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."
Suggestion credit: Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above
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.
Suggestion credit: Patrick - Bremen, GA
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.
Evangeline from UkOn the subject of Ulysses and Odysseus, they are the same person: Ulysses was the Romans' name (they spelt it Ulixes) for the Greek Odysseus. The character featured in Homer's two epic poems, The Iliad and the Odyssey, and the name Ulysses was borrowed by the Irish novelist James Joyce, hence a reader's reference to "Ulysses" being a different book - correct, but obviously the name is a reference to the ancient hero of Homer's work. I love the TMBG song, by the way.
Milly from Swansea, United KingdomMy mum and I say 'Make a little Molehole in your soul' it sounds funny.. Lol.
Jir from London, United KingdomDefinition of cooky brilliance: this song
Carrie from Houston, TxThis song is so completely brilliant. Incredibly WORDY, it was a favorite of my brother's and mine. There are still incidents where one of us will start humming or singing it. . .we still both know all the words.
Jas from Clifton, TxGreat song. It's to go on songfacts and read all the comments where people read all sorts of bizarre things into otherwise simple songs, most of the time completely disregarding what the artists themselves say about the songs. TMBG have said repeatedly that this is just a song about a night light, sung from the night light's POV. Guy in Birmingham, does it really matter that the guy mixed up the mythology? It's a myth anyway, a made up story about a guy looking for a golden sheep skin, that in and of itself could be taken so many ways. Maybe Jason wanted to hear the Sirens too, maybe he got tied to a boat too, maybe Jason and Odysseus (yeah, that's the actual spelling, Ulysses is a totally different book) were good buddies but they had a falling out and didn't want to share the same myth. You don't know, you weren't there. Let people live in peace without correcting one mistake with another. This song is pretty innovative. I think the ability to write about something that is so unbelievably simple that people have to come up with unbelievably complex explanations takes some real brilliance. It's a night light talking to a guy in the room. Maybe a girl, don't start. Maybe it was Jason and Odysseus in the room after they came back from their respective voyages, once again, you don't know so how can it possibly be wrong?
Spinz from Middletown, NyThis is my ALL TIME FAVORITE SONG.
Mark from Madison, WiSomehow the phrase "countless screaming argonauts" always makes me laugh. This song is a total ear worm, too.
Guy from Birmingham, AlUmmmmmm, I'm afraid you're mixing up your mythology, there, Jerry. It was in fact Ulysses (Oddeseus) who wanted to hear the sirens, not Jason. And, Johnny, couldn't agree with you more, this song is theit greatest.
Jerry from Nashville, TnThe connection between a lighthouse and Jason and the Argonauts lies in the story of when the Argo sailed past the island of the Sirens. The Sirens alluring song lured sailors to wreck their boats on the rocks. Jason wanted to hear the song without danger, so he had his men tie him to the mast and plug their ears with wax. Well, once they tied him to the mast, being sailors at sea and all, some stuff happened that didn't make the books.
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThis is an awesome song. Maybe one of my favorites by They Might Be Giants.