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Album: FloodReleased: 1990Charted:
This was They Might Be Giants biggest hit in both the USA and the UK. The song is a story of a child's blue canary-shaped night light, told from the night light's point of view. Across the room from the night light is a picture of a lighthouse which would be his primitive ancestor. It could be interpreted that the night light is a metaphor for God or a guardian angel protecting the child.
The lyrics refer to Jason and the Argonauts, who were a band of heroes who in Greek legend set out in the ship Argo to fetch the Golden Fleece. It is unclear what relationship they have to the night light. Possibly the night light is comparing the small amount of light it beams with the lighthouse's powerful beam and it is admitting that if it had been me on that shore when Jason and the Argonauts arrived rather than the lighthouse, they would have been smashed on the rocks because of its shortcomings.
The song's video, directed by Adam Bernstein, was filmed inside the New York County's Surrogate's Court and Hall of Records building in Manhattan.
On They Might Be Giants' website, John Linnell says: "'Birdhouse In Your Soul' is a song about a night light. That's it. It's written from the perspective of a night light serenading the occupant of its room. The thing is, there are so many syllables in the songs that we have to come up with something to fill the spaces. So it ends up being kind of Gilbert and Sullivany."
The Longines Symphonette, mentioned in the lyric "My story's infinite Like the Longines Symphonette it doesn't rest" is a reference to the Longines Symphonette Society, which back in the 1960s and 1970s, released numerous albums consisting of digital re-recordings of various classical and classic pieces of music. It may have seemed like they had an infinite collection of albums.
Linnell recalled to Rolling Stone: "The melody and chords were cooked up years earlier, and the lyrics had to be shoehorned in to match the melody, which explains why the words are so oblique. I mean beautiful. I didn't find out what the Longines Symphonette was until after the song was released. It rhymed with 'infinite' (sort of)."
The song returned to the UK singles chart in 2010 as a result of its use in a TV commercial for Clarks shoes.