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Kids’ Show Rock Part One: The Banana Splits, Costumed Creatures with Tasty Tunes

October 27, 2013

To put it roughly, the Banana Splits were a ‘band’ composed of four guys in funny-animal costumes, with their own live-action kids’ show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, which ran on NBC from September 1968 to September 1970. The show was produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions (the same company that brought you The Flintstones and Yogi Bear.) The group was composed of Fleagle, the ostensible leader, who looked (as his name might suggest) like a floppy beagle, Drooper (a draggletailed lion wielding a shiny Vox guitar), Bingo (a big orange ape who played the drums) and Snork, or Snorky, a pink-and-grey furball with a big snout who was supposed to be an elephant (and a piano player. And also, as shown in the link above, Snorky was the one member of the Banana Splits who most frequently went up against the group’s arch-rivals, the dreaded Sour Grapes Bunch. Viewers never saw the Sour Grapes Bunch in the flesh, so nobody knows what they really looked like – if they were funny animals like the Banana Splits, or if they were monsters, or what. Viewers only ever got to see their heralds – a gaggle of mysterious and slightly creepy little dancing girls, who all went by the name of ‘Charlie.’ I only go into such detail about this because the sheer weirdness of it never ceases to blow my mind). On the show, the Banana Splits would race around in their ‘banana-buggies’ (sort of extra-gaudy modified go-carts) horse around in their clubhouse, and of course, play music. The show was what producers called a ‘package show’: to fill out the running time, the music and adventures of the Banana Splits themselves would be inter-cut with segments from various cartoon serials (Atom Ant, Micro-Ventures, etc.,) that had no music nothing to do with the Splits.

Now, I know this all sounds terribly silly and mind-numbing. But here’s the thing – the songs attributed to the Banana Splits were actually really good. The show’s theme song is remembered with great fondness by many people, and in 1978, it was covered by British punk group The Dickies.  Shortly after the show’s premier, a full-length Banana Splits album was released, by Decca Records, with the songs performed by a floating cast of studio musicians. The songs were genuinely charming examples of unassuming ‘60’s pop. My personal favorites off the album would have to be ‘Wait ‘til Tomorrow’, with its delectable harpsichord intro and ghostly backing vocals, ‘This Spot’, a cheerfully callous ode to a groovy club where ‘…girls outnumber the guys two to one…’ (a homage to Jan and Dean’s  ‘Surf City‘, where there’s ‘…two girls for every boy…’, perhaps?) and the bubblegum Beatles homage, ‘Long Live Love.’ (Note: if you don’t believe me about ‘Long Live Love’ being a Beatles homage, just listen to it and the Beatles’ ‘All You Need is Love’, back-to-back).

Have fun listening, and remember: “One-banana-two-banana-three-banana-four, four bananas make a bunch and so do many more…Tra-la-la, la-la-la-la!…’

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