“Weird Al” Yankovic

TrackAlbum
Amish ParadiseBad Hair Day
Like A SurgeonDare To Be Stupid
Pretty Fly For A RabbiRunning With Scissors
The Saga BeginsRunning With Scissors
Frank’'s 2000" TVAlapalooza
BobPoodle Hat
Another One Rides The Bus“Weird Al”” Yankovic
eBayPoodle Hat
Jurassic ParkAlapalooza
Smells Like NirvanaOff The Deep End

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Contributors: Ian Ashleigh & David Lewis

As satirists and parodists go, “Weird Al” Yankovic is up there with the best. In some American music circles it is seen as a rite of passage to have Yankovic parody your song. If he does your song, you can assume to have arrived. He is also an accomplished songwriter in his own right. The parodies are always clever and never spiteful. Yankovic prides himself in writing songs that can be enjoyed by a ‘family audience’.

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born in California in October 1959 to a Yugoslav father and an Italian English mother. His parents bought him accordion lessons just prior to his 6th birthday and Al records an accordion led track on each of his albums. Yankovic’s father had the attitude that his son should do for a living whatever makes you happy, which we would suggest he does with aplomb.

Between 1983 and 2011, “Weird Al” Yankovic released 12 studio albums, a selection of video albums, and a number of compilations. The selections err towards the parody.

Amish Paradise is a parody of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise which in turn is based on Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Following confusion as to whether or not Coolio actually gave his permission for the recording, Yankovic always speaks personally to the artist to discuss the parody. Like A Surgeon is based on the Madonna song and something I played to my brother as he studied for his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons. Pretty Fly For A Rabbi ticks just about every box in the parody stakes, although the non-Jewish ear may not get all the jokes. For the record, Yankovic states he is a Christian and there is no indication of any Jewish heritage.

The Saga Begins is the ultimate perfect double homage, telling the story of Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace using the tune, phrasing and multiple rhyming schemes of Don McLean’s American Pie. It is said that Yankovic watched the film countless times to tell the story correctly. Both McLean and George Lucas (producer of the Star Wars films) thoroughly approve of the song.

Frank’s 2000″ TV is a parody of R.E.M.’s early work rather than a particular song, but again, Yankovic displays his ability to capture the essence of the band without using parody to mock.

Bob is perhaps the funniest Dylan parody ever. Loosely based on Subterraenean Homesick Blues, it is all palindromes. Even the title. It’s one of the cleverest lyrics that Al has done: “May a moody baby doom a yam.”

Weird Al started off on the Howard Stern show, playing pop parodies with an accordion in a polka style – Another One Rides The Bus is a great take on Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust.

eBay echoes the Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way. Its refrain, “Tell me why” followed by “I bought (items of pretty much worthless pop culture ephemera, including one of Shatner’s toupées)” is quite brilliant.

The seemingly obtuse lyrics of Macarthur Park get a workout with Al’s version of Jurassic Park. Like The Saga Begins it tells the story of the movie extremely well, and with great cleverness.

And finally, Smells Like Nirvana got approval from Kurt Cobain (who didn’t approve of much in the music industry): “A Garage Band from Seattle / Well it sure beats, raising cattle … ”

David’s near misses included Al’s take on Avril Lavigne’s Complicated, and I Lost On Jeopardy, based on the Greg Kihn Band’s Our Love’s In Jeopardy.

White And Nerdy based on Ridin’ by Chamillionaire, and I’ll Sue Ya – a style parody of Rage Against The Machine, missed Ian’s cut.

The toe-curling parody of R. Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet, Trapped In The Drive-Thru, has to be heard, but maybe only once!

Having Weird Al pick out one of your songs for treatment is one of the ultimate accolades. His gentle ribbing, his clever wordplay, his exceptional musicianship, have earned him the respect of those he’s parodied plus those who would like him to parody them.

Latest news and insider info on pop satirist “Weird Al” Yankovic

The web log of “Weird Al” Yankovic

World of Weird Al Yankovic forum

“Weird Al” Yankovic biography (iTunes)

A note for readers taking score: Ian Ashleigh picked tracks 1-5, David Lewis 6-10.

TopperPost #214

5 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Mar 5, 2014

    Great to revisit Weird Al on this excellent collaborative list. It was a hard one to do, I reckon. The balancing act is choosing for the music, the lyric or the video. Weird Al, like Peter Gabriel’s singles, is one where my chosen medium is “The Ultimate Video Collection” on DVD, so it’s hard to tell what you’re judging, music, words or pictures. And I just watched Bob twice and The Saga Begins twice. Until you guys pointed it out I hadn’t even noticed the palindromes (or as I haven’t watched it for years, had forgotten!). I think The Saga Begins has to be my favourite though it’s fighting for first place with UHF (easy to find on YouTube) where he does popular films, popular TV, plus Guns ‘n’ Roses, Prince, Talking Heads, Randy Newman, The Beatles, George Michael, Billy Idol, Peter Gabriel, ZZ Top and INXS all in one video.

    The DVD is missing a few from the Toppermost list, presumably because they didn’t have videos? Another One Rides The Bus isn’t on there, nor Pretty Fly for a Rabbi nor eBay (but the DVD came out in 2003). I’d never looked at the credits before … Mark Knopfler did the guitar on Beverly Hillbillies / Money for Nothing, Eat It has the same gang leader as Beat It. Michael Jackson let them use the BAD set for FAT.

  2. Calvin Rydbom
    Mar 5, 2014

    Not to be “That Guy”, but one thing – Weird Al started out on the Dr. Demento not Howard Stern, and was part of the Demento Crew from around 1976 well into the early 1980s. Stern wasn’t even a full time Disc Jockey yet when Weird Al’s first parody showed up on the Demento show. To a US kid in the late 70s Dr. Demento was that one thing out there that was just plain weird and funny.

    Best Line ever for me wasn’t even in a song. He was on the Tonight Show and to promote his 1989 Film “U.H.F.” and while describing it as the semi-biographical story of a musician he said “It’s very similar to Purple Rain but it is intentionally funny.”

    Should be noted that Prince has refused every request to let Al do a song parody and once was so upset with him he had his lawyers send Al a letter demanding he not try to make eye contact with him at an upcoming event where they were to be seated close to each other.

  3. Andrew Shields
    Mar 5, 2014

    Good list, but my favourite Dylan parody remains Phil Ochs’ imitation of him on ‘The Doll House’…

    There was also a great Dylan parody once on a British radio comedy show which had him doing Bucks Fizz ‘Making Your Mind Up’ and Leonard Cohen doing another Eurovision song. Haven’t been able to track it down since, unfortunately..

  4. David Lewis
    Mar 5, 2014

    Dr Demento! Aargh! Many humble apologies!

    Another one which made my short list was ‘Bedrock Anthem’, a brilliant mashing up of The Flintstones and ‘Under the Bridge’ and ‘Give it Away’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’.

  5. Andrew Shields
    Mar 6, 2014

    Found it – it was on a show called Radio Active. Here’s the clip.

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