|Also known as||The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo|
Clowns of Death
Mosley & The B-Men
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Genres||New wave, ska|
|Labels||I.R.S., A&M, MCA, Giant|
|Associated acts||Oingo Boingo Former Members, Doug & The Mystics, Food for Feet, Psychotic Aztecs, Tito & Tarantula|
|Past members||Leon Schneiderman|
Sam "Sluggo" Phipps
John "Vatos" Hernandez
Austin "Danger" Hodge
Oingo Boingo /
Oingo Boingo were known for their high energy live concerts and experimental music, which can be described as mixing rock, ska, pop and world music. This eclectic mix of styles would eventually influence bands as varied as Fishbone, Nirvana and Mr. Bungle. The band's body of work spanned 17 years, with various genre and line-up changes. Their widest-known hits include "Only A Lad", "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science".
During the mid-1980s, the band changed line-ups and adopted a more pop style, until a significant genre change to alternative rock in 1994. At that point, the name was shortened to simply Boingo and the keyboardist and horn section were dropped. The band retired after a farewell concert on Halloween 1995, for which they reverted to the name Oingo Boingo and readopted the horn section.
The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo (1972–1978)
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. While this Richard Elfman-led incarnation of the group performed live, it did not issue any recordings.
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. The Gong Show presentation included an accordion, a purple dragon and a gaseous rocket-man.
Later in 1976, The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo released "You Got Your Baby Back", a doo-wop style novelty single about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst. Both this track and the B-side "Ballad of the Caveman" were written and sung by Danny Elfman. The band featured in the 1976 Martin Brest film Hot Tomorrows performing the songs St. James Infirmary and 42nd Street. They 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 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. In another, Richard sings the 1920s novelty song "The Yiddishe Charleston". The movie attained cult status and provided a springboard for the film and music careers of Richard and Danny.
I.R.S. and A&M years (1979–1984)
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 focus on the music rather than theatrics. The shift was inspired by Danny reconnecting with pop music after becoming a fan of the 2 Tone ska revival bands, the Specials, Madness, the Selecter, and also XTC.
For some early gigs, the band used the shortened name The Mystic Knights (and in the animated short "Face Like a Frog" by Sally Cruikshank, the song "Don't Go in the Basement" is credited by that name). The name Oingo Boingo was settled in 1979, at which point their early song "I'm Afraid" appeared on the Rhino Records Los Angeles rock and new wave 'up and coming' compilation, L.A. In.
That same year, the band issued a limited print promo-only EP record, the Demo EP, intended for distribution to radio stations and recording industry A&R representatives, to help land a contract. The effort paid off as the record caught the attention of I.R.S. Records, who released a revised version of the EP in 1980; the Oingo Boingo EP.
The band had now coalesced as an octet: Danny Elfman on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Steve Bartek on lead guitar; 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 the eponymous EP. The song aired frequently in Los Angeles on KROQ-FM and complemented the station's then-unusual new wave format.
Following the regional success of the Oingo Boingo EP, the group released its first full-length album in 1981, also titled Only a Lad, on A&M Records. The band released further albums Nothing to Fear in 1982 and Good for Your Soul in 1983. Although the band's sound was termed as new wave, Oingo Boingo's use of exotic percussion, a three-piece horn section, unconventional scales and harmony, and surreal imagery was a genre-skewing combination.
In 1984, bassist Kerry Hatch and keyboardist Richard Gibbs departed and the band went on temporary hiatus, although this was not known publicly at the time. Elfman later claimed the two departing members had "lost the spirit", but stated, "I could never blame anybody for losing the spirit. It's very hard being an 8-piece ensemble doing what, at the time, was non-commercial music".
MCA years (1984–1992)
Elfman used the 1984 hiatus as an opportunity to release a solo album, co-produced with Steve Bartek, with the remaining members of Oingo Boingo returning as session musicians. This was released as So-Lo in late 1984. 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.
Shortly after releasing So-Lo, Oingo Boingo returned to performing with new bassist John Avila and keyboardist Mike Bachich. The first release with the new line-up was Dead Man's Party in 1985. The album marked a notable change towards a more pop songwriting and production style and became the band's most commercially successful record.
The band appeared on a number of movie soundtracks in the early to mid-1980s. Their highest-charting song highest on Billboard Hot 100, "Weird Science", was written for the John Hughes film of the same name. The band made an appearance playing their hit single "Dead Man's Party" in the movie Back to School. The soundtrack to the movie Bachelor Party included a theme song written by Elfman and a song unreleased on any Oingo Boingo album, "Something Isn't Right".
During this era, Danny Elfman also began scoring major films, beginning with 1985's Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Elfman would go on to write the scores to almost all of Tim Burton's films. Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek orchestrated most of Elfman's film and television scores.
The album BOI-NGO was released in 1987. Following its recording, Bacich was replaced by new keyboardist Carl Graves. The band's 1988 release, Boingo Alive, comprised re-recordings 'live' on a studio soundstage of previous album songs, plus a new song, "Winning Side". This new track was also released as a single and became a No. 14 hit on US Modern Rock radio stations.
In 1990 the band released their seventh studio album, Dark at the End of the Tunnel, featuring more mellow songs than any previous release, including the singles, "Out of Control" and "Flesh N Blood".
Final years (1993–1995)
Oingo Boingo continued to regularly perform live, most notably with annual Halloween concerts at Irvine Meadows and the Universal Amphitheatre. Following a short hiatus in 1992, during which time Elfman was busy scoring, the band returned in 1993 with an increasingly different, hard-rock musical direction and debuted new material, such as "Insanity", "Helpless" and the unreleased song "Did It There". During these years, the band was often backed by an orchestra in concert, conducted by Bartek, which featured prominent cello by Fred Seykora, along with the so-called "Sad Clown Orchestra" providing occasional accordion and circus percussion.
That same year, Oingo Boingo began recording an eighth studio album for new label Giant Records. The sessions stalled when Elfman became heavily involved writing the music for animated musical The Nightmare Before Christmas with Tim Burton. Elfman would later reflect on this period that, after over 15 years, he was losing his passion with the band.
In 1994, the band consolidated their new musical style and shortened its name to "Boingo". Guitarist Warren Fitzgerald joined while keyboardist Carl Graves and the horn trio were removed. This marked the only year that the band toured without the horn section.
The previously-shelved album was completed with the new 5-piece line-up, including orchestral instrumentation and several songs improvised in the studio for the first time in the band's history. This was released as Boingo in 1994, the band's final studio album.
In 1995, it was announced that Boingo would be disbanding after 17 years. The band embarked on a "Farewell" tour in 1995, restoring the original horn trio and reverting its name to Oingo Boingo, ending with a final Halloween performance at the Universal Amphitheatre. The concert was filmed and released as a live album and DVD.
Following the band's dissolution, Danny Elfman continued composing for film. He has been nominated for four Academy Awards. His first major motion picture score had been Pee-wee's Big Adventure in 1985, and he continues to be much sought-after in the movie business, particularly in collaboration with director Tim Burton. Elfman almost exclusively employs former Oingo Boingo guitarist Steve Bartek as orchestrator. Pee-wee's Big Adventure aside, his scores have included those for Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Spider-Man, Big Fish, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Elfman also wrote themes for more than a dozen TV series, including The Simpsons, Batman: The Animated Series, Tales from the Crypt and Desperate Housewives.
In early 2007, Danny Elfman said there would not be an Oingo Boingo reunion, due to fears that playing live would exacerbate his, and possibly other band members', hearing loss. Notwithstanding this announcement, on Halloween 2015, Danny Elfman along with three of the other original voices of the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas including Catherine O'Hara, Ken Page and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman), performed at the Hollywood Bowl singing all of the songs of the movie while it played in its entirety with a complete orchestra. The encore for the event culminated in Danny Elfman and the guitar player from Oingo Boingo, Steve Bartek, performing "Dead Man's Party" for the first time in twenty years.
Over 20 years since their Farewell concert, Oingo Boingo were honored with a resolution at the LA City Hall in April 2016. Popular LA radio & television personality Richard Blade gave a speech describing Oingo Boingo. Several members attended the meeting from across the band's changing line-ups, including Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, founding keyboardist Richard Gibbs, John Avila, Carl Graves and Sam "Sluggo" Phipps.
In 2003, former keyboardist Richard Gibbs scored the Battlestar Galactica miniseries with composer Bear McCreary. In 2005, John Avila, Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez and Steve Bartek began contributing to the subsequent McCreary-scored 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, California, with Vatos, Bartek, Avila, Phipps, and Legacy.
Since the 2005 Halloween season, former drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez has regularly put together the Oingo Boingo tribute band called Oingo Boingo Dance Party. The group, occasionally joined by former Oingo Boingo members such as Steve Bartek, Carl Graves, John Avila, and Sam "Sluggo" Phipps, plays at different venues throughout Southern California including The Grove of Anaheim. Usually standing in on vocals is singer Brendan McCreary.
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. Doug Lacy (Boingo live keyboardist and percussionist) recruited bassist John Avila, guitarist Steve Bartek, drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez, and saxophonist Sam Phipps (among other musicians) for 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. Doug had released one solo album previously.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Oingo Boingo among hundreds of artists who had tapes destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire, likely affecting the A&M and MCA recordings following their mergers under UMG.
- Only a Lad (1981)
- Nothing to Fear (1982)
- Good for Your Soul (1983)
- So-Lo (1984)
- Dead Man's Party (1985)
- Boi-ngo (1987)
- Dark at the End of the Tunnel (1990)
- Boingo (1994)
As The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo
- Mr. Sycamore (1975) (uncredited cameo)
- The Gong Show (1976) (available on YouTube)
- I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977)
- Hot Tomorrows (1977)
- Forbidden Zone (1980)
As Oingo Boingo
- Longshot (1981)
- Urgh! A Music War (1981)
- Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
- The Last American Virgin (1982)
- Sixteen Candles (1984)
- Good Morning, Mr. Orwell (1984)
- Bachelor Party (1984)
- Fool's Paradise (1985)
- Weird Science (1985)
- Wisdom (1986)
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
- Back to School (1986), where they appeared as a performing group
- Teen Wolf Too (1987)
- Summer School (1987)
- Midnight Run (1988), as Mosley & The B-Men
- Ghostbusters II (1989)
- The Best of Oingo Boingo: Skeletons in the Closet (1989; music video compilation)
- The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990)
- Shrunken Heads (1994)
- Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheatre, Halloween 1995
- Donnie Darko (2001)
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- Denman-Underhill, Lori (22 October 2015). "Overcoming Stage Fright, Danny Elfman Brings Nightmare to the Bowl". laweekly.com. Archived from the original on 22 October 2015.
- Danny Elfman (interviewee) Jooles Holland (interviewer) Derek Burbidge (director) (May 1982). Urgh! A Music War. Warner Bros.
Later on in the 70s when the punk thing started happening, I found it difficult to totally relate to the music, because it was real simple ... but the energy and speed I loved. I loved fast music. And that got me inspired once again to start writing.
- "Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show". Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-11-02 – via YouTube.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2012-03-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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- Poggi, Alison (July 1994). "The Elfman Cometh". SLAMM, San Diego's Lifestyle and Music Magazine via Flickr. Retrieved 2017-07-05.
- Danger, Chris (20 April 2016). "Richard Blade Speaking at "Oingo Boingo Day" Ceremony – Los Angeles City Council Chambers". Archived from the original on 10 May 2018 – via YouTube.
- "80s Band Oingo Boingo Performs Acoustic Set At LA City Council Meeting". CBS Los Angeles. 2016-04-20. Archived from the original on 2016-10-31. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
- "Bear McCreary – Official site". bearmccreary.com. Archived from the original on 2009-04-06.
- "Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez: Official Site". johnnyvatos.com. Archived from the original on 2013-05-08. Retrieved 2013-02-19.
- Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.