Forgotten series: The Banana Splits (1968)

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by Pico

Most everyone’s first exposure to jazz from about 1965 on has come from Vince Guaraldi’s kick butt soundtrack music to the Peanuts television specials. But rock? Well that depends on when you grew up and what was permeating the radio and tv (or at least children’s tv) at that time. My earliest memories date back to the late sixties and from about 1968 to 1970 you could tune in on Saturday morning TV and find the Joseph Barbera animation show “The Banana Splits”.

Well alright, it wasn’t really animation, it was four guys in shaggy animal suits playing a sort of kiddie version of The Monkees, only the drummer Bingo really was supposedly a monkey. And the keyboardist Snorky was an elephant, while Drooper the lion played guitar and Fleegle the dog did, too. I got a hold of a copy of their one and only record recently and listening to it for the first time in 35 years brought back a flood of memories.

The music was influenced by the Monkees and the Beatles like most everything in music at that time, and was actually a bit psychedelic, although nowhere near being Syd Barrett psychedelic. But some parts might remind you of Jefferson Airplane, and to a five year old who’s barely old enough for Disney that was like opening up a whole new world; sorta like a Preschooler’s Introduction To The Counterculture.

Surprisingly I still remember a good deal of the tracks on it just from the show, but the opening song “The Tra La La Song” is the one that’s most memorable since it was the theme song played at the beginning of each show. The lyrics went like this:

One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more.
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show

Making up a mess of fun
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone

Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la

Two Banana, four banana, one banana, three
Swinging like a bunch of monkeys hanging from a tree
Hey there everybody won’t you come along and see
How much like Banana Splits everyone can be

Making up a mess of fun,
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone

Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la

Four banana, three banana, two bananas, one
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun
Flipping like a pancake, popping like a cork,
Fleagle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork

Making up a mess of fun
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone

Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la
Tra la la, la la la la, Tra la la, la la la la

Pretty groovy, huh?

I have no idea who were the studio musicians behind the music, and who knows, that could have made the subject matter even more intriguing. However, Barry White is said to have contributed a song and the director of the show Richard Bonner went on to helm more memorable projects, like the Lethal Weapon and Superman movies.

So sample the tracks below and whether you are taking a trippy trip down nostalgia lane or just checking out what Big Bro or Big Sis was diggin’ before you were born, know this: it may not be music you’ll be loading into your iPod anytime soon but it’s a helluva lot cooler than the Wiggles.

The Obscuro series examines an unnoticed, rare record that has merit as a curiosity item…and occasionally for good music.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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