Danny Elfman's Halloween weekend shows echo an L.A. tradition

Remembering when Danny Elfman was a bona fide rock star

This weekend’s concerts with film composer Danny Elfman and conductor John Mauceri are more than just a rare opportunity to hear Elfman and his always evocative film music performed live.

They recall what was one of the great annual traditions of the Southern California pop music scene: Elfman and his quirky rock band Oingo Boingo’s yearly Halloween concerts.

Yes, kids, before he was the acclaimed creator of music for “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Edward Scissorhands,”  “Beetlejuice” and just about every other Tim Burton project (not to mention his theme songs for “Weird Science” and “The Simpsons”), he was a bona fide rock star, lending his wild-eyed presence to the versatile alt-rock big band that started out as the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.

Elfman first dipped his toe in the water of film music by arranging music for his brother Richard Elfman’s campy 1980 sci-fi thriller “Forbidden Zone.”

As he told The Times as far back as 1986: "To me rock 'n' roll is and always has been a very temporary art form. It was designed that way since day one. So I've never understood these people who look back at the 'rock classics' with all this reverence."

But a good film score? That's another story.

“Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” performances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, with a third stop at the Honda Center in Anaheim on Sunday. Back in the day, Oingo Boingo had an especially strong following behind the Orange Curtain before officially calling it quits as a band in 1996.

Might Elfman trot out the Oingo Boingo song that long ago became — and remains — the twisted anthem of Halloween for punks of a certain age, “Dead Man’s Party”? (Boingo fans will recall that the song was featured prominently in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield frat comedy classic “Back to School,” which also featured a young Robert Downey Jr.)

Well, surely there needs to be a surprise or two left for those revisiting old musical haunts this weekend.

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