Danny Elfman is among the most successful of modern composers, having produced multiple scores which have become ingrained into popular culture. He’s been responsible for the themes to The Simpsons, Tales from the Crypt, multiple Batman incarnations and just about everything Tim Burton has produced, including singing all of the lead character’s songs in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
His earlier career is also fairly well known: he was the lead singer and primary songwriter for the band Oingo Boingo. The band fit well with the Tim Burton sensibilities, effectively staking out the position of “Playfully dark party band” throughout the 1980s. They produced the theme song to the comedic Frankenstein nod “Weird Science” and had hits on the college charts about everything from The Island of Doctor Moreau (“No Spill Blood“) to the foolishness of blaming crimes on society instead of the criminal (“Only a Lad“).
When the band played their farewell concert, it was on Halloween, an appropriate date for a group which regularly featured Dio de los Muertos imagery on their albums and tread their lyrical ground.
Elfman was not the only star to have been a member of Oingo Boingo. The lead guitarist, Steve Bartek, had gotten his first hit years before the band’s official formation with the song “Incense and Peppermints” as part of Strawberry Alarm Clock, co-writing the song while he was in high school.
Another star was the founder of the band from which Oingo Boingo grew. That was Richard Elfman, Danny’s older brother and the director of the bizarre cult hit Forbidden Zone. He’d created a performance art band and named them The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo… and that’s where the first recorded appearance of what would become Oingo Boingo happened.
Not with Forbidden Zone, although they did appear in that. It was on the Gong Show, in 1976, showing their penchant for odd and humorous visual imagery but lacking the darkness which would come later.
There were a scant handful of other successful performers who appeared on the show, but few as prominent as the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning Elfman… who made his first television appearance as a shirtless, singing, saxophone-playing clown.
Question of the night: Clowns: scary, disturbing, funny or boring?