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Oingo Boingo

Although Oingo Boingo was often compared to Devo throughout their career (due to both bands' affinity for quirky new wave, goofy stage acts, and most obviously, peculiar yet intriguing band names), Oingo Boingo never obtained the mainstream success that Devo did. But the band did manage to obtain a large and devoted fan base, especially in their hometown of Los Angeles, CA. Oingo Boingo started not as a traditional group per se, as they were originally put together in the '70s by movie director Richard Elfman, who needed music for a whacked-out, John Waters-esque flick he was working on, called Forbidden Zone. Enlisting his younger brother Danny Elfman (vocals, guitar), Steve Bartek (guitar), and Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez (drums), the group originally went by the name Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo before shortening it to Oingo Boingo. Tired of sitting around and waiting for the movie's completion, the group began playing out in the L.A. area, where they built a substantial following with the punk/new wave set (as their lineup would often multiply for performances). But Oingo Boingo had a step or two ahead of the local bands, both musically and visually, as Danny Elfman had spent several years in France working with a theater group and studying orchestra, which reflected in Oingo Boingo's hodgepodge of styles.

The soundtrack to Forbidden Zone was finally issued in 1980, which proved to be a wild, musical roller coaster ride and gave Oingo Boingo their first appearance on record. But by the time a four-track release, 10 Inch EP, was issued the same year (on IRS Records), the group had focused their sound and approach drastically. A recording contract with A&M Records followed shortly thereafter, resulting in some of the early '80s finest new wave releases, 1981's Only a Lad (whose title track received plenty of airplay on the influential L.A. rock radio station KROQ), 1982's Nothing to Fear, and 1983's Good for Your Soul, the latter of which spawned a popular early MTV video hit for "Nothing Bad Ever Happens." Like their live shows, Oingo Boingo's recordings featured a hefty amount of additional members lending a hand, but despite it all, Danny Elfman remained the group's leader and focal point (Elfman even found the time to issue a solo album, So Lo, in 1984). A switch to MCA immediately paid off for the group, as they scored the biggest hit of their career with 1985's Dead Man's Party (eventually earning gold certification in the U.S.), made a cameo appearance in the hit Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School, and scored a moderate hit with the theme song to John Hughes' teen comedy Weird Science. But despite their commercial success, Oingo Boingo was unable to sustain it, as such further releases as 1987's Boi-ngo, 1988's Boingo Alive, 1990's Dark at the End of the Tunnel, and 1994's Boingo failed to storm the charts, yet managed to retain the group's cult following.

But during the mid- to late '80s, Elfman struck up a friendship with director Tim Burton and began contributing music to Burton-directed movies on a regular basis, first with the major comedy hit Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and then later Beetlejuice, Big Top Pee Wee, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, and the remake of Planet of the Apes, among others. In return, Elfman became one of Hollywood's most in-demand film composers, providing music for countless films and TV programs (receiving Grammy, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Oscar nominations for his work). With Elfman primarily focusing on film composing by this point, Oingo Boingo was laid to rest in 1995 after a farewell performance at L.A.'s Universal Amphitheatre, which was issued a year later as a CD and video, appropriately titled Farewell. A pair of Oingo Boingo collections surfaced during the '90s, 1992's Best O' Boingo and 1999's double-disc Anthology, as were a pair of anthologies of Elfman's film scores: 1990's Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 1: Film & Television Music and 1996's Music for a Darkened Theater, Vol. 2: Film & Television Music. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Wowww....tot a l l y forgot about Oingo Boingo..high school so many memories
They played at my High School Grad Night! TPHS 84'
I grew up with these guys. My friends and I followed them around to all of their early appearances at small and medium-sized venues around L.A. If we weren't hanging out at a Boingo, Untouchables , Sparks, or Go-Go's show on a Saturday night, we wouldn't know what to do with ourselves!

As others have so correctly pointed out, Oingo Boingo and Devo are absolutely NOTHING alike! The author's band comparison is as off-kilter as his grammar.
My first concert in Las Vegas at the Aladdin circa 89-my sis got us front row- love them
Pure Awesomeness! ! I wish I could have seen them live back in the creative.
My all time fave band, but I fell out of love when they did Weird Science and it was played to death. Then they shortened their name, oy.
I'm sorry but I'd choose Oingo Boingo over Devo any day!
Good For Your Soul...Shoul d be part of the discography selections.
I will always love their music. It makes me want to dance.
Awesome song
Somebody's algorithm is not working. Depeche Mode and Oingo Boingo are about as similar as I am to Lil' Kim.
bobonnit, that's your minority opinion, ha ha. Boingo's lyrics are trenchant, clever, and cerebral. Their talent is tremendous.
A little of this group went a long way. Their novelty wore thin immediately.
one of my all time favorite bands, back then and now.
Wish I would have been old enough *and* in Utah to attend that concert, jrb3bfree! What an experience! Danny Elfman and the Oingo Boingo musicians are amazingly talented.
Best band ever... my 1st concert '89 Boingo Alive at the Salt Palace in SLC, UT - phenomenal creativity, intelligent lyrics, and upbeat tempos! Fun x3!!! Love most bands that choose to mix up their sound by varying the instruments they use!!! Name another Modern Rock band that can effectively start a concert with Xylophone and keep the crowd amazingly joyful?!?!!! ? ! ! ! ! ! ! ! We've not heard the last of Danny Elfman's musical genius -- hopefully not of Steve Bartek and Johnny Vatos Hernandez, too!
Best band ever - 1st concert Boingo Alive 1989 in SLC, UT - phenomenal live, streamed, or via CD - yes I'm that old!!! Long with the musical genius of Danny Elfman continue into many a theater into the future!!!!!! Who do you want to be today!? Who do you want to be????????
I've loved Boingo for decades - but it looks like everyone else has, too! Well, so that means I'm not THAT unique (I suppose). They WERE a great band!
Favorite band!
Saw them several times at the Hollywood Palladium! Loved them then, still love them now!
you think this band is good, you should check out my band called Girls have Buttholes
Aaaahhh....j u s t recalling many a Halloween eve at Shoreline Amphitheater . We always got them on the 30th here in NorCal. They were a true " band". Everyone played together. Elfman always let everyone shine. No typical lead singer showboating. Fun happy songs with a dark undercurrent .
Always time for a Dead Man's Party
Always enough time for a Dead Man's Pary
Saw them several times in 1980-81 at the Whisky-a-Go- G o . . . . . f u n memories!
I love the movie and Kelly le brock man she was so pretty
makeyourowng r a n o l a
By far the best concerts I have ever gone to...every Halloween at Pacific Amph. or at Irvine Meadows. They were my first concert in 1984 when I was 14 and I still remember it! Great music then and now! Wish I had kept my old concert t-shirts...
devo wishes they were like O.B.
Great Band. Unfortunatel y Steve Bartek's contribution s were often overlooked.
That's a good Danny Elfman bio. They should do one for Oingo Boingo too.
I saw Oingo Boingo 3 times in Salt Lake City. One show I was at, the power went out. Danny Elfman promised the audience that for all of those who stayed would get an amazing show. the power was out for about 35 minutes and they played for hours after the power came back on. What a night!!!
I don't think they even mentioned the Simpsons theme song!
I love everything Danny Elfman! I only discovered a couple of years ago that he was the lead singer in Oingo Boingo, but since then I've become a fan of their work. Their music has that unique style of Danny's that I really love.
i was SO obsessed with them a few years back that i had to stop and take a break. Then today...uh oh....ITS BACK AND BETTER THAN EVER!!!!
Also, why does the Bio compare them with Devo.....wha a a t t t t ? Maybe they just meant popularity wise? No comparison sound wise, talent wise or any other attribute IMHO.
Hands down, agree one of the best live bands ever. I have seen them three or four times, a handful of times at SDSU and once in Tijuana when they played MexFest with The Bangles, The Fixx, Hoodu Gurus, The Squeeze, and probably more. Danny Elfman is looking old like a lot of us these days but check IMDB, he's turned out to be a very successful movie score producer, good for him!
Seen them live three times, felt sad to watch them at their final farewell concert at the Universal Ampitheater. I miss this band but the tattoo on my right shoulder will never let me forget their awesome sound.
anyone out there remember seeing oingo at the rainbow music hall in Denver? 1986 I got to hang out with them and family members for the evening after the show! They were all wonderful and quality people.
One of the better bands I've seen perform live. Musically tight without sounding stiff. Entire show was a balance of fun, quirky music with incredible skill.
I really love odd bands that still sounded good. The 80s were great for that. Mr. Elfman is a astonishing composer and so prolific. Whenever I hear a creepy, quirky soundtrack I always look for his name in the credits. If you haven't heard much of Oingo look them up very worth it.
Greatest band ever! Never missed a Halloween concert. Johnny Vatos still plays around Southern California with other members of the band. I saw them recently at the Galaxy in Costa Mesa. All the old members were there except Danny. =( They were great. Played all the old songs.
If you haven't seen it already, you should check out Youtube for 'Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo' on Gong Show. It's a short but sweet performance.
decline-tost a t e , Danny had to quit performing due to hearing damage suffered as a performer. As much as I can't stand Tim Burton, I can't blame him for Oingo Boingo's demise.
So-Lo wasn't really a solo album. It had the entire Oingo Boingo cast. I've always thought it was an attempt to determine if the band would be more successful named after the lead singer or as Oingo Boingo. You could say So-Lo was an abbreviated form of So-long as this was the last album for bass player Kerry Hatch, before John Avila took over. ;)
danny elfman is a genius.
decline_tost a t e
I was part of the devoted local fan base and at the Farewell tour. Wish it would go on forever. Burton stole him away....sigh .
I loved the Forbidden Zone! Great movie.
Damn the start of violent love makes me feel funny everytime. =)
Hello Goodbye must die after their horrible cover of "Weird Science."
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