Tunes


It's not a Tuesday night thing
Don't go buying bingo tickets; that's different.
by Anabella Wewer

Well, it's been 17 years, and the band is calling it quits. Not much more to tell; that's the whole story. Danny Elfman realized a few weeks ago that the the band has been around 16 years longer than he thought it would, and it's time to quit. So they are -- and they're not just disappearing into the woodwork; they're saying goodbye at the last of their fabled Halloween concerts.

So what band, you say? I have a feeling that when I tell you, some of you will have been mourning for weeks, and some others won't have a clue who that is. It seems to be that way with Boingo -- they have fans that will travel across the country to see one of their very rare concerts, and beg and plead for any bootlegs and blurry pictures that anyone may have, while everyone else looks at those of us in the know with that questioning look -- "What is a boingo?"

I actually understand how either one of those could happen. I've been there. It was about a year and a half ago when I started dating my current boyfriend. We were in those initial stages -- you know, the first time having dinner at my house, him checking out my book and record collection, figuring me out -- so I apologetically went for the Open button on the CD player to change The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack I had been, up until he rang the bell, loudly and uninhibitedly singing along to. I had been doing that for six months (not continuously). "No, that's OK, I like that album," he said, with this sparkle in his eyes. "So you like Boingo too, huh?"

"Boingo?" I said.

"You know, Danny!"

"Danny?" This was just bad... but he just pointed at the back of the CD and the next time around brought me four CDs that I have never stopped listening to. And I am trying to figure out how to manage the trip to California for their final tour.

Describing Boingo's music is not an easy thing to do. Its description might actually scare some people away. The lyrics, largely composed by Danny Elfman, are often macabre, somewhat dark, sometimes pessimistic, most times soulful and passionate, always grabbing you from the inside -- if you let them. But though the lyrics are a large chunk of it, it is the music that sets them apart and probably has prevented them from ever being a top 40 band. It is a strange experience to realize that if the lyrics in a rock song weren't there, the song would still be good.

Steve Bartek, John Avila and John "Vatos" Hernandez have been at the core of Boingo (formerly The Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, then Oingo Boingo, now Boingo, and soon gone) for most of the 17 years, with a myriad of musicians rounding out the band, including the legendary horn section (ask any Boingo fan, even the latecomers like me, and you'll understand), who are coming back for the farewell tour. Something they do together makes up that very definitive "Boingo sound"; once you know it, even if you've never heard a particular song before, you recognize it as a Boingo song in less than ten notes. Still, Danny stands out. It's not quite like it's Danny and his backup band -- Boingo is very much an entity all its own -- but Danny Elfman probably will be a familiar name to most people as time goes on, something Boingo never was or will be.

I once had to admit that Danny is better than Bono, Peter Gabriel or Sting -- not an easy thing for me to do. Maybe not a better singer (Peter's up there on that one) or performer (both Bono and Peter have the upper hand), but just better as a musician. I had to sit and think about that one for a while... Peter is a music writer, Bono is too, and Sting, but Danny is a composer. I thought it was terribly amusing when Danny was invited to conduct a symphony orchestra some time last year. You'd have to be a good composer to even attempt that. Sorry Peter. I love you, but you couldn't pull that one off.

Anyway, some people have heard Danny's name in connection with a number of movie soundtracks and television theme songs -- and they will, more and more, with the new turn of events, but most people still will look at you funny when you ask if they know Boingo. There isn't much time left. They sound like they really mean it; it'll just be records in the racks soon (and hopefully a video? Please, Danny, please?). So get out there, demand that your favorite record store order some, if not all, of the titles for you, and give them a shot. You'll be hooked. And if you're really lucky, they'll add some dates to the farewell tour. (Tickets went on sale already for most of them, and they do have a lot of faithful fans...) Keep an eye on the other guys too; they're all part of different bands, and they're all bound to be very good. For the rest of us, there will always be Boingo, and well, I guess it was time to change, to grow -- it won't be the same without them, but the guys will still be around. It'll just be different.


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