Oingo Boingo – Capitalism

American film composer Danny Elfman used to be a new waver in Oingo Boingo. Their 1981 album, Only A Lad, seems to include song topics meant to offend people. It’s debated whether this quirky paean to capitalism is satire or sincere, but the lyrics are delivered straight. Thus National Review magazine feels it’s a great ideologically conservative tune, though it has also been expropriated for the 2011 Occupy Movement.

The song was used in the documentary expose, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), and suggests that socialists are lazy and don’t know the meaning and value of work. Instead, people make money so they can have nice lives, and shouldn’t feel guilty for believing in free enterprise.

Do you think the song is a parody or was Danny Elfman really sticking his neck out, especially given he’s neck deep in otherwise liberal Hollywood today?

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6 thoughts on “Oingo Boingo – Capitalism

  1. I’ve been reading through some 1980s Elfman interviews to understand his meaning to the song. Elfman had been traveling the world and saw the horrible conditions most of the world’s population live under first hand. He also saw the badside of Socialist control. Elfman stated “I came back real right-wing patriotic”. I think the song was both satire and trueism. I think Elfman was trying to point out the hypocrasy of “middle class, socialist brat”s that don’t REALLY know how bad people in non-Capitalist countries have it as they themselves reap the benefits of Capitalism. He also is satirically (sp?) mocking the pro-Capitalist zealots that were pushing the “Me” generation.

    • Thanks for your most excellent thoughts on this song; your comment adds to the post considerably. It is also nice to know people like yourself are thinking about the meanings of songs.

      • I knew that someone from the 1980s “underground” music scene HAD to ask Elfman about the lyrics back when the album was released. I sought out as many interviews from that period as I could find online. I am intrigued that conservative commentators want to interpret this song literally but don’t know/care about the first song on the Only A Lad album called “Little Girls” in which Elfman said was written “tongue in cheek” about a guy who likes his girls “too young”.

      • Thanks again for commenting. I would have liked including your points in the original post. If you ever think of any other good songs with politics in them to review here, please pass them along!

  2. As Scott said earlier, Elfman had traveled extensively. One interview (with Richard Blade, I believe) he said that he had lived in Africa for some time. This was 1970’s Africa, mind you. Their world was totally different than ours (even more so) at that time.
    He loved it there and learned a lot about so many different musical instruments and unique rhythms. I believe that that was essential in making him the talented and genius composer he is today.
    So, with the song, “Capitalism”, I can see the irritation and irony he felt while listening to people complain about how Capitalism was so terrible yet they were living in relative super wealth compared to the rest of the world, ungrateful and critical of what capitalism had afforded them.
    Bizarre and enlightening how relevant these words are now, in 2017.
    Listen again and see if it doesn’t 100% fit the current scene.

    Thank you for posting this page.

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