"Come on board on the Oingo Boingo spaceship, through time and space, to the Boingo galaxy!"
In 1972, a young Californian visionary named Rick Elfman decided to form a circus band. The lineup soon consisted of over a dozen people, including his wife Marie-Pascale, his best friend Matthew Bright (who would go on to direct Freeway
), a young Steve Bartek, and Rick's little brother Danny Elfman
, who had just returned from traveling Africa and Europe.
With Danny as a frontman
, and using his skills on the violin, xylophone, trombone and Balinese dance
to give the band its unique sound
, The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo
were formed. Their fans included a young "Weird Al" Yankovic
, an up-and-coming Paul Reubens
, and a very young Tim Burton
, who was attending CalArts at the time.
At the end of the 1970's, the band sold everything they had to create the no-budget sci-fi cult classic Forbidden Zone
. Having no money to hire a proper crew, Danny decided to score the film himself, and realized he enjoyed being a film composer.
During the film's Development Hell
, Danny had taken over and re-formed the band to incorporate his new symphonic sound into their music, and the group very quickly took off in the direction of New Wave Ska
. The new band, called Oingo Boingo, was formed in 1979.
The band became known for its quirky sound and its high-energy Halloween concerts. By 1985, they were scoring hits including "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science," and Tim Burton
and Paul Reubens (both fans of Forbidden Zone
, by coincidence) had given Danny his first real job
as a film composer. Many, many others soon followed.
In 1994, Danny Elfman suffered a breakdown and (temporarily) broke off all ties with Tim Burton. Because Danny wanted to go in a different direction, the band reshuffled its lineup, rechristened themselves Boingo, and recorded a Self-Titled Album
which focused most on the rock and orchestral influences of the band's sound. It was partly inspired by Danny Elfman listening to his daughter's album collection, which included The Beatles
, Jimi Hendrix
and Led Zeppelin
. Their new sound alienated many old fans and gave them plenty of new ones. But by that time, and particularly after a truly terrible gig at the KROQ Weenie Roast, the group realized that their time together was over.
The band retired after a farewell concert on Halloween 1995, having reverted to the name Oingo Boingo for the concert. Bassist John Avila went on to produce Reel Big Fish
and is currently playing with The Mutaytor
. Keyboardist Richard Gibbs got hired to score Battlestar Galactica
. Drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez continued playing in various bands and had a cameo in From Dusk Till Dawn
. Guitarist Warren Fitzgerald joined The Vandals
. Richard Elfman and Matthew Bright created half a dozen film projects together. And Danny Elfman
became a fulltime film composer, with Steve Bartek as his arranger.
- Ambiguously Gay: Either the band didn't know the meaning of the word "cruising", or "Cruisin'" is about anonymous gay encounters at night. Pick one.
- Big Brother Is Watching: "Perfect System", “1984”, "Grey Matter" and “Controller”. "Marching In Time" may count as well.
- Bystander Syndrome: “Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me”
- Conspiracy Theorist: The narrator of “Controller”. "Perfect System" might count.
- Crapsack World: A distressingly large number of their songs seem to be about (with apologies to Iron Maiden) the evil that men do. Murder, statutory rape, and mindless mischief are all on hand in abundance, along with plenty of paranoia and apocalyptic imagery. And the most horrifying part? It's all served up in the form of infectiously catchy Latin/Caribbean-styled pop-rock!
- Cover Version: "You Really Got Me" and "I Am The Walrus".
- Creator Backlash: "Weird Science" (the theme song of the film and TV series of the same name) was actually despised by the band, who rarely (if ever) performed the song live. Supposedly, the song as it appears on the album was an unfinished version; the band was still working on a final composition when record executives misinterpreted their latest take as the official recording.
- Dark Is Not Evil: “Dead Man’s Party” and many other songs.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: “Nasty Habits” and “Good For Your Soul”
- The Dead Can Dance: “Dead Man’s Party”
- Dystopia: “Perfect System”
- Epic Rocking: Much their final studio album Boingo. Four songs exceed 7 minutes: "Insanity," "Hey!" "Pedestrian Wolves," and "Change" (with "Change" clocking in at just under 16 minutes). Even including the 37-second doggerel track "Tender Lumplings" in the mix, the 12 songs on the album average over 6 minutes each.
- The Fifties: Their neo-rockabilly number, "Goodbye, Goodbye."
- Foreshadowing: The marimba lead break on "No One Lives Forever" sounds like a test run for Elfman's score for Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (three years before the fact).
- For Science!: “Weird Science”
- Fractured Fairy Tale: "Cinderella Undercover"
- The Gong Show: Here they are in a 1976 appearance.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: "This is my private life, come and get me out of here."
- Karma Houdini: Johnny in "Only A Lad".
- Kids Rock: “Insanity”, to great effect
- Lolicon: “Little Girls”, although Danny claims the song is about creepy Californian men dating younger women. "Nasty Habits" has a reference to lolicon as well, and “Nothing to Fear (But Fear Itself)" also contains a line about it.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Lots; “Controller” springs to mind, and especially “Tender Lumplings”.
- Mad Scientist: The narrator of “Weird Science”.
- Motor Mouth: Danny in "Goodbye Goodbye":
You're always puttin' the make on my friends always giving them eyes and the dirty lies 'bout me and you well I'm through it's the end of the line for you babe here's a ticket one way Cincinnati I'm sendin' you home to your ma and your daddy so don't try to call me you'll only be wastin' your tiiiime
! (In case you weren't counting, it takes Danny less than eight seconds to spew all of that out.)
- New Wave
- Obligatory Bondage Song: Subverted with “Not My Slave”. (An argument could be made for "Nasty Habits" falling under this trope, though...)
- Officially Shortened Title: They were originally “The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo”, then “Oingo Boingo”, and finally just “Boingo”, but they went back to “Oingo Boingo" for their farewell concert.
- Pop Star Composer: Danny Elfman
- Raised by Wolves: “Pedestrian Wolves”
Raised by pedestrian wolves, out in the forest
Raised by suburban lions, out in the jungle
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Insanity", and so many others. "Whole Day Off", "Insects", "I'm Afraid", "Did It There" and "Helpless" readily come to mind.
- Shout Out: “1984”, for obvious reasons.
- “No Spill Blood” is an Island of Doctor Moreau reference.
- Single Stanza Song: "Tender Lumplings"
- The Sixties: Both "Just Another Day" and "Dead Man's Party" evoke this - "Just Another Day" with its psychedelic imagery and wailing synthesizer, and "Dead Man's Party" with its surf-rock guitar and a pre-climactic bridge that is eerily reminiscent of "Light My Fire".
- Skeletal Musician: The cover art of "Dead Man's Party" features a skeletal mariachi band.
- Society Is to Blame: “Only A Lad”
It’s not his fault that he can’t behave
Society’s made him go astray
Perhaps if we’re nice he’ll go away!
- Stalker with a Crush: In "Insanity".
I'd love to hear you laugh tonight
I'd love to hear you weep
I'd love to listen to you
while you're screaming in your sleep
- Subliminal Seduction: "Cry of the Vatos" which features heavy drums, frantic screaming, and full-volume backmasked lyrics... which when played in reverse, says things like "Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved. You will receive everlasting life."
- Take That, Critics!: "Imposter", written after a scathing review the band got in 1981.
You're just a critic, we know why you drink so much
Jealousy slowly consuming your gut
- Take That
- The song "Capitalism" is a Take That inspired by the Left-leaning Punk Rock bands at the time. It includes the immortal tirade:
You're just a middle class socialist brat
From a suburban family and you never really had to work
And you tell me that you've got to get back
To the struggling masses, whoever they are
You talk, talk, talk about the suffering and pain
Your mouth is bigger than your entire brain
What the hell do you know about suffering and pain?
You dumb fuck.
- Conversely, "Insanity" is a Take That towards the Christian Right:
Let's talk of family values while we sit and watch the slaughter.
Hypothetical abortions on imaginary daughters.
The white folks think they're at the top, ask any proud white male.
A million years of evolution; we get Danny Quayle
- The video for "Weird Science" shows other pop stars of the time (Cyndi Lauper, Madonna et al.) in chains doing slave labor.
- Word Salad Lyrics: "Just Another Day," among others.
- Your Princess Is In Another Castle: "Change", which glides to a comfortable ending after 15 minutes, only to return for the final verse and chorus.