They Might Be Giants

Purple Toupee

Composed by They Might Be Giants

Song Review by

They Might Be Giants' 1988 single "Purple Toupee" sounds like a refreshing response to the grand baby-boomer midlife crisis brought on by the likes of the 20th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the success of the navel-gazing TV series Thirtysomething. John Flansburgh and John Linnell were born in the early '60s, making them old enough to have been around for the cultural shifts of the decade, but too young to understand what was actually going on. The garbled images of the lyrics, then, mirror the uncomprehending confusion of a small child examining the mysteries of the adult world. They also take a distinctly adult glee in turning some of the boomers' cherished memories into comic wordplay ("I shouted out 'Free the Expo '67!'" is a particularly choice line) and non sequiturs that take a little of the self-seriousness out of the '60s, set to an infectious tune based on a super-speedy jangly guitar riff and a contrapuntal chorus that's among the duo's most endearing and memorable.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Lincoln 1988 Idlewild Recordings 2:40
Then: The Earlier Years 1997 Restless Records 2:40
The Best of the Early Years 1999 BMG Special Products 2:38
Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants 2002 Rhino 25:44
A User's Guide to They Might Be Giants 2005 Rhino / Elektra 2:38
blue highlight denotes editor's pick