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 '70s, 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 Ska-tinged New Wave. 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, coincidentally) had given Danny his first real job as a film composer. Many, many others soon followed.
In 1994, Danny Elfman suffered a breakdown, resulting in a brief falling out 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 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. They band retired after a farewell concert on Halloween 1995, having reverted to the name Oingo Boingo for the concert.
A reunion is confirmed to be out of the question, as many of the original members, including Elfman, have developed irreversible hearing loss as a result of playing loud rock music in front of huge amps for so long. Nevertheless, each member has done well for himself: 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 full-time film composer, with Steve Bartek as his arranger and occasionally performing classic Boingo songs with him live.
- Only A Lad (1981)
- Nothing to Fear (1982)
- Good for Your Soul (1983)
- So-Lo (1984)note
- Dead Man's Party (1985)
- Boi-Ngo (1987)
- Dark at the End of the Tunnel (1990)
- Boingo (1994)note
"I-I-I-I love little Tropes!":
- All Take and No Give: Defied in "Not My Slave". The narrator tries to talk his love interest out of her submissive tendencies, insisting she's not his property and that he just wants her to be happy.
- Big Brother Is Watching: "Perfect System", “Wake Up (It's 1984)”, "Grey Matter", “Controller” and "Burn Me Up". "Marching In Time" may count as well.
- Black Comedy: "No One Lives Forever" and "Only a Lad", among others.
- Break-Up Song: "Goodbye Goodbye", "Better Luck Next Time", and "Can't See (Useless)".
- Bystander Syndrome: “Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me”
- Calacas: The cover to the album, Dead Man's Party shows a load of mexican-themed skeletons celebrating.
- Concept Video: The music videos for "Little Girls", "Private Life", "Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me" and "Gratitude".
- Conspiracy Theorist: The narrator of “Controller”. "Perfect System" might count.
- Cover Version: "You Really Got Me", "I Am the Walrus" and "Violent Love"note .
- And as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, they covered "St. James Infirmary Blues".
- 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!
- Creepy Children Singing / Kids Rock: In the chorus of "Insanity".
- Dark Is Not Evil: “Dead Man’s Party” and many other songs.
- The Dead Can Dance: “Dead Man’s Party”
- Don't Fear The Reaper: Again, "Dead Man’s Party”.
- Dystopia: “Perfect System”
- Elevator Going Down: "Elevator Man". It doesn't end well.
- Epic Rocking: Much of 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.
- Evil Redhead: Or at least creepy as hell - Elfman's persona in the videos.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Change" glides to a comfortable ending after 15 minutes, only to return for the final verse and chorus.
- Faux Affably Evil: The eponymous Elevator Man. "I'm so polite" indeed.
- The marimba lead break on "No One Lives Forever" resembles something akin to a test run for Elfman's score for Beetlejuice.
- "Nasty Habits" and "Little Guns" both resemble an early version of "Breakfast Machine" from Pee-wee's Big Adventure.
- Fish out of Water: "On The Outside"
- For Science!: "Weird Science"
- Fractured Fairy Tale: "Cinderella Undercover"
- Friend to All Children: In "Long Breakdown":I believe, I believe in the cry of little childrenThere's a thorn in my side that makes me want to free them
- Genre Roulette: Sometimes. Probably the weirdest examples are "Country Sweat" (a slowed-down country version of "Sweat"), "Water" (Blue Grass), and "Burn Me Up" (thrash metal with a saxophone chorus).
- The Gong Show: Here they are in a 1976 appearance.
- Referenced in "Weird Al" Yankovic's Oingo Boingo style parody "You Make Me".
- Halloween Songs: The band produced a lot of Halloween appropriate songs that usually find themselves on most people's Halloween playlist, most notably "Dead Man's Party" and "No One Lives Forever".
- Hellevator: "Elevator Man"... possibly.
- Hypocritical Humor: The adults in "Only a Lad" say of the title character, "society made him" and "he's our responsibility"...then proceed to do absolutely nothing to curb his behavior.
- I Am the Band: Inverted with So-Lo; the album is credited to Danny Elfman alone, but is in actuality a full-on Oingo Boingo album, with the full band being just as involved there as on previous and later records. Its misleading billing as an Elfman solo album was mainly due to legal issues, as the band were in the middle of a Channel Hop from A&M Records to MCA.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: "Private Life"This is my private life, come and get me out of here
- Iconic Outfit: Throughout the 1980s, Danny Elfman could usually be seen sporting a white vest and tight black trousers.
- Intercourse with You: "Wild Sex (In the Working Class)", "Violent Love", "Elevator Man" and "Elementary Physics".
- I See Dead People: "Mama"
- Karma Houdini: Johnny in "Only a Lad" gets away with arson, theft, assault, and vehicular manslaughter because the judge believes it's society's fault he's such a psychopath. However, the narrator predicts - or at least hopes - that Johnny will go to Hell when he dies.
- Kubrick Stare: Elfman gives several throughout the "Dead Man's Party" video.
- Little People Are Surreal: The music videos for "Little Girls", "Nothing Bad Ever Happens To Me" and "Stay".
- Loners Are Freaks: Played with in "On The Outside": the narrator thinks himself a weirdo for not fitting into certain social norms and is laughed at for trying, but the last verse indicates that he'd rather be a weirdo than a slave to trends.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Lots (which describes how justifiably paranoid a lot of people have become from the dangers of the world); “Controller” (where the singer panics about someone coming for him) and "Little Girls" (where the singer outright brags about being a pedophile) spring to mind, and especially “Tender Lumplings”.
- Mad Scientist: The narrator of “Weird Science”.
- Magic Knight: Invoked by their original name, The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo.
- Manipulative Bastard: The song "Gratitude" is sung from the point of view of one who appears to be mocking the people they manipulated.
- 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! note
- New Sound Album: The band is notable for each album, though they're all very much Boingo-y, having their own sound, and there's a clear stylistic shift as they go on. The first three albums are heavier on the punk and ska elements, with Good For Your Soul being a bit quirkier and weird than the pitch-black comedy of Only A Lad and Nothing To Fear. So-Lo toned the punk and ska down, slowed the music down a bit, and increased the use of synths, a trend that would continue on Dead Man's Party and coalesce into the Lighter and Softer pop rock style heard on BOI-NGO. Dark At The End Of The Tunnel, while still low-key, had more of an alternative sound to it and became much more serious and introspective lyrically. Boingo took that and ran with it, dropping much of the band's signature use of horns and focusing more on rock and symphonic elements, with songs like "Pedestrian Wolves" being even Darker and Edgier than Dark At The End Of The Tunnel when it came to lyrics.
- Nightmare Fetishist: The narrator of "Pedestrian Wolves":I'm so excited about the prospectsOf meeting with a stranger in an alleyI'm so excited, I hope they're roughI hope their skin is tough like Spanish leather
- Obligatory Bondage Song: "Nasty Habits"
- Officially Shortened Title: They were originally The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, then Oingo Boingo, and finally just Boingo. (They went back to Oingo Boingo for their farewell concert.)
- One-Woman Song: "Louise" and "Mary".
- Performance Video: "Dead Man's Party" is the most straightforward example. "Private Life", "Stay" and "Weird Science" combine this with Concept Video, while "Just Another Day" shows the band onstage but has some odd touches.
- Perverted Pig: "Piggies" is about a man named Piggy, who is shown to be rather perverted. At the beginning of the song, Piggy meets a woman known as Baby at a disco bar, and immediately becomes drawn to her because of her "rocket tits".
- Precision F-Strike: In "Capitalism", "Helpless", and "Hey!".
- Raised by Wolves: “Pedestrian Wolves”
- Revolving Door Band: Oingo Boingo, by themselves, changed lineup five times, 3 of which were keyboardists coming and going, 1 of which was switching a bassist, and the last of which was adding three more musicians for their final album. The Mystic Knights, on the other hand? They went through 19 band members and performers, some of whom don't have reliable information on precisely when they were in the band.
- Rhyming Names: The band itself, Oingo Boingo.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Insanity" and so many others. "Whole Day Off", "Insects", "I'm Afraid", "Just Another Day", "Mama", "Something Isn't Right", "Did It There" and "Helpless" readily come to mind.
- "Wake Up (It's 1984)", for obvious reasons.
- “No Spill Blood” is one long shout-out to The Island of Doctor Moreau.
- Single Stanza Song: "Tender Lumplings"
- The '60s: 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.
- Slasher Smile: Danny in most of their music videos.
- If it's not this, it's the Kubrick Stare.
- Society Is to Blame: Mocked in "Only a Lad":It’s not his fault that he can’t behaveSociety’s made him go astrayPerhaps if we’re nice he’ll go away!
- Stalker with a Crush: "Something Isn't Right". "Insanity" might also count, but it's unclear what the relationship is between the narrator and the owner of the "pretty head".
- 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 muchJealousy slowly consuming your gut
- Take That!
- The song "Capitalism" is a Take That inspired by the left-leaning Punk Rock bands at the time.note 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, ya dumbfuck?
- 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 look-alikes of other pop stars of the time (Cyndi Lauper, Madonna et al.) in chains doing slave labor.
- The song "Capitalism" is a Take That inspired by the left-leaning Punk Rock bands at the time.note It includes the immortal tirade:
- Talking Down the Suicidal: "Out of Control"
- Teen Pregnancy: In "Sweat":The cool girls got knocked up
- Testosterone Poisoning: Deconstructed in "Tough As Nails". The protagonist, "Mr. Macho", constantly daydreams about being a ladykilling action hero as an escape from his depressing life.
- Video Full of Film Clips: The videos for "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science".
- Villain Protagonist: The narrator of "Little Girls" is clearly not a good guy, as the song consists of him bragging about being a pedophile and the bridge lyric has him angrily state that he has no regard for those who'd be disgusted by his proclivities.
- White Guilt: "Capitalism" is, in part, about this.
- Word-Salad Horror/Word Salad Lyrics: "Just Another Day", "Whole Day Off", "Reptiles and Samurai", and "Dead or Alive", among others.