Only a Lad

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Only a Lad
Oingo Boingo-Only a Lad.jpg
Studio album by Oingo Boingo
Released June 19, 1981
Recorded December 1980 – February, 1981
Genre New wave, ska, art punk, college rock[1]
Length 38:12
Label A&M
Producer Pete Solley and Oingo Boingo
Oingo Boingo chronology
Oingo Boingo
(1980)Oingo Boingo1980
Only a Lad
Nothing to Fear
(1982)Nothing to Fear1982
Singles from Only a Lad
  1. "Only a Lad"
    Released: May 1981

Only a Lad is the full-length debut album by Oingo Boingo, released in 1981 following their self-titled EP.


The album's musical arrangements, by vocalist Danny Elfman and guitarist Steve Bartek, complete the group's switch from a cabaret act to a new wave band (see Oingo Boingo - The Mystic Knights Years). Only a Lad features complex and frequently changing time signatures and keys, often incorporating harmonies borrowed from jazz and 20th-century classical music; all hallmarks of Elfman's songwriting.

Elfman claimed that many of the songs were inspired by newspaper articles he would have read at the time and were "written as in-your-face facetious jabs".[2] The uptempo yet politically incorrect nature of the songs have provoked much debate since the album's release, as to the record's taboo themes about society, crime and political brainwashing, a provocation that Elfman recalls was intentional. The album's critical lyrics remain ambiguous as to whether they refer to the left or right of the political spectrum, with the exception of the track "Capitalism" which takes aim at "middle class socialist brat" protestors who claim to speak for "the struggling masses" whilst themselves appearing to live comfortable lifestyles.[3]

Elfman later reflected that in writing the album, he was "basically [making] fun of everybody, and didn’t see anybody as being protected" from the songwriting. Although he holds politically left views, he remained very critical of political correctness and organized left-wing politics, explaining in 2014 to A.V. Club: "To me, all organized political groups have a sense of absurdity to them. It’s open to be mocked or satirized. If anything, I consider myself part of nothing, and any organized group was fair game to mockery, from my vantage point."[4]

The surreal music video for the opening track "Little Girls" comments on dysfunctional society and features Elfman performing wildly in a wife-beater vest inside a surreal, empty suburban house, joined by a troupe of dwarfs, teenage girls and the band's members. The band members are later seen staring vacantly in shop windows and complacently drinking tea while Elfman walks down a street with an apparently underage girl. The video was at one time banned in Canada.[5]

A number of songs were demo recorded for the album but ultimately cut, as the band transitioned from their original mock-cabaret style as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo to a more post-punk arrangement, including the commercially unreleased "Make It Right", a faster tempo re-arrangement of "Aint This The Life" (previously recorded for their debut EP Oingo Boingo) and "Cinderella Undercover", a song the band frequently played in concert.[6][7][8]

On the cover of the album, the drawing of a cat by Louis Wain that previously appeared on the cover of the Oingo Boingo EP is visible on the shirt of the scout. The cover is a parody of the Boy Scouts of America 1960 official handbook cover illustrated by Norman Rockwell.[9]


The commercial and critical success of Only a Lad was limited; however, largely due to the backing of Los Angeles radio station KROQ, it established Oingo Boingo as a permanent fixture in the Southern California music scene.

The National Review Online named "Capitalism" as one of the "50 greatest conservative rock songs."[10]

"Capitalism" featured in the film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005). "Only a Lad" is a playable track on the PlayStation 2 video game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Danny Elfman, except "You Really Got Me" by Ray Davies.

No. Title Length
1. "Little Girls" 3:44
2. "Perfect System" 3:46
3. "On the Outside" 3:39
4. "Capitalism" 3:40
5. "You Really Got Me" (The Kinks cover) 4:40
6. "Only a Lad" 3:56
7. "What You See" 3:43
8. "Controller" 3:24
9. "Imposter" 2:59
10. "Nasty Habits" 4:06
Total length: 38:12


Oingo Boingo

Recorded December 1980 - February, 1981 at: Record Plant, United Western Studios, Cherokee Studios, and Westlake Audio.
Mastered at: Sterling Sound by legendary engineer George Marino (Metallica, Kiss, AC/DC, Guns N' Roses).