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Obscuro: The Banana Splits

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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 Hanna-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.bananasplits2

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 episode. 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 Tthe 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"

Pretty groovy, huh?

Unlike the last Obscuro piece, I have no idea who the studio musicians were behind the music this time, and who knows, that could have made the subject matter even more intriguing. However, Barry White is said to have contributed a song and director Richard Donner 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.

Listen:The Banana Splits "The Tra La La Song"

Listen:The Banana Splits "We're The Banana Splits"

Listen:The Banana Splits "The Beautiful Calliope"

The Obscuro series examines an unnoticed, rare record that has merit as a curiosity item… and occasionally for good music. Sample tracks are available only for a limited time.

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  • Vern Halen

    Was the band the omnipresent LA studio pros like Hal Blaine, etc.? I mean, who else would it have been?

  • Dawn

    I LOVED the Banana Splits. I had an older sister who would watch, and wanting to be cool like her I would raptly watch this bizarre and surreal cast of critters and I totally dug the music.

    Thanks for the memory. Now, if only they would bring back the Land of The Lost. Oooh, those creepy Sleestaks (or whatever those things were called.)

  • “Now, if only they would bring back the Land of The Lost.”

    …or HR Puffinstuff, for that matter. I actually sent in the required number of cereal box tops to get a free HRP hand puppet!

    It was a good time in which to be a grade schooler, eh?

  • Arthur F

    I recall watching them as a kid on tv, and yes they were a good combination of sensibilities around (organ-driven, bubblegum-psych, Monkees speeded-up Richard Lester influenced visual stylings, some stuff from Laugh-In) but what made them also funkier was these were themepark characters-gone-wild, in a program that was outfitted with the coolest, latest trends. They are shown sliding down those new stories-tall slides found in themeparks, or driving around those go-carts, and so on. It was a new kind of consumer view, kids-show atitude with “A”, which made it attractive. That most surely wasn’t Pufinstuff. Banana Splits was more west coast atitude. Also they had these cool girls who showed up on occasion and enforced the law.

  • Land of the Lost and HR Pufnstuf are available on DVD.

    I believe those girls were called the Sour Grape Girls