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Only a Lad is the full-length debut album by American new wave band Oingo Boingo, released in 1981, following their self-titled EP.

Only a Lad
Oingo Boingo-Only a Lad.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedJune 19, 1981
RecordedDecember 1980 – February 1981
StudioRecord Plant, United Western Studios, Cherokee Studios, and Westlake Audio
GenreNew wave, ska punk[1]
ProducerPete Solley and Oingo Boingo
Oingo Boingo chronology
Oingo Boingo
Only a Lad
Nothing to Fear
Singles from Only a Lad
  1. "Only a Lad"
    Released: May 1981



The album's musical arrangements, by vocalist Danny Elfman and guitarist Steve Bartek, completed the group's evolution into a new wave rock band (see Oingo Boingo – The Mystic Knights Years). Only a Lad features complex and frequently changing time signatures and keys, often incorporating harmonies borrowed from jazz and 20th-century classical music, all hallmarks of Elfman's songwriting.

Elfman claimed that many of the songs were inspired by newspaper articles he had read at the time and were "written as in-your-face facetious jabs."[2] The energetic yet provocative nature of the songs created much debate since the album's release, as to the record's themes about society, crime and political brainwashing.

The often tone-shifting lyrics do not align with any single organised political agenda of the time, remaining individual. However, the most explicitly political track, "Capitalism," takes aim at "middle class socialist brat" protestors, who "whine about the revolution" whilst themselves appearing to live in comfort. Similarly, "Perfect System" satirizes a leftist utopia where society is manipulated to achieve "uniformity" and "continuity."[3]

Elfman later reflected that, in writing the album, he was "basically (making) fun of everybody, and didn’t see anybody as being protected" from the songwriting. He elaborated in 2014 to A.V. Club: "To me, all organized political groups have a sense of absurdity to them. It’s open to be mocked or satirized. If anything, I consider myself part of nothing, and any organized group was fair game to mockery, from my vantage point."[2]

The music video for the opening track "Little Girls" features Elfman dancing inside a surreal, empty suburban house, joined by dwarfs and teenage girls. The band members are later seen staring complacently in shop windows and drinking tea while Elfman's character walks down a street with an apparently underage girl. The song and video was banned in Canada.[4] "Little Girls" courted controversy over the years for its dry satirical lyrics on perverted relationships. In later years, Elfman would jokingly explain on stage that the song was about how his girlfriend is so "very, very little" that "she fits in the palm of (his) hand."[5]

A number of early live songs were recorded for the album but ultimately went unreleased, including "Teenage Monster," "I've Got to Be Entertained" and "Cinderella Undercover."[6][7][8]

On the cover of the album, the drawing of a cat by Louis Wain that previously appeared on the cover of the Oingo Boingo EP is visible on the shirt of the Boy Scout. The cover is a parody of the Boy Scouts of America 1960 official handbook cover, illustrated by Norman Rockwell.[9]


Only a Lad was highly praised upon release, though its success was limited to the band's Southern California region. With the backing of Los Angeles radio station KROQ, it established Oingo Boingo as a permanent fixture on the regional music scene.

Oingo Boingo were already known for exploiting their negative press coverage; the song "Imposter" was a response to "a couple of assholes at the LA Times."[10] Rock critic Robert Christgau criticised Only a Lad as having "catchy vocals and spoiled overarrangements" at the time of its release.[11] Danny Elfman would later reflect in 2006 that he "loved bad reviews, [...] something's got to fuel us."[12]

The National Review named "Capitalism" as one of the "50 greatest conservative rock songs."[13] It is featured in the 2005 film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. However, Elfman commented following the album's release that his songs were not aligned with any organised political movement.[14]

"Only a Lad" is a playable track on the PlayStation 2 video game Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s.

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Danny Elfman, except "You Really Got Me" by Ray Davies.

1."Little Girls"3:44
2."Perfect System"3:46
3."On the Outside"3:39
5."You Really Got Me" (The Kinks cover)4:40
6."Only a Lad"3:56
7."What You See"3:43
10."Nasty Habits"4:06
Total length:38:12



  1. ^ "Only a Lad – Oingo Boingo – Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards – AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b Danny Elfman on Oingo Boingo, film scores, and the Beatles almost ruining Batman. A.V. Club. 2014. Retrieved 2017-05-13.
  3. ^ Danny Elfman at Comic Con Part 3. San Diego, California: 9FingeredElf. 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  4. ^[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Despina838 (22 July 2009). "Boingo at The Palace-Little Girls" – via YouTube.
  6. ^ pauldael (8 August 2013). "Oingo Boingo: Make It Right - Danny Elfman's Music" – via YouTube.
  7. ^ Oingo87 (15 April 2015). "Oingo Boingo - Ain't This The Life (Early/Alternate Version) (Demo?)" – via YouTube.
  8. ^ Jason Midnight (10 May 2011). "Oingo Boingo - Cinderella Undercover (Demo)" – via YouTube.
  9. ^
  10. ^ ""Urgh! A Music War"". 1982. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  11. ^ ""Robert Christgau: CG: Oingo Boingo"". 1981. Retrieved 2018-01-22.
  12. ^ ""Danny Elfman on Late Late Show"". 2006. Retrieved 2017-07-29.
  13. ^ Miller, John J. (May 26, 2006). ""Rockin' the Right": The 50 greatest conservative rock songs". National Review. Retrieved 2017-08-20.
  14. ^ Flans, Robyn (October 7, 1983). "Oingo Boingo's Mondo Schizo!". BAM.