don't Let's Start" CD single. (1989)

"(She Was A) Hotel Detective" CD single. (1989)

"They'll Need A Crane" CD single. (1989)

I think I'll close out this survey with a couple of miscellaneous postcards from the past, both advertising the TMBG offshoot Mono Puff, a side project for John Flansburgh. Here are some cards advertising the group's albums Unsupervised (1996) and It's Fun To Steal (1998). You might want to click on this image to see it at full size.

Postcards advertising Mono Puff. (1996-1998)

Wait, just one more thing. I thought I'd share with you this red stamp from an envelope that once presumably contained a TMBG fan club newsletter. As you can see, the mailing came from Newark, NJ. You can see the familiar "melting snowman" logo and the old Dial-A-Song number.

A TMBG fan club mailing (1988)