Mr. Barry White says, “Come on up to my square.
It’s safe, sexy and I’m serving Banana Splits…”
“Listen – Doin’ the Banana Split MP3″
I hope the mid-week finds you well, at least well enough for a king size, cross blogged double dose of the Banana Splits.
That’s right, I said Banana Splits.
If you’re younger than I am, you may not have any idea who (or what) the Banana Splits were, but if you’re my age or older, the name Banana Splits conjures up memories of Saturday Morning fun, tinged with just a touch of psychedelic nostalgia.
The Banana Splits show ran from 1968 to 1970 (and was rerun sporadically afterward) on NBC, and followed the adventures of four characters in plush suits who just happened to live together and also had a band. No doubt conceived as a Monkees-manque for kids a touch too young to have enjoyed that TV show (just two years before*).
What viewers got was humans inside of giant stuffed animal suits (designed by Sid & Marty Krofft) of a dog (Fleegle), gorilla (Bingo), lion (Drooper) and elephant (Snorky), voiced – except for Snorky who was in the tradition of the late, great Marcel Marceau, silent – by some of the greatest voice talent of the day including Paul Winchell, Daws Butler and Allan Melvin.
The shows were filled with slapstick, lots of bright colors engineered to fry the synapses of 6 year olds, plenty of faux-mod trappings, and – the thing that brings up together today – music.
Now, those of you that come by Funky16Corners on the reg are probably sitting there with a question mark floating over your heads (cartoon style, natch..) wondering what the f*ck any of this has to do with funk, and or soul music (though I suspect there may be a wise few out there who already know what I’m up to…).
So, a few months back the Asbury Park 45 Sessions are underway, and the mighty MFasis is rocking the wheels of steel when (as is often the case) he dropped something especially hot and I had to trot on up to (in the words of the mighty Sonny Hopson) “see what’s the title to the label on the Burners table”.
It only took a glance at the spinning, banana-clad label to know what the deal was, but until I took a closer look (and maybe for a little while after that) I still couldn’t believe that what we were all grooving to was a Banana Splits record.
So, in the following weeks I started to troll the interwebs to find a copy of this particular record. I spotted one on Ebay, put in my bid and a few days later I was the proud owner of not one, but two Banana Splits EPs, both of which were originally sold as cereal premiums by the Kelloggs company. A week or so later a package shows up in the mailbox that sent a shiver down my crooked old record collector spine. The seller had “packed” the records in a soft envelope (NOOOOOOOO?!!?!?!?).
Well, as soon as I calmed down a bit, I steeled myself against the likely disappointment that undoubtedly awaited me as I opened the package. Fortunately, the records, though woefully overgraded (shame on you Ebay seller..) were miraculously intact.
I immediately spun the song that MFasis had played (‘Doin’ the Banana Split’) and had my three-year-old dancing in his seat. After I scanned the label, I was shocked….no stunned…no, both shocked and stunned to see that ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ had been written by no less a talent than Barry White?!?!
As it turns out, White wasn’t the only big name associated with the musical side of the Banana Splits, as Al Kooper and Gene Pitney also contributed to their “oeuvre”. While most of the other songs on the records were lightweight pop (with one exception, which you can hear over at Iron Leg), ‘Doin the Banana Split’ was an absolutely batshit slab of heavy, funky soul. I suppose the crafty thing to do would have been to post the tune “blind”and then spring the Banana Splits angle on you, but since there are probably about five of you out there who have any idea who/what the Banana Splits were, it probably wouldn’t have had the desired impact.
Though I’m not 100% positive, I believe White is actually playing (maybe singing) on ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ which was recorded in between his years working on tracks for the Keen, Mustang and Bronco labels (with Viola Wills, the Versatiles and Felice Taylor among others) and his solo success.
That said, while ‘Doin’ the Banana Split’ is an anomaly in both the world of cartoon music and the Barry White discography (I don’t suspect much beautiful love was made while listening to this record), it is without a doubt a killer, and would probably be sought after if the name on the label wasn’t the Banana Splits.
*If memory serves, when the Banana Splits were on, the Monkees were being shown in reruns late on Saturday mornings (which is when I first saw them)