Purple Toupee

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"Purple Toupee"
"Purple Toupee" cover art
Promotional single artwork
Single by They Might Be Giants
from the album Lincoln
GenreAlternative rock, art pop
LabelBar/None, Restless
Songwriter(s)John Flansburgh, John Linnell
Producer(s)Bill Krauss
They Might Be Giants singles chronology
"They'll Need a Crane"
"Purple Toupee"
"Birdhouse in Your Soul"

"Purple Toupee" is a 1988 song by alternative rock duo They Might Be Giants from their second album, Lincoln. It was released as a promotional single in 1989. In 1994, a live performance of the song was recorded for the promotional live album, Live!! New York City 10/14/94, which was released by Elektra Records.

According to John Linnell, the song's disjointed lyrics recount a warped memory of the 1960s. The song comments on a contemporary "sixties revival", which Linnell perceived as a "one-dimensional caricature" of the decade.[1] In a nod to this inauthenticity, the lyrics are intentionally misleading, and do not accurately represent the events they reference.[2] Two Prince songs—"Purple Rain" and "Raspberry Beret"—also served as sources of inspiration for "Purple Toupee".[1]


Bar/None Records promoted "Purple Toupee" by pasting fake labels on 8-track tapes by other artists. The cartridges, disguised as a release from TMBG, were mailed to radio stations, in addition to CDs that actually contained the song.[3]

The song had a music video directed by Helene Silverman, who had previously done graphic design work with the band.[4] The video was filmed at Coney Island and features John Linnell and John Flansburgh playing accordion and guitar, respectively, at Astroland Park.[5]

Terminated EP[edit]

"Purple Toupee" was intended for release as an EP with three B-sides. It was listed as a release for 12" vinyl, CD, and cassette. The following tracks were presented on the band's B-side compilation, Miscellaneous T:

  1. "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal"
  2. "Lady Is a Tramp"
  3. "Birds Fly"

The songs were also included on a 2013 reissue of Lincoln in Australian markets by Breakaway Records.[6]



In his review of Lincoln, Robert Christgau cited "Purple Toupee" as a potential highlight from the album's A-side, though not as strong as the lead single "Ana Ng". He describes the song as "antiboomer".[7] The track was also designated as an Allmusic "pick". Writing for Allmusic, Stewart Mason lauds the song's "infectious tune" and adds that the chorus is "among the duo's most endearing and memorable". Like Christgau, Mason speculates that it carries a baby-boomer theme from the perspective of a confused child of the 1960s.[8] In an Allmusic review of the full album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine also names "Purple Toupee" one of the album's strong "pop hooks".[9]


They Might Be Giants[10]
  • Bill Krauss – Producer
  • Al Houghton – Engineer


  1. ^ a b DeMain, Bill (2004-01-01). In Their Own Words: Songwriters Talk About The Creative Process. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-275-98402-1. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  2. ^ Linnell, John (2008-02-18). "Interview with John Linnell of They Might Be Giants" (Interview). Interviewed by Kent Brown. Stay Thirsty Media. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  3. ^ Popson, Tom (1989-07-21). "Pete Townshend Recalls School 'Nightmare'". Chicago Tribune.
  4. ^ Silverman, Helene. "About :: News". Helenesilverman.net. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  5. ^ Direct from Brooklyn (DVD). Restless Records. 2003.
  6. ^ "First Two They Might Be Giants Albums to Be Reissued in Australia". Noise11. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG". Consumer Guide. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  8. ^ Mason, Stewart. "Purple Toupee - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  9. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Lincoln - They Might Be Giants". Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-07-03.
  10. ^ a b Lincoln (Album notes). Restless/Bar/None Records. 1988.

External links[edit]