We know, Steve. We know all too well.
What some of us didn’t know, or might have just forgotten about over all these years, is that our lovable, childlike detective friend was working on a music career while “away at college” and even played a gig at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton way back in 2003, right around the time when we mystery-solving fans were beginning to come of age.
Some remember the show as a sold-out shoegaze set seen through a haze of cigarette smoke. For nostalgia’s sake, see a 21-second clip of the show in a YouTube video with Burns singing “Mighty Little Man,” a song off his debut indie rock album Songs for Dustmites.
Though Burns’ professional music career has remained under the radar since he started back in the early 2000s (in his own words, he was in a “Morrissey rip-off band” in high school), he could very well have been known for his musical talent alone had he not become a successful children’s TV show host. He even collaborated with Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd on multiple projects, including that debut album back in 2003.
Pitchfork’s review of the album states: “Songs for Dustmites manages to remain true to Burns' legacy as a nice-guy kids' show host despite having made an unabashedly adult record that deals with familiar themes of love and loss.” (Speaking of adult themes, apparently, moms were lusting pretty heavily over him, and he was even voted among the 100 most eligible bachelors in People magazine in 2000.)
While middle school kids spread schoolyard rumors — to seemingly resolve the confusion behind his sudden departure from Blue’s Clues — of Burns dying from a heroin overdose or getting killed in a car accident, he and Drozd were busy in the studio making music we weren’t ready to fully appreciate yet.
Seven years after his debut release, Burns and Drozd joined Ryan Smith of indie/electronica band A Million Billion to form Steve Burns and the Struggle. They released the dream-pop record Deep Sea Recovery Efforts in 2009 to critical favor, although it never saw huge commercial popularity (you can listen to the whole album on YouTube).
Burns didn’t completely abandon his kid-friendly appeal, though. He and Drozd also formed the duo STEVENSTEVEN, making music for all ages with themes ranging from unicorn romance to, well, pooping. They cited influences like Dr. Seuss, fairy tales and David Bowie. (See the colorful video for “The Unicorn And Princess Rainbow.”)
But as Burns packed up his things and left his cartoon playhouse behind 19 years ago, we blossoming kids were set to experience harsh new realities; we had just witnessed the worst terrorist attack on our country, experienced the effects of the recession as we entered college and are now feeling the darkness of a pandemic as we start families and raise kids.
So we say to our long-lost TV friend: Turn your video message of encouragement and support to us into one of your shoegaze-y love songs so we can play it over and over in our car while crying knowing that after all these years, someone was thinking of us.