In this post, I’m going to take Weird Al more seriously than he was probably ever intended to be taken. But here’s the thing: I’ve made a small career for myself out of music, and none of it would have happened if I hadn’t been exposed to “Yoda” by pure happenstance one time in late elementary school. Loads of albums and small releases in varying groups across the spectrum of musical styles later, I feel confident attributing my eclectic taste and much of my appreciation for all things white and nerdy to Mr. Yankovic. So, when he announced recently that he’s embarking on a tour of deep cuts and lesser known songs, I was pretty quick to assemble a playlist of all of the songs I listened to as a kid (and to be honest, at least once a year up to this, my 30th year), which might be a part of the show. The track list is 25 songs long. For #TopTenTuesday, I have painstakingly narrowed it to 10 tracks. Here they are, complete with links and brief commentary.
#10: “You Don’t Love Me Anymore”
Weird Al has a bunch of pain songs– that is, songs about literal, physically painful things. They’re basically just lists of agonizing experiences, and for the 11 year old living in a grown man’s body, they are completely hilarious. “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” is one of his most depraved, juxtaposing incredible slapstick with cliched love lyrics like “You slammed my face down on the barbecue grill / now my scars are all healing, but my heart never will.”
#9: “Gotta Boogie”
As with any vanity tour, you can bet there will be a few throwbacks to the beginning. This is one I heard my idiot friend in middle school reciting once, and it just stuck in the weird pop culture trap that is my brain. Its central pun is groan worthy enough before he begins chasing people around with a booger on his finger near the end. The track is thoroughly forgotten, which means it’s primed for resurrection.
#8: “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung”
Speaking of that first album, here’s another hilariously bizarre song. It really showcases Weird Al’s occasional dark sense of humor in a delightful Beatlesque, “When I’m Sixty-Four” feel. It’s pretty brutal, actually. You feel bad laughing, but you do it anyway.
#7: “Frank’s 2000″ TV”
. . . And then, of course, it turns out that some of the original songs Weird Al writes are actually, just, really solidly crafted pop songs. This is one of those. It’s technically a pastiche, or style parody, of REM, but I think I like it better than most REM songs I’ve heard. It’s got some fantastic lyrical gags, as many of his songs do, but it’s also got some nice vocal arranging in the choruses. I hear this one once, and it’s in my head for weeks. Please play this song, Al. Thanks.
#6: “Hardware Store”
Weird Al has his typical wheelhouse of song topics– food, TV, physical agony etc. This one doesn’t really fall into any of those. It’s about a dude who is just manically excited for a hardware store to open. It actually resonates with me pretty well given my hometown. It’s so quiet there that when our Price Chopper opened, they had a live band play in the store to celebrate. You get the idea. Personal connections aside, the song boasts an insane bridge-list of tools and materials at 2:25. I also appreciate the raw drama of the padded choral vocals on the choruses. Check it.
#5 “Everything You Know Is Wrong”
What middle school kid wouldn’t appreciate the sheer randomness of this one off of Al’s most revered album, Bad Hair Day? The floating disembodied head of Col. Sander’s claiming black is white, up is down, and short is long is exactly the kind of weirdly memorable, oddly hilarious image sure to stick with you into adulthood, and showcases an absurdist streak in Al’s sense of humor.
#4: “Weasel Stomping Day”
Okay, so I don’t actually expect them to play this one, but I do love its squeaky clean 1950s sound and brutally inhumane lyrical blend. It’s sort of a parody of an entire decade and culture in that way. It’s tradition. That makes it okay.
#3: “Skipper Dan”
Another darkly funny one, “Skipper Dan” tells the tale of a talent wasted. It’s got some pretty astute pop songwriting. It sticks in your brain, forcing its really, really sad story to play over and over in your head. That’s good, right?
#2 “I Remember Larry”
This one is all about the buildup. Two verses and a bridge leading to the twisted final verse are cast in a light, uptempo, major alt-rock feel. The music so completely overlooks the final verse’s lyrics that the its content almost seems forgotten, a stark set of lines that pass as lightly as the rest of it, which makes it even funnier. Also, pan flutes on the bridge? Why not.
I tortured my dear, sweet mother with this song when it first came out. She’s heard it more times than should be legal. But, hey, at least I learned what a colonic irrigation is. Its 11 absurdist minutes have tattooed themselves into the minds of a lot of people. It’s not a parody or pastiche; it’s just pure insanity. If Al plays it, I might just rush the stage, knock him over, and sing the whole damn thing myself.