(She Was A) Hotel Detective

"(She Was A) Hotel Detective" is a song and single by alternative rock band They Might Be Giants. It was released as a single two years after the release of They Might Be Giants, the album on which it originally appeared. The "Hotel Detective" title has become a somewhat recurring theme for the band.

"(She Was A) Hotel Detective"
Cover art designed by Gary Panter
Single by They Might Be Giants
from the album They Might Be Giants
ReleasedMay 5, 1988 (1988-05-05)
StudioDubway Studio, New York City and Charles Eller Studio, Charlotte, VT
GenreAlternative rock
LabelBar/None, Restless (US)
Rough Trade (EU)
Songwriter(s)John Flansburgh, John Linnell
Producer(s)Bill Krauss
They Might Be Giants singles chronology
"Don't Let's Start"
"(She Was A) Hotel Detective"
"Ana Ng"
Music video
(She Was A) Hotel Detective on YouTube
Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic [1]

As in the single release of "Don't Let's Start", the version of the song on the "Hotel Detective" single is slightly different from the album version. In this case, a drum track fades in to open the song, and Linnell's saxophone is more prominent. Additionally, Peter Pearmain Thomson sings backing vocals, whereas on the album, the backing vocals are sung by John Flansburgh.[2]

The entire contents of the EP also appear on the compilation album Miscellaneous T. The track "Kiss Me, Son of God" went on to be re-recorded and released on the band's 1988 album, Lincoln. Neither the CD release nor the 12" release of the EP list the untitled track in their respective track listings. The track consists of a conversation recorded on Dial-A-Song's answering machine between a listener known only as "Gloria" and an unknown male.[3]

"Hotel Detective" seriesEdit

The song "(She Was A) Hotel Detective", which was written by John Flansburgh, first appeared on They Might Be Giants, the band's debut album. It was later followed up by "She Was a Hotel Detective", which appeared on an EP, Back to Skull, released in 1994. The sequel was written by John Linnell, "in the tradition of 'Peggy Sue Got Married' and 'Let's Twist Again'".[4] The lyrics to "She Was A Hotel Detective" (the sequel) include the phrase "motel directive", which is transcribed between the leadout grooves of the original Hotel Detective vinyl EP.

A second sequel, "(She Was A) Hotel Detective in the Future", was released on the band's podcast, and subsequently on a CD compilation of songs from the podcast, Cast Your Pod to the Wind. This final sequel was followed by a fake "commentary track" for the song, which was actually far longer than the song itself.[5]

Music videoEdit

The music video for "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" was directed by Adam Bernstein.[6] Some portions of the video show cartoons of the two Johns, animated by Joey Ahlbum.[7] The video is split between these animated segments and segments of John Flansburgh and John Linnell performing the song in a dark room in front of a large "ROCK MUSIC" sign. The video is intentionally over-indulgent, but John and John were unhappy with the final result.[7][8]

Joey Ahlbum's animated versions of John Linnell and John Flansburgh from the "(She Was A) Hotel Detective" music video were used in the first episode of the 1991 sitcom Clarissa Explains It All to show that Clarissa liked Linnell (referred to as "John, the one without glasses"). The figures were also used by Bar/None on promotional postcards.

Track listingEdit

All tracks by They Might Be Giants.

CD track listingEdit

1."(She Was A) Hotel Detective" (single mix)2:20
2."Kiss Me, Son of God"1:49
3."For Science"1:19
4."The Biggest One"1:22
5."Mr. Klaw"1:19
6.Untitled (not listed)2:33

12" track listingEdit

Side A
1."(She Was A) Hotel Detective" (single mix)2:20
2.Untitled (not listed)2:33
Side B
1."For Science"1:19
2."Kiss Me, Son of God"1:49
3."The Biggest One"1:22
4."Mr. Klaw"1:19


They Might Be Giants
Additional musicians
  • Lt. Anne Moore – vocals
  • Peter Pearmain Thomson – backup vocals
  • Al Houghton – engineer
  • Bill Krauss – producer
  • Mark Marek – cover art
  • Rita Zaitschek – cover production


  1. ^ (She Was A) Hotel Detective EP > Overview allmusic. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  2. ^ (She Was A) Hotel Detective EP liner notes, 1989.
  3. ^ Who is speaking in the song with no name? tmbg.org. Retrieved 2009-12-10.
  4. ^ Flansburgh, John and John Linnell. "First Album Q&A". TMBG.com. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
  5. ^ Flansburgh, John (13 March 2006). "Podcast 5A" (Podcast). They Might Be Giants. Archived from the original on 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
  6. ^ They Might Be Giants: (She Was A) Hotel Detective at IMDb  
  7. ^ a b Myke Weiskopf interview with Adam Bernstein, 1995. Archived here. Retrieved 2012-10-04.
  8. ^ Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns), 2003 DVD special features.

External linksEdit