The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic
April 9, 2020 11:34 AM   Subscribe

After 40 years, Yankovic is now no longer a novelty, but an institution — a garish bright patch in the middle of America’s pop-cultural wallpaper, a completely ridiculous national treasure, an absurd living legend.

“ Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Weird Al obsessive, credits Yankovic as an influence on “Hamilton.” Miranda once lip-synced “Taco Grande” (a Mexican-food-themed parody of the 1990 hit “Rico Suave”) in front of his sixth-grade class, He told me that he prefers many Weird Al songs to the originals. “Weird Al is a perfectionist,” Miranda said. “Every bit as much as Michael Jackson or Kurt Cobain or Madonna or any artist he has ever spoofed. So you get the musical power of the original along with this incredible twist of Weird Al’s voice and Weird Al’s brain. The original songs lose none of their power, even when they’re on a polka with burping sound effects in the background. In fact, it accelerates their power. It’s both earnest and a parody.”
posted by chris24 (112 comments total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
 
During the 90s all I listened to was Weird Al. When we got our first computer (a Macintosh Classic with 4mb of RAM) and dial-up internet connection I spent at least several hours a day in the #weird-al channel on EFNet where Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz (who plays drums for Al) also regularly hung out. The first website I ever created was a Weird Al fan page on GeoCities. The quickest way to cause me intense pain and suffering and then feel my wrath was to link me to a RealPlayer stream of a parody song that was very clearly NOT by Weird Al and say something like "check out this Weird Al song."

I really, really, really love Weird Al. That's all I really wanted to say.
posted by rudism at 11:52 AM on April 9, 2020 [58 favorites]


He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
posted by Beholder at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2020 [55 favorites]


I’m just so glad your FPP sentence didn’t end the way I thought it would. Team Yankovic.
posted by pipoquinha at 11:59 AM on April 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Or at least the Polka Hall of Fame.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 12:00 PM on April 9, 2020 [15 favorites]


At the end of the 83/84 school year, my senior class took a trip to Valley Fair amusement park. When we got there, we were pretty stoked to find out that Weird Al was playing the bandstand. One of the funnest concerts I ever attended.
posted by LindsayIrene at 12:03 PM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I saw Weird Al with my girlfriend a couple of years ago. I liked him as a teen in the late 90s but hadn’t really thought about him in years. Turns out he does an absolutely fantastic live show! I wouldn’t say I’m a born-again super-fan but I laughed and appreciated his musicianship, and came away with a lot of respect for the guy and his work.
posted by Alterscape at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


I was listening to Weird Al before I was even aware of most of the artists he was parodying. I don't think I ever heard Lola by the Kinks until I was in my teens—I laughed so hard once I figured out why it was familiar.
posted by thedward at 12:06 PM on April 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Everybody I knew in music in the 80s and 90s were sincere fans of Weird Al. Even the guys in aggro noise rock bands. All those gags and musical pratfalls are the product of innate talent and immense effort, and nonmusicians don’t appreciate how hard it is to make music funny.
posted by ardgedee at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2020 [12 favorites]


Weird Al SHREDS!!!
posted by J.K. Seazer at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2020 [21 favorites]


Weird Al’s page on Wikipedia is really, really long.
Really.

Just sayin’
posted by armoir from antproof case at 12:08 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


!
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 12:10 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


Really worth reading TFA. It made me verklempt.
posted by neroli at 12:12 PM on April 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Weird Al has been a favorite for most of my life, starting with “Eat It” when that came out and continuing to the present. I’ve seen him play live three times, and am intensely envious of my brother because he’s met Al and I haven’t.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that profile made me verklempt, too. And shocked to learn how young he was when I was first hearing him on Dr Demento. So many of us weird kids go on to creating new exclusive circles of smart experts, or what have you. He went on to create a welcoming and accepting, goofy and fun fandom that endures (and is still just dumb and smart as it always was). Such a fun, heartfelt article (and the picture! I love it!)!
posted by ldthomps at 12:15 PM on April 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


This is such a great article it's impossible to choose a favorite passage, but this one stands out:

"This was the beginning of the longest close friendship of Al Yankovic’s life — a friendship that still endures. Miller noticed the accordion in Yankovic’s dorm room and asked if he actually knew how to play. Yankovic said yes — he could play any song anyone wanted to hear. Miller, trying to stump him, said how about Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding,” an 11-minute piano-rock dirge. Al strapped on his accordion and played the song, note for note, all the way through. This earned Weird Al an invitation to hang out in the dorm room, where he played his accordion for everyone else. Miller grabbed his bongos and the two of them jammed for hours."
posted by vverse23 at 12:19 PM on April 9, 2020 [40 favorites]


He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Having your song parodied by Weird Al is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 12:25 PM on April 9, 2020 [77 favorites]


I can't get NYT to show me the article - even in an incognito window. Any tips for getting around the paywall?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


The part about his mom is frightening.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:34 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


What a lovely man. I also think of him every time I wash my hands now, ever since he tweeted recently that his favorite part was the thumbs - "Vroom! VROOOM"!
posted by queensissy at 12:35 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Former AV Club and Dissolve writer Nathan Rabin has recently published a book about Weird Al, The Weird Accordion to Al. I own a copy but haven't read it yet, but Nathan's such a fun writer I feel I can recommend it blind.
posted by riotnrrd at 12:38 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


He dared us to be stupid, and for this we must honor him.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:42 PM on April 9, 2020 [19 favorites]


A few months ago I got an unexpected text from my stepson (while we aren't estranged, I'm no longer married to his mom and he's a grown man with his own life so we rarely communicate). He wrote that he was getting ready to head out to a Weird Al concert that evening, and wanted to thank me for introducing him to Al's music back when he (stepson, not Al) was a kid. I was very touched and pleased - I figure that if I accomplish nothing else in life, I at least helped someone develop a lifelong appreciation for Weird Al's musical genius.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:42 PM on April 9, 2020 [43 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos - have you tried clearing your browser's cache and cookies (or at least any NYT cookies)?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2020


Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz was also a regular in the USENET group rec.music.makers.percussion. You can still find his posts going back to 1994, before most people were on the internet at all — and Weird Al was already an institution:
I have a house, a wife, a pool, 2 dogs, and a steady job for over 12 years...and nobody would ever, EVER guess I was drummer - I'm too stable...too normal.
posted by mubba at 12:47 PM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I've loved Weird Al since the VERY beginning. I remember listening to the Dr. Demento radio show on KMPC in Los Angeles the night he first appeared on it. I won't go so far to say that I knew I had just witnessed the birth of a musical legend, but I know I really liked what I'd heard, being such a fan of Spike Jones, Stan Freberg and Allan Sherman, and remember the excitement I felt the more well-known Al became over the next couple of years. I loved the Weird Al TV show as well as his film UHF, which are both still very underappreciated as far as I am concerned. I'm 60 years old now, and so very glad that Al continues to put out content that's just as good as anything else he's ever done.

And yes...it's a travesty he's not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Someone should see about correcting this mistake A.S.A.P. (Al Says "Award, Please!)
posted by Quasimike at 12:48 PM on April 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


From the article: Perhaps you have always imagined that Weird Al tosses off his lyrics while juggling rubber chickens on a unicycle.

It's true, I have!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:57 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


Weird Al’s page on Wikipedia is really, really long.

Which, of course, reminds me of a favorite: Albuquerque
posted by bcd at 12:59 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


Being creative once isn't that hard for many people to do. Being creative repeatedly takes much more effort. Doing it at regular intervals for decades? Genius.

A Genius in France, to be precise.

Two things separate Weird Al and other master parodiers from the riff-raff, and the one enables the other. The first is longevity; the ability to continue to find fresh inspiration over long periods of time and from many different sources. Al isn't a one-joke guy (cue Kurt Cobain asking him "You're not going to turn our song into something about food, are you?" when asked about adapting Smells Like Teen Spirit). He can fold just about anything into a preferred format (the beloved polka medleys as an example), or adapt his musical style to the source material, or create originals that actually stand up well.

The second is surrounding himself with actual _musicians_, and being a completely legitimate and talented one himself. Spike Jones wasn't just a wacky guy in a wacky suit who fired a gun in front of audiences; he and his compatriots had immense talent. As I once said of a fabled Bonzo Dog Band tune, "it takes so much skill to mangle traditional music this effectively." I haven't had the privilege of seeing him live yet, but I plan to, because people say it's a tour de force of both humor and musicianship.
posted by delfin at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2020 [17 favorites]


Indeed. That was a great article - thanks for posting it!
posted by sundrop at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


I was always indifferent to Weird Al. Kinda sorta funny, for one listen.

Then I saw him live at the Greek in Berkeley last year and my mind was blown. I still don't think I'll ever feel a need to put a Weird Al record on to listen to, but he may be the best performer I've seen in four decades+ of concert-going. Quite a showman. My face hurt for days from smiling so much.
posted by quarterframer at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2020 [13 favorites]


Any tips for getting around the paywall?

Firefox with Bypass Paywalls for Firefox works well.
posted by flabdablet at 1:01 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Weird Al’s page on Wikipedia is really, really long.

I hear he edits Wikipedia
posted by trig at 1:02 PM on April 9, 2020 [13 favorites]


What is this feeling I have--joy? Pleasure? Happiness? Both from the article and knowing Weird Al exists and the art he has gifted us with.
posted by maxwelton at 1:09 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Ah, those nights listening to Dr. Demento. I admit "Another One Rides The Bus" was more familiar to me than the Queen original.

Oh, and you owe it to yourself to watch the "White and Nerdy" video. You will never think of Donny Osmond the same way again.
posted by tommasz at 1:13 PM on April 9, 2020 [13 favorites]


I have unashamedly loved Weird Al since I first listened to him. So much so, I irritated my best friend growing up with that love.

Running with Scissors was the first album I ever bought, and at one point, I owned every album of his up to Poodle hat. Most of those albums I bought before Amazon was a thing, and before you could just buy stuff online. I hunted every store that carried CDs and no small number of those albums came from Sears of all places (for whatever reason, they carried a lot of, at the time, decades old comedy albums). Hell, most of those albums I found before you could easily get a list of all his albums.

Weird Al has been a bright spot in so many sad days for me, and he is truly is a national treasure. I am positive that outside of family and friends, he has had the most impact on my sense of humor and my love of subverting normalcy.


It has brought me much joy in the era of Me Too, that he seems so very genuinely to be a good person and every interview I've ever seen of his makes him so kind and warm.

I am truly glad to exist at the same time as Weird Al.
posted by Twain Device at 1:22 PM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I, too, was one of those nerdy pre-teens who was given a cassette of Weird Al parodies to songs he'd not yet heard. I found the clever lyrics and eager energetic delivery spoke to me. I spotted a line or two in one of the Polka medleys I recognised, but spent years tracking down the originals just to avoid being "That Kid Who Only Knows The Nerd Version."

And yes, in the late 80s and early 90s there was a definite sense that being the Weird Al purist was the worst kind of nerdliness, and that some day I'd complete puberty and come out rolling my eyes and groaning "God my taste in music was so puerile. I'm so glad I discovered real music like these totally hip Gronf Blapper B-sides..." or something.

But that was also a nadir for earnest music, to me. I know there's the calculus showing that music in 1997 was terrible, and I don't really disagree. But the early 90s were a time when people found bands like Nirvana a breath of fresh air after years of Guns 'n' Roses. I detest Guns 'n' Roses.

I listened to Pearl Jam's Ten years later and went "Wow, the lyrics are all suburban white-boy problems, but the music is amazing!" and found they literally were all downhill from there. I found I liked Depeche Mode more than I'd expected after hearing some Johnny Cash covers.

In the end I was never going to have a hip young late-80s/early-90s taste in music. I slid sideways from Weird Al to TMBG (from accordions as joke to accordions as indie hipster instruments!), finally breaking free via my dad's jazz collection straight into the waiting arms of Tom Waits, and when I looked back as an older man I realised that Weird Al was brilliant when you didn't play it on a loop 8 hours a day.

I found an old Dr. Demento tape a friend had made for me years ago, and there was an interview on it with one of the musicians. And the good Doctor made a comment commiserating with the artist who had feared becoming typecast as a "novelty record" musician. They both said the phrase with a sense of sarcasm and relief, knowing that it was unfair but that it hadn't harmed either of them.

I'm really happy that Al's an enduring touchstone. He's a great talent, even if most can't see through the "well he's clever but..." or "parody is just copying..." to understand the love and care and artistry he puts into this strange corner of popular music over which he will forever be king.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2020 [8 favorites]


I've been taking every opportunity to share Weird Al's contribution to the stay-at-home aesthetic of the moment:

Classical Gas

I've probably watched it a dozen times. It's somehow perfectly suitable for these times, at least for me.
posted by slagheap at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2020 [8 favorites]


SPATULA CITY!!!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 1:33 PM on April 9, 2020 [11 favorites]


We don't need no stinking badgers!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:49 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Weird Al SHREDS!!!

The first comment is perfect: “Imagine the life you have to lead to be able to do something like this.”
posted by TedW at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


Oh, and you owe it to yourself to watch the "White and Nerdy yt " video. You will never think of Donny Osmond the same way again

That video was what changed my mind about Weird Al and Donny Osmond.
posted by Max Power at 1:53 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


Hi! This is just a friendly reminder that if people posting about treasures and joys like Weird Al or Dolly Parton were to include a [$TREASURE is just fine] right in the bits that appear on the front page, I'd have fewer panic attacks.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:56 PM on April 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


Not even one as enormously talented as Mr. Yankovic can pull off the stunt of being a living legend while dead, so there's that.
posted by flabdablet at 2:04 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Team Weird Al 4 Life.
posted by whuppy at 2:11 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


I was interviewing musician Inara George a few weeks ago, and she told me that her (sub-10yo) kids were obsessed with Weird Al right now. As a result, she's been using his music as a springboard to educate them about the music he's parodying. For example, their love of "Another One Rides the Bus" led to a family exploration of the Queen discography. (Of course, this is also the same family whose kids went through a "Warren Zevon phase" before they were in double digits.)
posted by mykescipark at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


Weird Al SHREDS!!!

See, even though the joke was obvious in the first tenth of a second, I still laughed when he stood up. The man is a comedy genius.
posted by straight at 2:35 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


After hearing "One More Minute," I thought nothing, nothing would ever top that perfection. Then, a mere 25 years later, "Skipper Dan" came out. My. Creed.
posted by Melismata at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


You can tell he's a living legend, not some ordinary creep.

(In 1984 - when I was seven - the only cassette I had was Weird Al in 3-D. That summer, the family took a road trip to Disneyland, which took 2 days, during which I listened to that tape, side after side, the entire time, both on the way there and on the way back.

I don't remember Disneyland. )
posted by Graygorey at 2:41 PM on April 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


That video was what changed my mind about Weird Al and Donny Osmond.

Despite showing up in the finished product for about 10 seconds, Donny put in serious effort for that 10 seconds.
posted by madajb at 2:43 PM on April 9, 2020 [17 favorites]


The only time I've managed to see Al was in 84 at ValleyFair (hi, LindsayIrene! I thought you looked familiar!). Wanted to see him at the State Fair last year, but waited too long on lining things up and it was sold out :-(

The older I've gotten, the more I appreciate how musically perfect his songs can be (I can listen to Hardware Store over and over), but also how wonderfully happy they are.

Having him in the world has definitely made it a better place.
posted by Ickster at 2:45 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


SPATULA CITY!!!

We sell spatulas...

AND THAT'S ALL!
posted by tzikeh at 2:59 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


Weird Al is a genius, a legend, and a damned fine-lookin' man.
posted by tzikeh at 3:03 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


"novelty songs" have mostly died out, it seems to me - I know there are counterexamples, but I really don't think that that sector of the pop culture economy is anything like what it was in between like "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window?" to "Convoy"....but yes, Weird Al survives like some musical comedy coelacanth. Thrives, even.

SPATULA CITY!!!
Twi grills for every boy?
posted by thelonius at 3:04 PM on April 9, 2020


The White and Nerdy video also has a cameo by Key and Peele so that's fun.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


Take another look :)
posted by tzikeh at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Somebody needs to organize a tribute concert with performances by the musicians he's parodied.
Preferably while he's alive to enjoy it.
posted by cheshyre at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


Weird Al may forever be known as the parody guy but his originals IMO are just as good.
posted by Eikonaut at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


cheshyre: Somebody needs to organize a tribute concert with performances by the musicians he's parodied.

Preferably while he's alive to enjoy it.


This exact thing would happen if he were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Beholder: He deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


LET'S MAKE THIS HAPPEN PEOPLE!
posted by tzikeh at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2020 [11 favorites]


Two relevant Weird Al things:

1. Definitely an ex in that photograph of all the Als. When she gets into the costume, the resemblance is uncanny.
2. Weird Al offered to buy me fudge once, and I was obligated to decline.
posted by carsonb at 3:19 PM on April 9, 2020 [9 favorites]


I know people well who have worked with Al know him well. He's stuck around and is beloved for a reason: Because he is a sincerely talented and stand-up dude.
posted by Everyone Expects The Spanish Influenza at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2020 [8 favorites]


I was in need of a college to transfer to in 1975, and my second choice was Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and to this date I regret not going there because it would have made me a classmate of Weird Al's, as well as a competitor for prime time slots on the campus radio station, which was where he recorded his first songs (I fantasize having been backup kazoo on My Bologna). But attending an L.A. area school instead, I did meet Dr. Demento and lent him a comedy record I owned that was NOT in his massive collection, that he played on his show. One of my proudest moments of my college years.

Since then, he made the on-campus theater at his alma mater a stop on his concert tours, and when I relocated to SLO County in 2005, I made sure I caught his show. I have attended so few concerts, but that was a great experience.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:24 PM on April 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


I HATED my asshole locker-partner in High School. He was a huge Weird Al fan. So I ended up hating on Weird Al via association.

It's entirely unfair, and as a 50 year old man, I can appreciate Weird Al's music and have read about what an all-around good fellow he is. One of the things that infuriates me about the Human Condition is dumb things like High School era "hate by association."

But man... that high school shit just has staying power sometimes. Cheers, Weird Al. I wish I could grow out of some things, but wishing doesn't always make things so.
posted by SoberHighland at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Weird Al’s Dylan parody BOB is the work of a creative genius.
posted by oluckyman at 4:16 PM on April 9, 2020 [10 favorites]


It's pure magic forwards and backwards.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:49 PM on April 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Nice to some fellow Dementoids on this thread who also taped the show.
posted by 445supermag at 4:58 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


My son took us to see Al in Boston last summer. The moment he came out in his Jedi costume and began The Saga Begins was a SERIOUS family bonding moment.
posted by Biblio at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


He can write some pretty stupendous originals, too. "Dare to be Stupid" is more Devo than anything they ever recorded. Any love for "Mr. Popeil" or "Mr Frump in the Iron Lung"? I bought the first three albums on cassette and just about wore them out.

I'm always amazed at the consistency and excellence of his work over the decades.

Never seen him live, but was hoping to rectify that this year. Erm, probably not.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:28 PM on April 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


Probably the funniest Weird Al incident was his asking permission and being rebuffed for remaking Coolio's "Gansta's Paradise" into "Amish Paradise." This is funny because Coolio's hip-hop tune was a remake of Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" in the first place. This is doubly funny because almost every other musician has said "Sure" to the honor of being parodied by Weird Al.

It's another funny Weird Al video, and Coolio has since made peace with the whole thing.
posted by kozad at 5:38 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


> This is doubly funny because almost every other musician has said "Sure" to the honor of being parodied by Weird Al.

Michael Jackson was an early fan and his enthusiasm for his parodies during the 80s must've helped give Weird Al more credibility and access than he could've hoped for. Prince, on the other hand, has always refused Weird Al. What he could've done with songs like "Purple Rain" can only be imagined.
posted by ardgedee at 6:19 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Weird Al is a genius because his Kurt Cobain parody is literally just as sardonic as the original is.
posted by ovvl at 6:33 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


riotnrrd: "Former AV Club and Dissolve writer Nathan Rabin has recently published a book about Weird Al, The Weird Accordion to Al. I own a copy but haven't read it yet, but Nathan's such a fun writer I feel I can recommend it blind."

He also wrote Weird Al: The Book, and blogs about him a lot.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:40 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


I can't get NYT to show me the article - even in an incognito window. Any tips for getting around the paywall?

I have 5 browsers on my computer for exactly this purpose.

I still run out on all of them sometimes, though.
posted by hippybear at 6:43 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


one can access the nyt and other major us papers with a library card
posted by brujita at 6:58 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


Well damn, it just struck me that Mr. Frump In the Iron Lung is a comedy song about a guy on a ventilator. Perhaps even sophomoric accordion sound effects can become uncomfortably dated.
posted by mubba at 6:58 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


Anyway, the article is really great. I didn't know a lot of the background, but it all makes sense when you read it. It's actually a very moving article, full of humanity and joy. Thanks for posting it!

I've been with Al all along his long ride. I was listening to Dr Demento when My Bologna was premiered. I bought In-3D on cassette AND vinyl (which I remember came with red/blue glasses and a record sleeve with an image?). I remember a radio commercial playing about "somewhere out there on the highway is a convoy of a bus, three trucks, and one accordion, and it's coming to Local Arena" back even before In-3D came out.

My main recommendation for this thread is... if you have the opportunity to see Al play live, GO DO IT. He's often at state fairs which are good concert bargains overall. He puts so much into every performance -- constant costume changes, interstitial videos, it's a full on fully-produced show nearly on the level with Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour, but with much less dancing.

Maximum Fun was a great new addition to his library. He has a knack for choosing songs which have truly bubbled up to the top of the culture, so his parodies aren't too obscure. I find his pastiches are always really great, too. Possibly better than his parodies because there is such skill in writing an original song which makes you think immediately of a different artist.

I have a feeling we have more Al coming soon, within the next year. I hope it continues the joy!
posted by hippybear at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


asking permission and being rebuffed for remaking Coolio's "Gansta's Paradise"

The Gaga saga
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:02 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


I didn’t listen to pop music in the 90s (late elementary thru early teens) because it was banned at home, but my close friend was an Al fanatic. We listened to the albums at his house all the time, and every sleepover started with the videocassette he had of every weird al music video up to that point. I only knew the Al versions of so many songs, including Smells Like Teen Spirit.

When my kids asked me about Nirvana, we listened to the original version of Teen Spirit while driving to school. My 12 year old asked me “dad what is this song even about? I can’t understand the words” and my 8 year old said it would be funny if there was burps in the chorus. I queued up Smells Like Nirvana next and I can’t remember them laughing so hard.
posted by sleeping bear at 7:36 PM on April 9, 2020 [7 favorites]


I saw Al once, in 1994 at Six Flags St. Louis (nee Over Mid-America). I remember it was after Kurt Cobain's death, and my friend Dan and I wondered if he would play Smells Like Nirvana (I don't think he did). Al is a consummate showman and I'll never forget that concert. The Fat suit, Harvey The Wonder Hamster, the Flinstones Outfit.

I regret missing the tour he did of all his original songs. His original songs are fantastic, perfect pastiches. He wrote, as said above, the most Devo Devo song, and the second best Cake song. He's incredible, and I'm so relieved that he sounds like a wonderful human being.
posted by gc at 7:48 PM on April 9, 2020 [3 favorites]


What a lovely article.
posted by potrzebie at 8:03 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


I've seen him a couple of times, most recently at the Hollywood Bowl...three years ago? Four? My partner had to work so I brought an Australian expat friend. He only knew Weird Al as the "Eat It" guy when we walked in. He was utterly staggered to see that the place was packed. Even more so when he saw all the video interstitials and realized what a cultural icon Al is.

It was an absolutely tremendous show and I would gladly see him again anytime.
posted by rednikki at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2020 [2 favorites]


it’s not weird that Weird Al is enduring! He is a freaking genius and a fearlessly kind person who is deeply, deeply driven by his muse. He is a reason to be optimistic for us as a species. Anytime there isn’t some strange parody hit from him, he is still touring, just as hard as a sixties country-circuit road dog, a lot of times playing regional fairs, sometimes doing ultra-nerdy science themed comedy acts laced with his, er, collaborative hits. He works as hard as his dad did and has reached a far larger audience.
posted by mwhybark at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2020 [1 favorite]


I have several things to say about Weird Al:

1. One of the two or three best concerts I've ever seen. (I even wrote an article about it.)
2. Hit Parade, one of the best of all podcasts, had a recent episode about Weird Al, and it is terrific and you should listen to it.
3. My 4-year-old is (no small thanks to me) now a Weird Al superfan, complete with framed headshot on his bedroom wall and a particular fondness for "Hardware Store." I count this as my chief parental achievement so far.
4. I am, in all seriousness, intending to do whatever I can to nominate Weird Al for the Presidential Medal of Freedom -- once we have a better president, that is. This is the highest civilian honor an American civilian can attain, and if anyone deserves it, it's Weird Al. I'm not kidding about this. Who is with me? MeMail me - let's figure this out.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:54 PM on April 9, 2020 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure if it's mentioned in the article, and I didn't see it here, but recently a musicologist collaborated with Dr. Demento on a book about Weird Al's career and cultural impact.

Weird Al has remained one of the few people I appreciated as a youth and still admire today. I don't understand how someone that magnificent can exist.
posted by subocoyne at 10:42 PM on April 9, 2020 [5 favorites]


I must admit I’ve always enjoyed Weird Al and was glad to hear that he’s a genuinely good guy, but I’ve never really listened to him beyond the parodies that got significant airplay. Fortunately this thread is changing that. Genius in France that delfin linked above is a spot-on Zappa parody; before getting that far in this thread I was wondering if anyone had ever compared and contrasted the two. As soon as I finish this comment I’m going to check out the Dylan parody oluckyman linked.

Apparently Jimmy Fallon is a big fan, as he explains in the intro to One More
Minute as a social distancing anthem
.
posted by TedW at 11:36 PM on April 9, 2020 [4 favorites]


The quickest way to cause me intense pain and suffering and then feel my wrath was to link me to a RealPlayer stream of a parody song that was very clearly NOT by Weird Al and say something like "check out this Weird Al song."

Is there another artist who has had more songs wrongly attributed to them?
posted by straight at 1:13 AM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


TedW: Apparently Jimmy Fallon is a big fan

Yes indeed (Fallon, Al, and Lin-Manuel Miranda on The Tonight Show, discussing "The Hamilton Polka")
posted by tzikeh at 1:20 AM on April 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


I slid sideways from Weird Al to TMBG (from accordions as joke to accordions as indie hipster instruments!)

And of course Weird Al also wrote a wonderful TMBG-style song, "Everything You Know is Wrong." I also really love his Police-style "Velvet Elvis."
posted by straight at 1:22 AM on April 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


The only thing I didn't like about this article is that it didn't confirm the folk-etymology of his stage name that "Weird Al" is the opposite of "Norm Al."
posted by straight at 1:24 AM on April 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


Can anyone else literally not remember the original lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit? In my brain it's like somebody wrote better ones in the same place, right on top of the old ones. In pink crayon.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 3:40 AM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Can anyone else literally not remember the original lyrics of Smells Like Teen Spirit?

Allegedly, Don McLean’s kids played “The Saga Begins” so much that he had to struggle to remember the actual lyrics to “American Pie” while performing it after nearly 30 years.
posted by Etrigan at 4:35 AM on April 10, 2020 [14 favorites]


Etrigan, that's amazing. Weird Al took an eyesore of a song and an eyesore of a trilogy and turned it into something enjoyable. A silk purse from TWO sows ears!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:33 AM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos, just sent you a MeMail.
posted by missmobtown at 8:15 AM on April 10, 2020


I was once lucky enough to be shown a friend's reel of interviews he did for public access in Tucson interviewing people who had just come out a Weird Al concert in (as I recall) 1982. So many nerdy fans!
posted by Catblack at 9:30 AM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Some random thoughts …

One thing that has struck me from a variety of "so-and-so reacts" videos on YouTube is that everyone loves Weird Al. Black, white, old, young, rappers, metalheads - they all recognize his genius.

I went to a Weird Al concert about 15-20 years ago and was struck by how incredibly hard working he is. Constant costume changes, continually moving, and putting everything he had into every song.

Many years ago I was on a road trip and stumbled upon a radio station that was playing nothing but Weird Al songs. No explanation, no commercials, no station ID, no comments from the DJ - just 3 hours of Weird Al until I drove out of range.

He really is a very, very good musician and songwriter. I figured out a while back that the best parodies in any medium (music, film, or books) are legitimately good examples of the genres they are making light of.

I've learned to accept that many of our creative heroes may not be great (or even good) human beings aside from their art. Still, it makes me happy that every report I've read seems to confirm that Al is just a genuinely decent person.
posted by tdismukes at 11:27 AM on April 10, 2020 [6 favorites]


Those of you offering suggestions for the firewall, thanks, I am amply armed and embarrassed that's derailed things any.

I had the great pleasure of introducing my roommate to the Hamilton Polka recently - which, is, as LMM himself observed, spot-on with all the raps and is about 10% faster and in five-part harmony. At the time Al said that he realized there was probably no way he would ever be able to perform it live so he just went for broke.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on April 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Polka Face is a tour de farce.

That is all.
posted by flabdablet at 12:49 PM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Somehow the most delightful bit to me was that people are getting Weird Al to autograph their (presumably lucky) glow-in-the dark snorkels.

Between Weird Al, They Might Be Giants, Flogging Molly, and The Hold Steady, I've definitely seen more nationally touring concerts with accordions than without.
posted by ckape at 2:07 PM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


At the time Al said that he realized there was probably no way he would ever be able to perform it live so he just went for broke.

Oh, that reminds me, one of my very favorite Weird Al songs is an original composition, Hardware Store. I've wondered if/how he tries to do the ridiculously-long "one-breath" shopping list break live.
posted by straight at 2:37 PM on April 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


He can write some pretty stupendous originals, too. "Dare to be Stupid" is more Devo than anything they ever recorded.
A couple of tours ago, Weird Al did some of his pastiches in the style of different groups. Here's Dare to Be Stupid as Grateful Dead pastiche.
posted by Zed at 2:48 PM on April 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


If the Wikia page is to be believed, Weird Al has never performed Hardware Store live: https://weirdal.fandom.com/wiki/Hardware_Store.

Almost making up for that disappointment is the fact that it started as a style parody of The Presidents of the United States of America. I wonder if there are any early recordings so we can see what Al's version of a Presidents song is.

And that's all I have to say about that.
posted by Tehhund at 4:25 PM on April 10, 2020


I'd say "Gump" is Al's version of a Presidents song?
posted by Chrysostom at 5:25 PM on April 10, 2020


Yeah, I was alluding to that with my last sentence (in fact The Presidents started ending the song with that line after the parody came out), but a lot of Weird Al's best work is style parodies. He wrote the most Devo song ever and one of the best Cake songs ever, I wonder if he could write a better Presidents song than the Presidents.
posted by Tehhund at 7:16 PM on April 10, 2020




What a lovely man. I also think of him every time I wash my hands now, ever since he tweeted recently that his favorite part was the thumbs - "Vroom! VROOOM"!

I think I have smiled every single time I've washed my hands now since I've read that. Thanks, queensissy.
posted by straight at 6:35 AM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]


In high school I asked a friend what Yoda was a parody of.

He smirked and said "Star Wars original!"

Years later, I heard Lola, and sighed.

So when people say a song is just a Weird Al Original I just figure I haven't heard the original yet. I expected Hardware Store to be a Thrift Store piss-take.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 12:19 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


If you haven't watched Work in Progress yet, you should. Come for the genderqueer romance and honest portrayal of mental illness, stay for the absolutely delightful Weird Al extended cameo.

The whole bit is a hilarious play on himself, and also touchingly acknowledges problematic/hurtful aspects of his own work.
posted by latkes at 2:49 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


(Delightful article. Thanks for posting it)
posted by latkes at 2:54 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]


So when people say a song is just a Weird Al Original I just figure I haven't heard the original yet.

No, he does what's called "style pastiches" (songs that aren't direct parodies, but are meant to sound like a particular band, i.e., "Close But No Cigar" is a style pastiche of Cake), and also originals (i.e., "Midnight Star"). The Wikipedia articles for each album usually do a good job of identifying what's what.
posted by WCityMike at 7:00 PM on April 11, 2020 [3 favorites]


Many years ago I was on a road trip and stumbled upon a radio station that was playing nothing but Weird Al songs. No explanation, no commercials, no station ID, no comments from the DJ - just 3 hours of Weird Al until I drove out of range.

tdismukes, KRVM in Eugene, Oregon did this on a weekend afternoon once. It would have been in the range of 2002-7 based on the house I was in at the time.
posted by neuron at 10:58 AM on April 12, 2020 [1 favorite]


tdismukes, KRVM in Eugene, Oregon did this on a weekend afternoon once. It would have been in the range of 2002-7 based on the house I was in at the time.
That’s around the right time period, but I think I was going through Tennessee at the time. Unless KRVM had a really powerful transmitter it probably wasn’t them.
posted by tdismukes at 12:20 PM on April 12, 2020


I've loved Weird Al for most of my life, and still have fond memories riding my bike to the library to borrow the cassettes. He's the only musician I'll make an effort to see live, which is all the more amazing because he actually comes to Adelaide on tour, I've seen him several times, and even caught the plastic cup from the Nirvana gargle solo.

The only thing I find disappointing is that he just made up vaguely german sounds for the 99 Luftballons part in Hooked on Polkas. But I forgive him.
posted by Marticus at 4:19 AM on April 13, 2020 [1 favorite]


Marticus: The only thing I find disappointing is that he just made up vaguely german sounds for the 99 Luftballons part in Hooked on Polkas. But I forgive him.

If it helps, he tried:

Al sings the original German version of "99 Red Balloons" (titled "99 Luftballons"), though he mixes up some words and syllables and some of it comes out as nonsense.

He's trying to do:

99 Luftballons
Auf ihrem Weg zum Horizont
Hielt man für Ufos aus dem All
Darum schickte ein General
posted by WCityMike at 6:23 PM on April 13, 2020 [2 favorites]


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