Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is a swing-style song, with lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy and music by Nat Simon. The tune is reminiscent of "Puttin' on the Ritz," written by Irving Berlin in 1929, but the song is said to be a response to "C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-I-N-O-P-L-E," recorded in 1928 by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra.
The lyrics refer to the change of the name of the city of Constantinople to the Turkish name Istanbul (officially adopted in 1930). It also mentions the fact that New York City was originally named New Amsterdam, and that the change to New York was kept because "people just liked it better that way". In addition, the lyrics opine that the name change from Constantinople to Istanbul is "nobody's business but the Turks'."
The Four Lads original version
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" was originally recorded by the Canadian group The Four Lads on August 12, 1953. This recording was released by Columbia Records as catalog number 40082. It first reached the Billboard magazine charts on October 24, 1953, and it peaked at #10. It was the group's first gold record.
Live performance cover versions
During the 2000s, the song was performed live by Australian Klezmer/Gypsy Jazz band Monsieur Camembert.
Recorded cover versions
Recording artists and groups known to have covered this song include:
- Edmundo Ros (1953)
- Bing Crosby with Ella Fitzgerald (1953)
- Frankie Vaughan (1954)
- Caterina Valente (1954)
- Renato Carosone
- Darío Moreno (1954, in French)
- Jacques Hélian et son Orchestre (1950s, in French as "Istamboul")
- Lou Busch (as "Joe Fingers Carr & his Ragtime Band")
- Ota Čermák (1959)
- Santo & Johnny (1962)
- Bruno & the Gladiators, instrumental surf rock band, though titled "Istanbul" (1963)
- Bette Midler for the live album "Live At Last" (1977)
- Harvard Din & Tonics have sung this song since the group's inception in 1979.
- They Might Be Giants (1990)
- Lee Press-on and the Nails (1998).
- Belmont Playboys Instrumental titled "Istanbul" (1999)
- Ac Rock Acapella version "Istanbul" (1999)
- Ska Cubano (2006)
- PJ Harvey sampled the original for her song "Let England Shake" (2011).
- Terrance Zdunich sings this song as Count Tarakan, the Badass Russian (2011).
They Might Be Giants cover
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" Single by They Might Be Giants from the album Flood B-side "James K. Polk" Released May 14, 1990 Format CD single, 7", 12" Genre Alternative rock Length 2:34 Label Elektra (US)
Elektra / WEA (EU)
Producer Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley They Might Be Giants singles chronology "Birdhouse in Your Soul"
"Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
"The Statue Got Me High"
One of the better-known versions of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" is the cover by the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, who released it on their album Flood in 1990. It was released as the second single from that album in the same year. TMBG's version is at a faster tempo than the original and contains a distinct klezmer influence, including a violin introduction and some accordion and electric guitar parts not present in the original version.
Popular culture references
The lyrics were used in the March 21, 1954 episode of The Jack Benny Program during a sketch about a man trying to buy a train ticket to Constantinople. Jack Benny and Frank Nelson proceed to use the lyrics to dispute where the man can go.
The They Might Be Giants Version is used in the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Tiny Toons Music Television".
A few lines of the song were sung by some Muppet rats at the beginning of the first season episode of Muppets Tonight guest-starring Pierce Brosnan. When host Clifford tells the audience that the show can be seen everywhere from Istanbul to Constantinople, Rizzo the rat corrects him that Istanbul is Constantinople.
In Civilization III, when a player runs out of city names in the official list, the city name list restarts with "New" prefixed to the original name (e.g. "New London" for the English). However, when the Ottomans build the first city after exhausting the original list, the city is named "Not Constantinople" as opposed to the expected "New Istanbul."
On NBC's America's Got Talent on Tuesday, August 16, 2011, the act Those Funny Little People performed a routine to the They Might Be Giants version of this song.
In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring The Castle of Fu-Manchu, Tom Servo recites a few lines after Joel says "Oh, sure just barge into Istanbul... hey, at least it's not Constantinople."
- ^ Songs Incorrectly Attributed To TMBG - TMBW: The They Might Be Giants Knowledge Base
- ^ Judy Harris, 'Roll Your Own' Radio Show
- ^ "Gold & Platinum certification of albums at RIAA". www.riaa.com. http://www.riaa.com/gp/database/search_results.asp. [dead link] Retrieved November 26, 2006.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940–1955. Record Research.
- ^ Lost Legends of Surf Guitar, Vol. 3 at Allmusic
- ^ Oldies, Goodies and Woodies. Vault Album Discography. http://www.bsnpubs.com/la/vault/vault103.jpg.
- ^ http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/contestants/those-funny-little-people/video/
- ^ "Craig Ferguson - Istanbul". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4phHwSSing. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople) EP on This Might Be A Wiki
- "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" (song) on This Might Be A Wiki
They Might Be Giants AlbumsThey Might Be Giants (1986) · Lincoln (1988) · Flood (1990) · Apollo 18 (1992) · John Henry (1994) · Factory Showroom (1996) · Long Tall Weekend (1999) · Mink Car (2001) · No! (2002) · The Spine (2004) · Here Come the ABCs (2005) · The Else (2007) · Here Come the 123s (2008) · Here Comes Science (2009) · Join Us (2011) EPs Singles"Don't Let's Start" · "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" · "They'll Need a Crane" · "Ana Ng" · "Purple Toupee" · "Birdhouse in Your Soul" · "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" · "The Statue Got Me High" · "I Palindrome I" · "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)" · "O Tannenbaum" · "S-E-X-X-Y" · "Doctor Worm" · "Boss of Me" · "Man, It's So Loud in Here" · "Experimental Film" · "Can't Keep Johnny Down"
Other notable songs: "Particle Man"
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