Driving back from visiting my parents (who retired to Maryland), I passed a beach shop called The Electric Banana.
I wondered aloud if it were a reference to Spinal Tap** (Fans will remember “The Electric Banana” is the club where director Marti Di Bergi first saw the band.) Neither my wife, my 6-year old son or my 3-year old son could say.
Just today I was telling a nerdy friend about this place, and again I wondered if the name was a nod to Tap.
So I called the store and asked. The clerk said “It’s just a funny name, that an electric banana is funny, they wanted a funny name and electric banana is funny.”
Of course he’s right, it IS funny. But was there more to the story?
I pressed him and discovered that he is not the owner.
So I asked to speak with the owner. I added “I’m a journalist” (which is kind of true, I suppose.)
He put me on hold and said to call back in ten minutes.
* * * 10 minutes later * * *
CLERK: The Electric Banana.
ME: Hi, I’m the guy who called about the store name.
CLERK: Hold on.
ME: Hi, I was calling to find out where you got the name of your store.
OWNER: It was wacky name I thought of, 15 years ago.
ME: Really? Because it’s also a joke in Spinal Tap.
OWNER: Is it?
(In 15 years, I’m the first person to bring this to his attention!?)
OWNER: No, it had nothing to do with that, I was just sitting somewhere in Ocean City with my friend, trying to think up a name for the store and some girls were listening in and they became interested and said `how about THE ELECTRIC APPLE’ and I said `no, the ELECTRIC BANANA’!
ME: Okay. Thanks.
Kind of surprising. And disappointing.
But here’s something to cheer you up:
There’s restaurant in New Brunswick, NJ called THE FROG & PEACH — a successful establishment that REALLY DID take its name from the hilarious Peter Cook & Dudley Moore sketch about a horrible restaurant called “The Frog & Peach”. (Although their menu does not include the infamous “frog a la peach” or the disgusting “peach a la frog.”)
Upon writing this, I learned that there really was a Pittsburg Nightclub called THE ELECTRIC BANANA — and it’s also lyric in Donovan’s 1966 hit “Mello Yellow”.
My friend Noah Tarnow, the famed Quizmaster, told me Donovan’s cryptic reference to the electro-fruit “prompted a lot of people to think the song was about smoking banana peels. Donovan denied this (you can’t even get high that way), but eventually admitted that “electrical banana” refers to a vibrator.”
Curiously, the wonderful National Lampoon Album GOODBYE POP featured some excellent parodies by Christopher Guest and Tony Scheuren. One of his songs the liner notes mention, “should have been on the album, but isn’t” was a Donovan parody titled “Nirvana Banana.” See — it always goes back to comedy-songs.
Click HERE to buy a T-shirt based on the fake club from the movie.