Way back sometime in 1997, after a particularly rockin' TMBG show at the Mercury Lounge, Flansy deviated from his usual ritual of bugging out of there and getting to bed at a decent hour. Instead, he hopped back to the soundboard and popped in a DAT. Someone asked him what it was. "It's called "I'm Sick", he said, sounding pleased with himself.
I tried hard to listen, but the chatter of people draining out of the club made it tough to discern details. The drum track was really prominent, and the vocal track seemed closer to rap than anything they'd previously broached. Could it be? They Might Be Hip-Hop? Ballsy, I thought, even for them.
When "Cyclops Rock" joined (and immediately became a staple of) their setlists in 1998, I assumed that what was "I'm Sick" had mutated into the verses of that tune. (UPDATE 8/19/02: Actually, it probably mutated instead into I'm Sick (of this American Life), which can be found on the rarities compilation They Got Lost.) This didn't displease me, though, because "Cyclops Rock" (often preceded by Flansy's mendacious shout, "This is a song about a Cyclops!") was, and remains a high point of their shows for me. One of my favorite TMBG tracks of all time. I even quoted the chorus in a break-up communique to a cheating ex-girlfriend.
For years, I waited desperately for the day when I would have this song on CD to blast out the window and rock the pants off passersby with. Of course, when that day finally came, it was the worst day most of us ever had. But I was lucky enough to grab Mink Car at a midnight in-store appearance at Tower Records, Greenwich Village. The Johns signed my CD and promised No! would be out by next spring, by hook or by crook.
In the wee hours before the attack, I spun the record once, as I noded. I was thrilled to discover that even the songs I knew (which was about half of the album) had multilayered new innovations making them fresh to my ears.
Cyclops Rock changed in the following big ways:
-The first line of the first verse was changed from "I'm sick, like Nixon was sick" to "I'm sick, like Chucky was sick." Increasingly apolitical, those Giants!
-The last line in the chorus was changed to "And mess up my Cyclops mind", except for the last time through.
-There's a very prominent harmony part in the chorus. If Linnell was singing this, I could never make it out.
-Flans included the yell of "DAN!" before the guitar solo. That is the point at which a forest of fingers leaps out of the front rows of the audience to point at Dan.
-Most notably: They put the rap element back in!
"The shocking chant at the end is delivered by Ceryated from its original rock inception with the help of producers Clive and Alan. It doesn't sound much like anything we have ever done before, but it does capture the popular sound of the mid-80s right around the time we started. We're hoping the song will be so successful that eventually when people will hear it they will be reminded of us."
The lyrics for the chant (as best as I can discern) are:
Monkey and frug
These are the things that I taught to you!
I'm stuck in a vat outside of New York
The band went on tour after the record came out, and they still perform the song the way they used to, without the rap. Dammit.