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Date: 18/11/15

The Banana Splits - "Wait Til Tomorrow" (1968)

It's probably a sign of not wanting to engage with the messy matters of the here-and-now which leads us to take refuge in the comfort foods - literal and metaphorical - of our childhoods.

So, in these times of fragmenting society, murderous pre-mediaevalism and general missing-the-pointitude (like the letter in the (G)independent a couple of days ago which said "The ultimate goal of Isis is to snare the West into direct, full-scale conflict" and then went on to state that the only way of preventing this was...to drop nukes on them), I have duly regressed to a time when the sun seemed to shine rather more.

The Banana Splits were a group of characters created by those doyens of animation, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who had had the idea of a new show which would combine their own cartoons with live-action segments of various kinds. So they hired Sid and Marty Krofft to design the anthropomorphic characters of the group around which the elements of the series would revolve. The result was The Banana Splits; a group comprising a dog (Fleegle - guitar and vocals - voiced by Paul Winchell), a gorilla (Bingo - drums and vocals - voiced by another veteran, Daws Butler), a lion (Drooper - bass and vocals - voiced by Allan Melvin) and an elephant (Snorky - keyboards - voiced by someone blowing a bicycle horn).

The show - where the antics of the 'band' were augmented by various HB animations such as The Three Musketeers, Micro Ventures and - most memorably - Arabian Knights ("Size of a restricted budget!") and the live-action serial Danger Island ("Uh-oh, Chongo!", anyone?) - ran for 31 shows from September 1968.

I first saw it when the BBC transmitted a series of adapted episodes in what must have been about 1971, and it became the only reason to get up early on a Saturday morning, which is when they tended to screen it.

There was, of course, music and I - having pretensions at being able to play a small electric organ, a subject to which I hope to return ere too long - identified mostly with Snorky, even though he could only honk. Or maybe because he could only honk; perhaps I empathised with his inability to communicate.

The songs - which were usually played over footage of the group doing things like driving their respective Banana Buggies (modified Amphicat six-wheelers) as if they were dodgems, or goofing around at an amusement park - were mostly provided by the staff writers of music publisher Aaron Schroeder, and were recorded by experienced sessioneers. Many of the songs saw releases as singles and on a much-sought-after LP on Decca.

This is one such song, the first single in fact. Wait Til Tomorrow was released in September 1968, with composition credited to Ritchie Adams and Mark Barkan and production to David Mook.

I don't actually remember hearing this song at the time of the show's original run here. However, in about 1993, Channel Four re-ran some of the episodes at a ridiculously early hour of the day - about 6.30am if memory serves. I had bought a VCR by then, and so recorded it for me to watch later, and it was then that I first came across it.

This track is to me an unalloyed delight, very much in the mode of 'sunshine pop' which typified the mainstream sounds of that time. The song is well-crafted, the arrangement by Jack Eskew is deft and well-matched to the melody and lyrics, and the playing is accomplished.

In any justly-ordered world, it would have been a big hit. However, the fact that the 'group' didn't really exist meant that it got shoved sideways into the 'novelty' category - although that hadn't harmed The Monkees (every bit as fictional as they were) and wouldn't stop The Archies around that time and afterwards - and dismissed as 'bubblegum pop' at a time when pretensions lay elsewhere.

For all that, it's a classic. Enjoy!