#77 – “Dog On Fire” (1999)

[audio http://www.tmbg.com/_media/_pod/TMBGPodcast47.mp3]

[“Dog On Fire” found 4 minutes, 52 seconds into podcast.]

L.K.: I believe there are at least two They Might Be Giants recordings of this song…

A.S.: Are there?
L.K.: Yeah–anybody who has been watching The Daily Show long enough has probably noticed that on the rare occasions that they play the full version of this song over the credits, the new version has a different guitar solo than the original. I also believe it’s faster too.
A.S.: So it isn’t terribly noticeably different then?
L.K.: Well I mean, I noticed that they were different.
A.S.: I’m guessing the one that wound up on the podcast is the full original one?
L.K.: Let me check. It’s hard to do because it’s so difficult to find Daily Show clips on YouTube thanks to Viacom’s draconian policies.
A.S.: I only defer to you because between the two of us, you are certainly the Daily Show expert.
L.K.: At one point, you could watch clips of the original Craig Kilborn Daily Show on YouTube, which is the only time I’ve ever been able to hear the ORIGINAL original version of “Dog On Fire”, which is the one by its composer, Bob Mould. That version was a lot slower and more laid-back. Unfortunately I can’t locate any clips where you can hear the whole thing online anymore.
A.S.: No horns, just Bob Mould and a rhythm section.
L.K.: Yep.
A.S.: Bob Mould of course, the former guitarist and one of the singers/songwriters of legendary Minneapolis 1980s indie punk group Hüsker Dü, which if you haven’t listened to them, you really should. Brethren of The Replacements in many ways, although significantly different (faster, louder, heavier, and more ambitious/conceptual – but could also be just as poppy as The ‘Mats)
L.K.: I’m not sure if he’s one of the musicians TMBG is chummy with, but John Linnell did tell a story of running into him in a Subway restaurant at 4 am after a show one night. Bob was just sitting all by himself, eating a sub.
A.S.: Oh man, that’s a great story. I mean, just on its own, it’s a terrible story, but we’re talking about BOB MOULD.
L.K.: TMBG had been driving all over the place trying to find something to eat after their own show in the same town that night. And the only thing that’s open is this Subway. And there’s just Bob Mould in it. Eatin’ a sub.
A.S.: Was this before or after the “Dog On Fire” cover?
L.K.: Oh, there wasn’t a date given, I don’t think.
A.S.: Ah. As much as I love Bob Mould, I enjoy TMBG’s version much more.  Abides nicely by my faster = better rule.
L.K.: Yep. Aha, for comparison, I believe this is a slower(ish) TMBG version of the same song?
A.S.: Oh yeah it is pretty noticeable. Very noticeably different.
L.K.: I told you!
A.S.: You know, I might even prefer this version. It has a… grander feel to it. Faster is usually better, but not always.
L.K.: It should be mentioned that TMBG re-recording the theme song was part of the changes brought into the show when Jon Stewart took over hosting duties, along with firing some people and hiring others to create a different tone for the show.
A.S.: A tone that has worked for… thirteen years now?
L.K.: Since 1999, I believe, so yes. TMBG were pulled in to do the scoring because I think the producers of The Daily Show had heard some cues they had done for Dateline or some other actual news program. They thought “hey, that’s great, let’s get these guys to do cues for our fake news show!”.
A.S.: These guys… as if they didn’t have a history of being this significant indie/alt band or something.
L.K.: Well, I think they were aware of that too, but the additional knowledge that they could also successfully ape bombastic news music was what sealed the deal. Jon Stewart once bartended at a place TMBG played in New Jersey!
A.S.: Yeah that story sounds familiar.
L.K.: When they appeared on The Daily Show as guests, they talked about that quite a bit. Unfortunately, the role of music on the show seems to have shrunk more and more as time goes by. There are very few music cues on The Daily Show at all anymore, and if the credits are to be believed, some of them are being composed by somebody else. TMBG isn’t being phased out of the show, but they definitely aren’t as prominent as they were in the earlier years of Jon Stewart’s reign, or even as late as 2006.
A.S.: I dunno, they’ve stuck with them for 13 years, why change now?
L.K.: Oh yeah, I mean, they’re obviously not in any rush to redo the theme music. It’s just that most of the little instrumental cues and things on the show have been phased out these days, presumably to make more space for commercials.
A.S.: Oh yeah. Ah, Viacom.
L.K.: But you really have to watch this commercial for this terrible stand-up comic that they’ve already shown during every commercial break for the past two weeks! You really need to see it again!
A.S.: Ah, Viacom. Viacomedy Central.
L.K.: One last thought: To this date, I still haven’t learned why the song is called “Dog On Fire”. Somebody’ll have to ask Bob Mould one of these days…
A.S.: I wonder if he explains that in his recent autobiography
L.K.: I heard it’s mostly about him coming to terms with his sexual orientation… which presumably involves neither dogs nor fires.
A.S.: Pffft boring, I wanna learn about the music… Nah, I’m sure that’s interesting too, but he has so many great songs!  I wanna read his thoughts on ’em. Stuff that isn’t collected in Our Band Could Be Your Life.
L.K.: I need to get around to reading that…
A.S.: Greatest book on music I’ve ever read. Dear reader, I strongly recommend it.
One Response to “#77 – “Dog On Fire” (1999)”
  1. Nathan says:

    When did the Bob Mould version of the song actually come out? It could potentially be a Simpsons reference, since that was the name of one of the clips on an America’s Funniest Home Videos type show that Homer was watching in “Stark Raving Dad.”

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