Thursday, May 31, 2007


From Wikipedia's entry for 80s new wave band Oingo Boingo:

The Mystic Knights years (1972-1980)

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed in late 1972 by Richard Elfman, was a musical theatre troupe in the tradition of Spike Jones and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, 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; a typical show would contain music ranging from the 1890s to the 1950s, in addition to original material. This version of the band employed as many as fifteen musicians at any given time, playing over thirty instruments, including some instruments built by band members.

Few recordings from this period exist, although they did produce a novelty record about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, "You've Got Your Baby Back."

As Richard'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 music. 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.)

More here.

So I've only ever been a lukewarm Oingo Boingo fan at best, but I did get some heavy exposure to their music when I was in college. Some of my best pals were just ga-ga over the weird new wavers, and I learned to appreciate some good songs like "Nasty Habits," "Only A Lad," and "Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me," but it just wasn't enough to get me to shell out some dollars for any of their CDs. I even came to appreciate some of band leader Danny Elfman's soundtrack stuff, although I'm lately faulting it for sounding too much alike from film to film. I will say this about Elfman's compositions: the score for Pee Wee's Big Adventure is some of the best music I've ever heard anywhere ever. And that's a good segue into my main point. Elfman's Pee Wee stuff harkens back to Boingo's pre-new wave years, described in the excerpt above. It's wild and zany, heavily inspired by the Berlin cabaret scene in the years between the two World Wars. Great stuff. Very theatrical, which is very appropriate because Boingo in the 70s was all of that and more.

I only figured this out by inadvertently bumping into the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on YouTube from when they played the Gong Show back in 1976. Here, check it out; it's fucking great. And while you're at it, here's a clip of the same incarnation a few years later in the film Forbidden Zone, via VideoSift.

Why didn't my buddies ever let me know about this? It's totally up my aesthetic alley!

Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show