#13 – “The Statue Got Me High” (1992)

Apollo 18

A.S.: We’ve gotten pretty lucky over the last few days, just in terms of really great consecutive songs.

L.K.: We really have, which means we’ll probably get cursed with an unlucky streak later on…
A.S.: And you were also hoping we’d get a song with a music video too, so here we are.
L.K.: Let’s cover the music video first, since it’s the first song that has one.
A.S.: Okay then.
L.K.: So this was TMBG’s first “big budget” music video, although obviously that’s kind of… relative.
A.S.: Yeah, I imagine it was mostly spent on renting those cars.
L.K.: Adam Bernstein actually got paid for directing this one, unlike the previous videos. And they built those planetary cubes!
A.S.: They probably had to pay to rent the space suits too.
L.K.: Ah, the vintage cars… apparently the Johns were driving really recklessly fast in them, but it certainly doesn’t look like it in the final video.
A.S.: It might be in the scene where Bernstein overlays all the visual effects over them

L.K.: This video is also notable for being censored in the UK because you can’t display fire over there, for some odd reason.

A.S.: Yes, which is really strange.  I don’t think it’s so much fire as it would be someone burning, although it’s hardly graphic.
L.K.: I know I’ve seen people on fire censored in music videos before (Franz Ferdinand, I believe?)
A.S.: (“This Fire”?)
L.K.: (I think “Do You Want To”)
A.S.: (Ah.) Yeah, historically the BBC will ban just about anything. I don’t think you’re a real musician until the BBC bans or censors something you’ve done.
L.K.: You’ve got be really nuts if you’re censoring TMBG since they’ve probably got one of the least objectionable catalogues in the history of rock music. But anyway, back to the song/video…
A.S.: Yeah, it’s interesting that it’s got a budget backing it since it doesn’t feel that much different conceptually from most of their other videos. The concept being, of course, the Johns do a bunch of unrelated shit and occasionally play their instruments.
L.K.: The guys in spacesuits were apparently just teenagers who weren’t very good at skating. And we gotta mention that Chessmaster guitar!
A.S.: Yes, this is the first appearance of the Mojo Chessmaster, right?
L.K.: I don’t know if it’s the first-ever, but it certainly popped up a lot around the Apollo 18 era. Speaking of which, something I just noticed for the first time while watching my Direct From Brooklyn DVD…the black shirt John Flansburgh is wearing says “Apollo 18” on it in tiny text. Almost unnoticeable title drop of the album.
A.S.: Yeah, I just saw that for the first time too.
L.K.: The coffee orbiting in space is pretty stereotypically TMBG. Their world does revolve largely around coffee.
A.S.: Yep, if they’d used the coffee cup as the point of reference, it would have been a bit more accurate I suppose.
L.K.: There wasn’t much else noteworthy when I rewatched the commentary track on this, other than Flans appears to be afraid of heights, or at least he seemed pretty upset talking about having to stand 20 feet in the air on top of that column in the video.
A.S.: That and I guess this video also marks John Linnell’s hair at its most ruthless
L.K.: Ah, the Apollo 18-era of hair in TMBG. Unruly wild messes, both of them.
A.S.: But on to the actual song
L.K.: But yeah, this song! This is a great song, but you don’t need to hear us say this.
A.S.: Nope, it’s a well-selected single from Apollo 18.
L.K.: And contrary to popular belief, this is NOT ABOUT DRUGS AT ALL. Though I think they’d have an easier time convincing people of that if they hadn’t put the word “high” in the title. It’s like the opposite of “Sleeping In The Flowers” in that it’s commonly misinterpreted as being drug-related.
A.S.: I was just thinking how they’ve reversed another pop music trope, as they’re wont to do.  For those who weren’t exactly in the know back in, say the early 60s, the use of the word “high” in a pop song may still have a smidge of innocence about it, like in [EDIT: “It’s Only Love” or hell, even “Eight Miles High,” not  “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” A.S., you dumbass].  Then, Jim Morrison fucked things up and since then, the word “high” has pretty much exclusively signified drug use in pop music.  So of course, TMBG include the word “high” in the title of a song that’s not about drugs at all. It’s just about a really cool statue.
L.K.: That makes your head explode when you look at it. IT BLOWS YOUR MIND, MAN. But not in a drug-related way. Just by literally blowing it up.
A.S.: What a great concept.
L.K.: Apparently it’s also similar story-wise to Mozart’s Don Giovanni? I know nothing about opera, but I’ve heard Linnell make reference to this in live recordings of this song, when introducing it.
A.S.: Yeah, I was just going to bring up Linnell’s interesting, somewhat unintentional comparison of the two works.
L.K.: What a weird thing to unintentionally reference.
A.S.: It makes sense though. I don’t know much about Don Giovanni either, because of all those old art music dudes, I’m not all that keen on Mozart.  But I do know that a) it’s pretty raunchy and b) Don Giovanni is murdered by a statue at the end. So they have similar statue-resulting-in-death ideas, although Mozart’s statue has murderous/vengeful intentions, while Linnell’s is more of an unfortunate/awesome side effect.
L.K.: Oh, speaking of Linnell commenting on this song… so let’s talk about that part of the chord progression from “When Will You Die” that he realized he unintentionally stole from himself?
A.S.: Yes.
L.K.: Recyclable bridges, man. The crazy thing is though, I wouldn’t have noticed it had he not specifically brought it up in an interview.
A.S.: Didn’t he say something along the lines that he accidentally self-plagiarized “Statue” for one of the songs on Join Us? And he didn’t want to say which song?
L.K.: Yep. He didn’t say which song.
A.S.: And then it was pretty obvious that it was the ‘On that promised morning’ part in “When Will You Die.”
L.K.: “I mean, without beating myself up, I would say there’s one song on Join Us where the middle, the bridge bit, is almost identical in melodic, harmonic structure to part of the song “The Statue Got Me High,” and it was so late in the process when I realized it, it was like, ‘Fuck it. There’s nothing I can do about it now. This song is kinda done.'”
A.S.: Eh, that’s forgivable.
L.K.: Yeah, especially when your composition output is as prodigious as that of TMBG. I think they can be forgiven for occasionally recycling a bit by accident. God, speaking of songs I’ve never seen live…
A.S.: Yeah, it’s a shame that this isn’t in the live rotation anymore.
L.K.: They did this twice in 2008 at two Apollo 18 shows, and I hate that I didn’t go to either of them.
A.S.: I guess they’d need someone to play a bass sax.
L.K.: I was busy being in Ohio at college.
A.S.: Yeah, I was busy not being home during the Mohegan Sun concert. Speaking of live performances though, how about that one on Jonathan Ross with Steve Nieve on keys?
A.S.: Which makes perfect sense given that Elvis Costello was supposed to produce Apollo 18.
L.K.: You know, in addition to being an Attraction, he also wrote an opera that John Flansburgh was in. John Flansburgh AND Elvis Costello. I would kill for a bootleg of that or something.
A.S.: All these nice intersecting paths between TMBG and Elvis Costello, which I’m sure Flansburgh loves.
L.K.: Mr. “I was at Elvis Costello’s first show.”
A.S.: Oh yeah, that jerk.
L.K.: God damn him. I know I wasn’t alive in 1977, but I’m still insanely jealous.
A.S.: Oh yeah, the best part of the Jonathan Ross performance
L.K.: The delayed “high”
A.S.: A great song
L.K.: I got into a car crash once while listening to this song.
A.S.: Oh so this is what was playing?
L.K.: I was 16. I think I had an aversion to listening to the song for a while because of that, and I still get a bit edgy if it comes up on shuffle in the car. But really, that’s a silly, superstitious thing to do. It’s no reason not to listen to a song this great.
A.S.: Let’s do a dramatic change of subject entirely here.  Speaking of censorship…
L.K.: Ah. Of course. (Though we aren’t pretending to be as important or notable as Wikipedia, or even Reddit…)
A.S.: No, of course not, but needless to say, since we’re using copyrighted material on this blog, and since the bulk of WordPress blogs probably contains some copyrighted material…
L.K.: I can’t think of any blogs anywhere that don’t contain some copyrighted material in some way shape or form.
A.S.: If SOPA/PIPA pass, TMBG Song-A-Day will vanish, as will many of the sites you regularly and semi-regularly visit on the Internet, likely.
L.K.: Heck, even TMBG themselves are anti-SOPA. Or at the very least, John Flansburgh rather vocally is, as of late.
A.S.: Although I wouldn’t see why Linnell would support it, or Dan or Danny or Marty or anyone who isn’t a politician or an entertainment bigwig.
L.K.: Obviously you don’t need us to tell you internet piracy isn’t good, though, especially when so many artists are selling their music at so many places, and for such low prices!
A.S.: Of course not, but SOPA/PIPA are not the way to combat it.
L.K.: Shutting down websites and taking over the internet solves nothing.
A.S.: If you haven’t done so yet, please call your representatives and voice your opinion on the issue.  You can find information on Congresspeople who support/oppose the proposed bill here. And there’s a big, incomplete list of those who oppose it here. We promise not to get political here regularly, but this issue hits close to this blog.
L.K.: As it hits close to most blogs on the internet, or really, anybody who’s ever done something as simple as post a YouTube video to Facebook.
A.S.: We also promise we won’t make a habit of posting thing late.  And now, we leave you with some more copyrighted material:
3 Responses to “#13 – “The Statue Got Me High” (1992)”
  1. Jon says:

    But “I Want to Hold Your Hand” doesn’t have the word “high” in it. Are you referring to the “I can’t hide” line that Bob Dylan famously misinterpreted?

  2. Jon says:

    Also – here’s “The Statue Got Me High” at one of the 2008 Apollo 18 shows you mentioned. My own video, if you want to link it. 🙂 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZqvQNdCzfs

  3. Woahhhh crap, thank you for catching that error! You’re absolutely right there; that’s a pretty amateur mistake of me to make (although as you also noted, at least I’m in good company). Made a little editor’s note up there and added a couple more appropriate songs for reference. Also added a link to your LPR video – thank you!
    – A.S.

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