Tag: Weird Al

Weird Al Originals

"Weird Al" Yankovic's Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour kicks off tonight in Poughkeepsie, NY. This tour is unique: rather than the usual costume-filled, parody-focused multimedia extravaganza (which I've seen six, or maybe eight, or maybe ten times; as I noted in yesterday's post, I've honestly lost track at this point), Al will be focusing on his original songs.

Consensus among Weird Al fans is, the originals are better than the parodies. That point has been a fixture of Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al series, which, for those of you just joining us, is what got me talking about Weird Al these past few posts.

I love Al's originals, and I wonder which ones he'll play. He's kept the set list under wraps, but he confirmed two things in a Rolling Stone interview last October: he'll be playing Albuquerque, and he won't be playing Hardware Store. Hardware Store is a fan favorite, so it's disappointing to hear it won't be part of the tour -- but Al explains, reasonably, that it's just too complex to play live on stage.

And if Hardware Store is too complicated, I'm guessing we won't be hearing Genius in France, either. That's a shame too -- but man, there are plenty of other great options.

I think Dare to Be Stupid is a given. I can't imagine making a list of original Weird Al songs without it.

I've seen him perform Dog Eat Dog, One More Minute, and The Night Santa Went Crazy live before. I'm not sure if that makes them likely contenders for the Vanity Tour, though -- after all, if he's focusing on lesser-known songs, breaking out the originals he's done on previous tours doesn't necessarily fit the theme.

But there are plenty of other great choices. Frank's 2000 Inch TV and Everything You Know is Wrong are old favorites. Close, But No Cigar features some of my favorite lyrics ("She had me sweatin' like Nixon every time I was near; my heart was beatin' like a Buddy Rich solo"). His last album, Mandatory Fun, has some great damn originals, including Lame Claim to Fame, Mission Statement, and First World Problems.

Or maybe -- and perhaps most exciting of all -- he'll do some new stuff. This is, after all, not one of those concerts that people are going to because they want to hear the hits.

I'm sure fans will be sharing the set list by tonight, though I'll try not to peek; I want to be surprised by the time he makes it to Phoenix in May.

And tonight's set list won't be every song he'll play on the tour; Al said in the Rolling Stone interview that he'd have two shows' worth of material ready.

Maybe I'll have to head down to Tucson so I can see him twice...

Weird Al in Concert

This is the latest in a series of stories about my experiences as a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic, inspired by Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al series. Previously, I've posted about my earliest encounters with Al's work, and my memory of the first time I heard I Remember Larry. This one is about exactly what it says on the tin.

I'm not sure how many times I've seen Weird Al in concert, but it's at least six.

The first time would have been at the Arizona State Fair in 1997. I remember he played Dare to Be Stupid and Dog Eat Dog. But the most memorable thing about that concert is that it was the first time I ever asked a girl out.

I had just turned fifteen. She was the girl who I would spend most of high school hopelessly, madly in love with. Unrequited, mostly.

And she said yes.

I asked a girl out, for the very first time; a girl I was crushing on, badly. And she said yes. My knees were jelly but it was all worth it. It felt good. Good enough that when she called me a few days later to tell me she couldn't make it because she had church, okay, that was a disappointment, but it still felt pretty good that she'd said yes at first.

The next Weird Al show I remember for sure was at Celebrity Theater. I'm pretty sure that was the show where he did The Night Santa Went Crazy and the fake-snow machine got all gummed up and dumped a huge pile of white crap on some poor bastard in the front row. (My dad swears that was one of the State Fair shows, but my brother and I agree it was at Celebrity.)

And I saw him again at the State Fair sometime after Running with Scissors; my dad and brother were with me, as was my then-girlfriend. I remember this one because there was a bit he'd do for the encore; a Jedi-hooded figure would come out and work the audience a bit, then pull back the hood to reveal...that it wasn't Al, it was the keyboard player. My brother made fun of me because I fell for it, even though we'd already seen them do that bit at a previous show.

We saw him at the Dodge Theater some time after that. I remember it was a relatively small show for the Dodge; they partitioned off the ends of the hall. I also remember that the very next night, we saw Ringo Starr's' All-Starr Band at the same venue -- to a larger but far more lethargic audience. Weird Al put on a better show than a goddamn Beatle.

And I remember seeing him again at the State Fair, where, unlike every other time I'd seen him, he put the Star Wars material right before intermission, instead of using it as his encore. What, then, would be the encore? I wondered. I was quite excited when I found out the answer: when he came out and played the opening notes of Albuquerque, I actually cheered.

The last time I saw him was at the Celebrity again. Dad and I got front-row seats. And got his spit on us during the gargling part of Smells Like Nirvana.

Those are the six shows I definitely remember as six distinct shows. I'm pretty sure there were some other ones in there too. I wanna say there was at least one more show at the fair and one more at the Celebrity. But it's been twenty fucking years, and it's all started to get a little hazy.

I didn't make it to any of the shows on the Mandatory Fun tour. But I'm damned excited about the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, which kicks off tomorrow night and promises to be unlike any Weird Al show I've ever seen before, whether I've been to six of them, eight, ten, or whatever. No costumes, no videos, few parodies. A concert of Weird Al originals.

I've got my tickets for the Phoenix show. I wonder what he'll play?

I Remember I Remember Larry

Boy, it's been awhile, hasn't it?

I got sick, and busy. This post is about the Weird Al song I Remember Larry, and I originally intended to post it to coincide with Nathan Rabin's entry on I Remember Larry in his The Weird Accordion to Al series. That went up on December 20. So...yeah, I've been sitting on this one awhile.


In 1996, I moved back to my hometown and started high school. I met some new friends and started hanging out with them at lunchtime.

One day, one of them handed me his Walkman and his headphones and told me I had to listen to this song.

The tape was Bad Hair Day. I was something of a casual Weird Al fan by that point; I'd heard Amish Paradise and Gump. I may even have bought the Gump single by that point; I'm not sure. But I don't think I'd heard any of the other songs on the album, and I'd certainly never heard the one my friend played for me that day.

It was I Remember Larry and my friend was right: it was funny. It's one of Al's cheerful, upbeat songs that ends in murder (I don't think I'd heard Good Old Days yet at that point, but it's certainly reminiscent of that earlier song, albeit bouncier and featuring a much more relatable protagonist).

Some sixteen and a half years later, the kid who played I Remember Larry for me on his Walkman performed my wedding.

Brad performs a wedding

Now, I'm not saying there's a clear path from point A to point B here. I'm not saying that Brad and I became and remained close friends because of I Remember Larry. But I suspect our mutual appreciation for pitch-black humor wrapped in an ironically cheerful veneer is a big part of why we clicked.

He had me keep listening through Phony Calls and The Night Santa Went Crazy, too.

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.

Babysitting

Not much time to write this evening as my wife and I are taking care of our two-year-old nephew. So far we've made it through a Ninja Turtles (2012), a Yo Gabba Gabba (with Weird Al!) and a Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

That's after a trip to the comic shop -- I still haven't finished the comics I bought two weeks ago, but I had to grab the new Astro City.

Nephew made a beeline for the display case with the Batman figures in it. His favorite was the Aragonés one. He's got good taste.

Genius in France

Yes, the phrase I was hinting at in last night's post was "Genius in France" -- Weird Al's tribute to Zappa, featuring Dweezil on the intro.

Last night I noted that Zappa was often dismissed as a novelty act. Well, Weird Al is a novelty act, and proud of it, but I've heard people take that to mean he's not much of a musician.

But here's the thing: Al and his band are the ultimate chameleons, and that takes some serious talent. They've successfully imitated (deep breath) Eminem, Avril Lavigne, Bob Dylan, Don McLean, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Devo, both Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus, Ritchie Valens, the Talking Heads, Bob Marley, Green Day, the Presidents of the United States of America, Coolio, Billy Joel, They Might Be Giants, R Kelly, Lady Gaga, Nirvana, the Doors, Usher, Queen, John Mellencamp, the Kinks, Joan Jett, the Beatles, Stevie Knicks, the New Kids on the Block, the B-52's, the Police, Randy Newman, Huey Lewis and the News, Tiffany, Billy Idol, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soul Asylum, Elvis Costello, Nine Inch Nails, the Barenaked ladies, and, yes, Frank Zappa, to name a few -- and on more than one occasion I've seen them do probably half that list in one night.

Imitating one band's style may be easy, but imitating dozens' takes some chops. And being consistently funny while doing it for 35 years is, near as I can tell, unique.