Category: Music

Early Weird Al Memories

As I mentioned last week, I've been avidly following Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al (today's entry: Harvey the Wonder Hamster from Alapalooza). As it happens, I've also been reading Nathan Rabin's Weird Al: The Book. All this Nathan Rabin stuff has really got me thinking about Weird Al.

I'm pretty sure the first time I ever saw Weird Al was in UHF, running on HBO a year or two after its release. My grandpa was channel-surfing; we came in right around the time George and Bob get to the TV station. Grandpa mistook Philo for Doc Brown and thought it was Back to the Future, so we kept it there; it wasn't long before we realized it was not in fact Back to the Future, but we liked what we saw enough to stick with it through the end.

I'd have probably been 8 or 9 years old. I didn't even catch the name of the movie; it'd be awhile before I saw it again. It was on its way to becoming a hard-to-find cult hit; I remember by the early '00s, there was like one video place that had a copy on VHS (the DVD wasn't out yet), and we'd rent it sometimes.

After UHF, I next saw Al on the PBS math show Square One TV. He did a song called Patterns, which is sadly not included on the Medium Rarities disc in his new "complete" collection.

He also appeared in the Mathnet segment, playing a sleazy DJ who Frankly and Tuesday suspected of accepting payola. Or possibly flyola.

A few years after that, we got cable, and we'd see Amish Paradise and Gump in regular rotation on MTV. I remember I was in eighth grade when Spy Hard came out; a classmate of mine was telling me about the opening Bond-parody number and said something like "What's that guy's name? Crazy Al?"

The first Weird Al CD I ever bought was the Gump single, which also featured the Spy Hard theme. It wasn't long after that I got the Permanent Record: Al in the Box set. The first Weird Al album I ever bought was Bad Hair Day -- and I think I'll come back to that later. Rabin's just a few songs away from getting to Bad Hair Day, and I expect I'll have some Bad Hair Day-related thoughts as he wends his way through the track list.

Shout-Out to Nathan Rabin

A few months back, I tried to start blogging regularly again.

It lasted five days and five posts, at which point I started experiencing some debilitating thumb pain (carpal tunnel?). The thumb pain's not gone but it's under better control, so maybe I'll take another crack at it.

As I noted at the time, there were a couple things that inspired me to give another shot at regular blogging. One was an angry Sonic the Hedgehog fan who was so incensed by a years-old series of blog posts about Ken Penders that he just had to tell me about it when he came across my name in an entirely unrelated conversation. (Since then I've actually toyed with the idea of reposting my old, 1997-era Sonic the Hedgehog comic reviews here, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find them. They were on the same hard drive as KateStory Book IX, which I went to all that trouble to recover nine years ago; I suspect the files are still somewhere in my giant stack of hard drives but I haven't been able to find them.)

But another big inspiration was a blog called Nathan Rabin's Happy Place.

I first became a fan of Nathan Rabin about a decade ago, when he was the head writer of The AV Club and writing a column then called My Year of Flops. Every week for a year, Rabin reviewed a movie that was a commercial failure and evaluated whether it was really as bad as its reputation suggests.

I love bad movies. I love good movies. I love movies that other people don't love. My Year of Flops was right smack-dab in my wheelhouse.

My Year of Flops was eventually completed and released as a book. But the column continued after that first year, under the title My World of Flops; it expanded beyond failed films to include failed books, albums, and recently even a failed presidential campaign.

The AV Club is no longer the kind of site that does features like My World of Flops. So Rabin has started his own, Patreon-supported blog, Nathan Rabin's Happy Place. He's still writing My World of Flops, and other, similar features where he examines lesser-loved media (like Cannon Films). He also talks about other stuff, from politics to brutally honest discussions of his life experiences, including financial hardships and struggles with depression.

But my favorite of his features right now is The Weird Accordion to Al. Rabin literally wrote the book on "Weird Al" Yankovic (it's called Weird Al: The Book), and now he's taking a song-by-song look at Al's entire discography. (As of this writing he's up to Talk Soup from Alapalooza.)

I love Weird Al. I've loved Weird Al for over 25 years. Hell, all this talk about Weird Al has me thinking maybe I'll write some posts about Weird Al. (They won't be as good as Rabin's. But they'll have the added benefit of being about me.)

If you're a "Weird Al" Yankovic fan, you owe it to yourself to read The Weird Accordion to Al. And hey, if you like what you see and can spare a little money for it, kick in on Nathan's Patreon.

It's not just that Nathan's work is enjoyable, insightful, and frequently funny. It's also that his enthusiasm for his blog is infectious. I read a post where he talked about how easy it's turned out to be to write blog posts every day, and I got to thinking, shit, I used to do that for free, I enjoyed it so much. And I thought, y'know, maybe I should start doing that again. I'm going to be writing about whatever the hell's on my mind anyway, whether it's here or on Brontoforumus or The Avocado or the Techdirt comments -- so what the hell, why not here?

So thanks, Nathan Rabin, for giving me the bug again. I don't think I'll manage the same pace I did back in '11-'13 (seven posts a week about Frank Zappa, five posts a week about other stuff), but I'm still going to try and post more often.

And I'm sure those Sonic the Hedgehog comic book reviews are around here somewhere.

The Zappa Kickstarter

Has it really been over two years since my last Zappa post? Well, time to dust off the most-used tag on this here blog.

If you're a Zappa fan, you've probably already heard about the Who the Fuck is Frank Zappa? Kickstarter. But in case you haven't:

Alex Winter (best-known as Bill from the Bill & Ted movies, but more frequently a director these days) is making a documentary about Frank. And as part of the process, he's helping Joe Travers to preserve and digitize the Zappa Vault.

Winter recently explained in Update #18 that the first million dollars raised in the Kickstarter campaign will all go to preserving the Vault, and that he won't put any Kickstarter dollars toward the documentary until and unless it passes $1 million. I think this shows he's got his priorities in order; I definitely want to see the documentary, but I agree with him that the most important step in preserving Zappa's legacy is preserving his work and making sure we don't lose it to degrading tape and film.

The Kickstarter runs through April 8. There are add-on rewards available, too, which don't require you to pledge to the Kickstarter and which will still be available after it ends.

You know, I've always wanted a Zappa for President T-shirt.

September

Yeah, I haven't exactly been keeping up my post-a-day habit.

I've been busy -- yes, busier than when I was planning my wedding -- and, well, it's been that kind of month. If I were to pick a single photo to sum up the kind of month I have been having, it would be this one:

Cone of Shame

So I've been busy. And I've also been a little wary of divulging too much about certain comings and goings and details of my life since last month's burglary. I don't think it's likely that the thieves are monitoring my blog, but it's not impossible.

Anyhow, I'm okay. It's been a tough month, but I'm hanging in there.

I turn 31 in a couple days. I admit that the future of this site isn't the biggest thing I'm considering, but it's on my mind.

Don't know if I'll get back to posting daily. But I liked doing it.

Don't know if I'll get back to daily Zappa posts, either -- I liked doing that, too, and I'm confident I could continue to do it for a long damn time, even if I continued to try not to use the same song twice -- but the bastard about looking for things on YouTube is you tend to find the same dozen or so videos repeated over and over again, with stuff you haven't seen buried somewhere around page 30. It kept taking me longer and longer to find something I hadn't posted before.

The site's probably due for a fresh coat of paint, too. I've spent enough hours of my day job fucking around with CSS that I've actually managed to develop an appreciation for rounded rectangles and box shadows. (But not gradients. Never gradients.) Of course, if I were to sell out my minimalist, oldschool street-cred with such eyecandy, I could make some back by getting rid of the red links and going with good old-fashioned blue. Possibly even straight-up #0000FF.

Or not. I'm hoping October's a better month, but so far it's not showing any indication of being less busy.

More Duke and Brock

Skipping straight to the Zappa post tonight, which isn't even really a Zappa post but another one of former bandmates George Duke and Napoleon Murphy Brock. In the studio circa 1978, with Sheila E on drums. Uploaded by zappainfrance.

That's What She Said

Duke and Brock in a weird, fun little interview that appears to have been filmed by cellular telephone, spending a lot of words saying not very much about funny turns of phrase that also say not very much.

(When I was in high school, our equivalent of "That's what she said" was "Bend over and I'll show you." Which I believe is a Christmas Vacation reference. Good times.)

Duke in '99

North Sea Jazz Festival. Uploaded by Radio6NL.

A bit about Frank, and some interesting talk about the difference between a piano and a synthesizer, and '80's-vintage synth and how far it had come by 1999.