Before Danny Elfman became the go-to guy for scoring great films, his band Oingo Boingo was a mid-’80s go-to for soundtrack contributions. This ensured that, even as Elfman moved away from the band, Oingo Boingo would carry a massive pop-culture footprint.
“I think Oingo’s music is good for the audience for those films; the people will relate to it,” Elfman said of the phenomenon, according to the Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul. “They were youthful, energetic films and so was the music, so I guess it succeeded in that aspect.”
As a follow-up to last night’s piece on the the band’s history, here are our top 10 favorite appearances of the band in pop culture including TV, films and books.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but fun to compile nonetheless.
1. American Dad: Seth McFarlane—or one of the show’s writers—must be a fan of Oingo Boingo, as songs by and references to the group have appeared in McFarlane’s animated political send up, American Dad on a few occasions.
First, in the season one episode “Friends like Steve’s,” series protagonist Stan Smith jumps into an X-ray platform and begins dancing around. He proclaims, “no, no, I’m an obsessed Oingo Boingo fan, circa 1985!” Then he begins singing a silly hybrid version of “Dead Man’s Party” and “Weird Science.“
Then again in season two’s “Bullocks to Stan,” Stan’s boss (played by the inimitable Patrick Stewart) sings a few bars of the early Oingo Boingo song “Little Girls.“
And in the season eight episode “Stan’s Best Friend,” the song “Weird Science” shows up in a library scene.
2. Fast Times at Ridgemont High: In this 1980s coming of age comedy, the unmistakable sound or Danny Elfman’s voice sings a delightful parting tune to the audience over the end credits. The song “Goodbye, Goodbye” is a fast-paced tongue twister of a tune, but wasn’t written specifically for the film, as it appears as part of an early Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo set in this undated performance. Oingo Boingo would go on to end a number of their shows with the song, including their Boingo Alive Album. Oddly, the song is conspicuously absent from both the video and audio versions of 1995’s Farewell: Live from the Universal Amphitheater, though some reviews state the song did appear in the actual shows.
3. Back to School: This hilarious film stars Rodney Dangerfield as a multi-billionaire college student, attending school as a means of encouraging his son to complete a degree. The band have a cameo at a party thrown by Dangerfield’s character, where they perform a truncated version of “Dead Man’s Party.” The scene also features a young Robert Downey, Jr. doing a silly dance and serves as the official music video for the single version of the song. Elfman also scored the film.
4. Ready Player One: In this 2011 book by author Ernest Cline, the song “Dead Man’s Party” is used to frame the video will of James Halliday, the creator of the Virtual reality world in which most of the story takes place. The scene — dubbed “Anorak’s Invitation” — sets up the core premise of the book. Several characters from John Hughes films and other 80s faire make an appearance in the scene, alongside various pop culture references that serve the plot of the story. It is unknown if the song will appear in the upcoming feature film, but it is track one on Ernest Cline’s official Ready Player One Soundtrack.
5. A Budweiser commercial: Budweiser’s popular “This Bud’s for you” campaign featured several artists through its run, such as Leon Redbone in 1984. That same year, Oingo Boingo was “tapped” to do a version of their own. Just watch.
6. The Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack: “Gratitude”—a song that originally appeared on Danny Elfman’s So-Lo (actually a thinly veiled Oingo Boingo release, released under Elfman’s name for contractual reasons) album— appears on the film soundtrack, but not in the movie itself. Perhaps the tune merely didn’t fit in with Eddie Murphy’s action-comedy, or there it have been a contractual thing. We weren’t able to find out, but if you know, be sure to share! The version of the song is slightly different on the soundtrack, with a spoken bit just after the first chorus.
7. Ghostbusters II: One of the first CDs I ever owned was the Ghostbusters II Soundtrack. My father purchased it from Sam’s Club in 1990 and gave it to me as a birthday gift. Around that time, I was watching VHS version of the first Ghostbusters film—complete with commercials for Who’s Harry Crumb?, Dimetapp cold medicine, a teaser for that night’s 20/20 and other prescient events of late 1989—on an almost daily basis. I had all the toys from the cartoon as well, so this was the perfect gift for six-year-old me. The soundtrack contains the song “Flesh ‘n’ Blood,” which also appeared on their 1990 album Dark at the End of the Tunnel. At first glance, the song doesn’t seem to appear in the movie. But it does, albeit briefly, in this scene. I still listen to that CD—scratches and all. Oh, and it came in a long box—which I still have. Is the atomic weight of cobalt 58.9?
8. Sixteen Candles: The song “Wild Sex (in the Working Class)” appears in this film, during the school dance where nerdy Anthony Michael Hall attempts to woo and impress a disturbed Molly Ringwald. It’s hilarious and must be seen.
9. Summer School: This is the second film with the word “school” in the title and the third film in which an original Boingo song is used during a scene in the film. In this movie—the story of a gym teacher being forced to spend his summer teaching English—is quite funny and worth watching at least once. Boingo contributed the song “Happy” to the soundtrack. The tune only appears here, never making it to an official album or live recording of the band. The movie is great, though. Come for the Boingo (although the song is technically credited to Danny Elfman alone, it’s still Boingo), stay for the comedy. It even stars a young Mark Harmon, who later played Gibbs on the CBS show NCIS. Have a listen here.
10. Bachelor Party: This hilarious Tom Hanks film has not one, but two (possibly three) Boingo songs. The title track—written and performed by Oingo Boingo specifically for the film—recaps the plot in the band’s inimitable style. “Something Isn’t Right” is an earlier song that only saw a release with this soundtrack album.