Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oingo Boingo: A Los Angeles Halloween Music Tradition

Transplants, the Los Angeles experts that they are, love saying that this City has no traditions. Wrongo. Los Angeles does have them, you just don't know what they are. But some traditions, long enjoyed by the locals, are no longer around. perhaps the most well-known tradition was the annual Oingo Boingo Halloween concert. Now if you're really new to Los Angeles, or are under 25 years old, or both, you might be saying, "Oingo What?"

The Militant will explain.

Years before Danny Elfman became exclusively known as a film score composer, he was the lead singer of a rock band called Oingo Boingo. Started in the early '70s with his brother Richard and some UCLA friends, they were originally called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, an eclectic theatrical-music act spanning various genres and eras. In the late '70s, the band gravitated towards a more modern rock, ska and new wave sound and shortened the name to its now-well-known suffix.

The band was signed to A&M records and were local staples on the new wave-formatted KROQ 106.7 FM, and got national exposure via MTV. Songs like "Only A Lad," "Who Do You Want To Be" and "Little Girls" were some of their biggest hits. But they hit the big time through their theme song from the 1985 movie Weird Science and had other hits like "Just Another Day" and "Dead Man's Party."

Even in the midst of their mainstream success and world tours, they would always find the time to come back home to Los Angeles come late October and play their annual Halloween concert, which took place at various venues such as The Palace (now The Avalon Hollywood), Irvine Meadows (now Verizon) Ampitheatre and the Universal (now Gibson) Ampitheatre (See, our venues are still around, they just change their names...), where they played their final Halloween concert - and final concert ever - in 1995.

The heir apparent to Oingo Boingo is the performance art-rock band The Mutaytor, which includes former Oingo Boingo bass player John Avila, who does annual Halloween concerts with a "Danny Elfman-approved" tribute band and sometimes other Oingo Boingo alums such as drummer Johnny Vatos Hernandez and guitarist Steve Bartek. Elfman unfortunately does not participate due to suffering from irreversible hearing loss and avoids loud amplified concert settings.

But Oingo Boingo's music legacy lives on as one of Los Angeles' most influential and original bands, and, along with Elvira, Mistress Of The Dark, (No) Silly String on Hollywood Boulevard, West Hollywood's Halloween Costume Carnival and Knotts Scary Farm, it will always be one of this area's own Halloween traditions. Happy Halloween!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting. They were definitely a great part of an L.A. Halloween in the 80s.

West Coast Grrlie Blather said...

This transplant appreciates this post.

alienation said...

Thank you for writing that! Oingo Boingo will always be a part of LA music and cultural history.

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