The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (or The Banana Splits and Friends Show, as many people know it) was a children’s program that ran from about 1968-1970. The show was about a band of animals, supposed to be reminiscent of bands like the Beatles or the Monkees, who played disturbingly good children’s music. Of course, they would get into some kind of hijinks that allowed for comedic results in funny animal costumes, but it was really the music that made the Splits relevant and kept them there.
Michael Stipe once said that the Banana Splits music was more influential for him than anything the Beatles ever wrote. Joey Ramone has been quoted saying that the only band in the early 70s that he really loved was the Banana Splits. The Dickies, one of the first L.A. punk bands, covered their theme song, as did Liz Phair, the queen of grunge, and then Hit Girl from “Kick Ass” kicked ass to those covers in the movie. The great rock critic, Lester Bangs, claimed that the Banana Splits theme song would be in his head until the day he died. The Beastie Boys even dressed up as them in their “Alive” video. Maybe that all had something to do with the fact that Barry White was one of their songwriters!
If you listen to Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley, you can even hear the Banana Splits at 2:12!
I rest my case!
The Shaggs are one of the more bizarre blips in music history. The band consisted of three sisters, Dorothy “Dot” Wiggin, Betty Wiggin, and Helen Wiggin, who were forced into the industry by their nutcase father, Austin Wiggin. You see he had his palm read by his mother and she made three predictions, the last of which was that his children would form a pop band. Since the first two predictions came true, their pop decided to take fate into his own hands by taking his three daughters out of school, buying them instruments and having them form the band in 1968. Genius!
Despite being forced into it, the girls claim to have enjoyed their musical slavery. The next few years consisted of a few hours of schoolwork from a mail-order company, morning music practice, afternoon music practice and gymnastics. In 1969 they released their only studio album, “Philosophy of The World,” which garnered no attention whatsoever. In fact, the record’s producer ran away with 900 of the 1000 pressed copies – apparently later claiming: “Shock therapy and all the Prozac in the world would never stop the haunting sounds of these banshees.”
After their father died in 1975 the girls escaped their six stringed shackles and moved on with their lives. But in 1980 their album was discovered at a Boston radio station and they became moderately famous and admired for their “innovation”. Here were three teens playing instruments we’ve heard countless times, but this time with none of the familiar signposts – none of the standard rhythms or chord progressions we’ve come to recognize and expect. In fact, the band is primarily notable today for their perceived ineptitude at playing conventional rock music having been described by Rolling Stone for “…sounding like lobotomized Trapp Family singers.” They are considered groundbreakers in the field of outsider music. Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa have cited “Philosophy of The World” as a major influence, with Zappa claiming the band are “better than The Beatles.” Hmmm … not so sure about that one, What do you think?!