May 17 — TRA LA LA, The Banana Splits (1968)

IMG_1839The Island of Fictional Bands is an odd place indeed, whose co-habitants have appeared in movies (Spinal Tap, Eddie and the Cruisers), in cartoons (the Archies, Josie and the Pussycats), on Broadway (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and in books (Billy and the Boingers from “Bloom County”).

But none can match the bizarreness — or the catchiness — of the Banana Splits and their theme song, “Tra La La.”

The Banana Splits could only have existed in the late ’60s, in the same world as psychedelic rock, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and “Sesame Street.” The creation of Hanna-Barbera, the Saturday morning kids’ show centered around four animal characters — Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky — whose adventures and skits often landed them at amusement parks. The show ran for only two years before the sugar-high finally crashed.

The Chicago-based podcast Sound Opinions discussed fictional bands this week, and it was good to hear the Banana Splits make the cut. Despite having been only 5 when the show premiered, my recollection is still vivid. How could it not be?

In the ’90s, Liz Phair and Material Issue recorded a version of “Tra La La” for a compilation called “Saturday Morning Cartoons.” It was an excellent update, with even more bubblegum to the bounce. As usual, however, it pales compared to the original.


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