Oingo Boingo

Oingo Boingo
Oingo Boingo
Also known as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo
Clowns Of Death[1]
Mosley & The B-Men[2]
Origin Los Angeles, California,
United States
Genres New Wave, ska, art punk, experimental
Years active 1972–1995
Labels I.R.S., A&M, MCA, Giant
Associated acts Doug & The Mystics, Food for Feet, Psychotic Aztecs, Zuma II,[4] Tito & Tarantula, Jennifer Nash
Website oingoboingo.com
Past members
List of Oingo Boingo members

Oingo Boingo was an American new wave band. They are best known for their influence on other musicians, their soundtrack contributions and their high energy Halloween concerts. The band was founded in 1972 as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a performance art group. From 1976 it was led by songwriter/vocalist Danny Elfman, who has since achieved success as a composer for film and television.

The group's format changed twice. In 1979, it reshaped from a semi-theatrical music and comedy troupe into a ska-influenced New Wave octet and shortened their name to Oingo Boingo.[5] In 1994, the band reshuffled its lineup, and adopted an alternative rock sound. The band retired (a surprising move to many) after a sold out farewell concert on Halloween 1995.



Early years

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed in late 1972 by Richard Elfman, was a musical theater troupe in the tradition of Spike Jones and Frank Zappa, performing an eclectic repertoire ranging from Cab Calloway covers to instrumentals in the style of Balinese gamelan and Russian ballet music. The name was inspired by a fictional secret society on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series called The Mystic Knights of the Sea. Most of the members performed in whiteface and clown makeup, and a typical show contained music ranging from the 1890s to the 1950s, in addition to original material. This version of the band employed as many as 15 musicians at any given time, playing over 30 instruments, including some instruments built by band members. Few recordings from this period exist, although they released a novelty record about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, "You've Got Your Baby Back".

As Richard Elfman's interest shifted to filmmaking, he passed leadership of the band to younger brother Danny Elfman, who had recently returned from spending time in Africa playing violin and studying percussion instruments. They gained a following in Los Angeles, and appeared as contestants on The Gong Show in 1976, winning the episode they appeared on with 24 points out of a possible 30 (and without getting gonged).[6] The Gong Show presentation included an accordion, a purple dragon, and a gaseous rocket-man. The band appeared as extras in hallucinatory sequences in the 1977 movie I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.

When the group began to move away from its cabaret style towards a more pop/rock format, Richard Elfman made a film based on the band's stage performance, Forbidden Zone, which was released in 1980 and filmed in black and white with a cast mostly made up of band members and friends. In one scene, Danny, as Satan, sings a version of Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher" with modified lyrics integrated into the plot of the film.[7] In another, Richard sings the 1920s novelty song "The Yiddishe Charleston". The movie attained cult status[8] and provided a springboard for the film and music careers of Richard and Danny.

I.R.S. years (1980–1984)

Various reasons were given for the band's transformation from musical theater troupe to rock band. They included cutting costs, increasing mobility, exploring new musical directions such as Danny's interest in ska and a desire to perform music that didn't need theatrics.[9] There was some confusion about what name the band would use. In the 1978 animated short "Face Like a Frog", by Sally Cruikshank, the band's song "Don't Go in the Basement" is credited to The Mystic Knights. The name was shortened in 1979 to Oingo Boingo for the Rhino Records Los Angeles rock and New Wave compilation, L.A. In, which included their song "I'm Afraid".

By this time, Richard was no longer a group member, and the band had coalesced into an octet: Danny Elfman on lead vocals; Steve Bartek on guitars; Richard Gibbs on keyboards; Kerry Hatch on bass; Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez on drums; and Leon Schneiderman, Sam "Sluggo" Phipps and Dale Turner on horns. Early success for the group came in 1980 with the song "Only a Lad" from their eponymous EP. The song aired frequently in Los Angeles on KROQ-FM and complemented the station's then-unusual New Wave format. Although their sound was classified as New Wave and was compared to Devo, Oingo Boingo defied easy categorization. Their use of exotic percussion, a three-piece horn section, unconventional scales and harmony and surrealistic imagery was an unusual combination.

Following regional success of "Only a Lad", the group released its first full length album, also titled Only a Lad (and featuring a new recording of the song), in 1981. Oingo Boingo also appeared in the 1981 film Longshot, performing their unreleased song "I've Got to Be Entertained". The band, recording for A&M Records, released albums in 1982 (Nothing to Fear) and 1983 (Good for Your Soul) that drew comparisons to Devo and later, Wall of Voodoo. At this point, new manager Mike Gormley, who had just left the position of VP of Publicity and Asst. to the Chairman of A&M, negotiated a release from the label and signed the band to MCA Records. The first release was officially a Danny Elfman solo record in 1984 (titled So-Lo); it was actually a group effort released under Elfman's name. Subsequently, the band would record under their own name for MCA. The band would also use "Wild Sex (In the Working Class)" for the classic teen comedy Sixteen Candles during a dance scene by Farmer Ted, a.k.a "The Geek" (portrayed by Anthony Michael Hall).

MCA years (1985–1990)

With the move to MCA, the band made two personnel switches: Mike Bacich took over on keyboards from departing member Richard Gibbs, and John Avila replaced Kerry Hatch on bass. Oingo Boingo appeared in a number of soundtracks in the early to mid 1980s, including Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which features "Goodbye, Goodbye". Their best-known song, "Weird Science", was written for the John Hughes film of the same name, and was later included on their 1985 album Dead Man's Party.

Later, the band made an appearance playing their hit "Dead Man's Party" on stage in the film Back to School. Four more songs from the album Dead Man's Party were used in soundtracks: "No One Lives Forever" was featured in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, "Stay" (in the Boingo Alive version) was used as the theme music for the Brazilian soap opera Top Model, "Same Man I Was Before" was used in My Best Friend Is a Vampire, and "Just Another Day" opened the 1985 film adaptation of S. E. Hinton's That Was Then, This Is Now. Beginning with 1985's Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Danny Elfman had been scoring major films with increasing frequency, including almost all of Tim Burton's films.

Oingo Boingo's 1987 album BOI-NGO didn't make a huge impression on the charts. After this album, Bacich was replaced by new keyboardist Carl Graves. The band's 1988 release Boingo Alive was actually recorded live on a soundstage, with no studio audience, and contained a selection of songs from earlier albums, plus two new compositions. The Boingo Alive track "Winning Side" became a #14 hit on US Modern Rock radio stations.

Final years (1991–1995)

After being dropped from MCA, the band explored a new musical direction and reshuffled their lineup somewhat. Graves was dropped (after recording "Lost Like This"), and added were Warren Fitzgerald on guitar, Marc Mann on keyboards and Doug Lacy on accordion. In 1994, the band released an album, titled Boingo, on Giant Records. Though the band was officially a ten-piece ensemble, only five members (Elfman, Bartek, Avila, Hernandez and Fitzgerald) were pictured in the album's liner notes. The Boingo album also continued in the less party-friendly vibe of Dark at the End of the Tunnel, although it contained the modern rock hit "Hey!" The more guitar-oriented album used the keyboards and horns of the five remaining members sparingly.

Live performances from the period excluded the horn section entirely. The quintet was often backed by an orchestra, conducted by Bartek, which featured prominent cello by Fred Seykora. Some have speculated that the change of instrumentation is reflected by the band changing its name to "Boingo". However, Danny Elfman insists that the name change was virtually meaningless, and "kind of an afterthought."[10][11] Restoring the horn section, the band embarked on a brief farewell tour in 1995, culminating in a final annual Halloween performance at the Universal Amphitheatre. The final concert is available on both audio and video recordings.


Following the band's dissolution, frontman Danny Elfman found a career writing film scores, where he has been nominated for four Academy Awards. His first major motion picture score was Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and he continues to be much sought-after in the movie business, particularly in collaboration with director Tim Burton. Elfman almost exclusively employs Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek as orchestrator. His film scores have included Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Spider-Man, Big Fish, The Nightmare Before Christmas and dozens more. Elfman also wrote the themes for more than a dozen TV series, including The Simpsons, Batman: The Animated Series, Tales from the Crypt and Desperate Housewives.

John Avila and Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez were two members of the trio Food For Feet. They also formed the rhythm section of Tito & Tarantula, a Los Angeles band fronted by Tito Larriva of The Plugz and the Cruzados. Avila and Hernandez also joined Larriva and guitarist Stevie Hufstetter in a one-off project band called Psychotic Aztecs. The Aztecs released one album on the Grita label called Santa Sangre. After the breakup, bassist John Avila, guitarist Steve Bartek, drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, and saxophonist Sam Phipps (along with Doug Lacy and other musicians) formed a band called Doug & The Mystics. They recorded one album, New Hat, which included a cover of the Oingo Boingo song "Try to Believe", original songs, and covers of songs by Frank Zappa and other artists.

During the 2005 Halloween season, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez put together an Oingo Boingo tribute show, joined by former Oingo Boingo members Steve Bartek, John Avila, and Sam "Sluggo" Phipps, at The Grove of Anaheim. Standing in for Elfman was Rob Elfaizy.[citation needed] In 2003, Richard Gibbs scored the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. In 2005, John Avila, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez and Steve Bartek began contributing to the subsequent Battlestar Galactica television series. During the 2006 Halloween season, there were two Johnny Vatos Tribute to Halloween shows, one in Los Angeles and one in Orange County, with Vatos, Bartek, Avila, Phipps, and Legacy and Rob Elfaizy.

In early 2007, Danny Elfman said there would not be a reunion. He has irreversible hearing loss and is worried that playing live would exacerbate it. He stated that some other members of the band may also suffer from the condition.

As a small tribute to the band, Southern California based Blizzard Entertainment included character references to some band members in the starting area for undead characters "The Forsaken" in the immensely popular World of Warcraft PC game. New adventurers can find skeletons with names such as Daniel Ulfman, fitting to one of the band's running themes.




As The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo

  • Mr. Sycamore (1975) (uncredited cameo)
  • Forbidden Zone
  • I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)
  • Hot Tomorrows (1977)

As Oingo Boingo


  1. ^ "List of Oingo Boingo live performances". Sound.jp. http://www.sound.jp/mkotob/live.html. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  2. ^ "Mosley & The B-Men Discogs artist page". Discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/artist/Mosley+%26+The+B-Men. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  3. ^ "Boingo Discogs album page". Discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/Boingo-Boingo/release/1582799. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  4. ^ "Richard Gibbs Allmusic page". Allmusic.com. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p79807/credits. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  5. ^ "Danny Elfman podcast interview from Synthesis (magazine)". Synthesisradio.net. http://synthesisradio.net/2006/10/06/danny-elfman-september-2006/. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  6. ^ "Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show". YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTRd1a5MVMw. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  7. ^ Puchalski, Steven. Slimetime: a guide to sleazy, mindless movies. Headpress 2002, p. 113, ISBN 9781900486217
  8. ^ Beck, Jerry. The animated movie guide, Chicago Review Press, p. 273, ISBN 9781556525919
  9. ^ "An interview where Danny Elfman mentions the New Wave and Ska influences in Oingo Boingo". Mixonline.com. 2001-05-01. http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_danny_elfman/. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  10. ^ "Los Angeles Times interview with Danny Elfman". Articles.latimes.com. 1985-10-22. http://articles.latimes.com/1994-05-15/entertainment/ca-57894_1_rock-band/4. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 
  11. ^ "San Francisco Chronicle Q and A with Danny Elfman". Boingo.org. 1994-06-12. http://www.boingo.org/articles/SFChronicle1994.html. Retrieved 2011-11-02. 

External links

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