Not Byzantium Either

Kenny’s current favorite CD is “Flood” by They Might Be Giants. I’ve heard him singing about wanting a prosthetic forehead on his real head, and he knows a lot of the lyrics to “Birdhouse In Your Soul”, but his favorite is “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”.

Out of curiosity I went looking on iTunes and found a recording of “Istanbul” by the Four Lads, who did the first recording of the song in 1953. The one on iTunes is from a 1991 album of Four Lads songs called “16 Most Requested Songs” and I don’t know if it’s the 1953 recording or a later re-recording. (It seems to be in stereo, which suggests the latter. The same recording appears to be on a 1989 anthology called “16 Most Requested Songs of the 1950s”, so it seems it would have to predate TMBG’s version by at least a little.) There are some significant differences with the “Flood” version. The Four Lads do the song at a slower tempo (about MM 165 vs. about MM 200); nevertheless their version is shorter — this because the TMBG version has a longer intro and a slightly longer coda, and the last couple sections of the song are repeated. Right after “No, you can’t go back to Constantinople” the Four Lads version’s lyrics are “Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople” where TMBG’s are “Been a long time gone, Constantinople”. But I actually was surprised how similar the two renditions are — several aspects of the TMBG arrangement which I’d assumed were theirs are in the Four Lads version. The whole “doo doo doo” section, for example, is pretty much the same in both.

iTunes also has covers by 80 Drums Around the World & Joe Carr, The Trevor Horn Orchestra, and Ska Cubano, along with apparently a medley with “Puttin’ On the Ritz” by Geoffrey Leigh Tozer & His Swank Pharaohs, and an arrangement on a karaoke album.

Okay then.


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