Hey! Welcome to the second annual Weird Al Week! Over the course of seven days, Milwaukee Record will fill your feed with fresh, funny, and slightly fanatical Al-related materiel. It all leads up to Weird Al’s “Strings Attached” show at the Miller High Life Theatre on July 27! Fun!
Last year, “Weird Al” Yankovic delighted hardcore fans with a stripped-down tour of deep cuts, rarities, and original songs. This year’s “Strings Attached” tour boasts a return to classic parodies (now backed by a symphony orchestra), though not all of them have made the cut. In June, Al revealed that his set list would not include “Eat It” and “Fat”—a.k.a. his Michael Jackson parodies. “I don’t know if that’s going to be permanent or not,” Al told Billboard, “but we just felt that with what’s happened recently with the HBO documentaries [Leaving Neverland], we didn’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable.”
Good on Al. But what about his other songs? Are there certain classic tracks that probably couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be played today? We busted out our collection of dubbed Al cassettes and found a few songs that might be a little iffy in 2019. (Note: Relax, these selections are all in good fun. Just like the songs! It’s a testament to Al’s goodnatured humor that he can get away with, say, a song filled with nothing but Amish jokes.)
“Buckingham Blues” – “Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)
Search the oeuvre of someone who’s written pop-culture-inspired parody songs for nearly 40 years and you’ll find oodles of outdated references. Cable TV, paper checks, Eddie Vedder, etc. But then there are the old references that are more uncomfortable than quaint. Take “Buckingham Blues,” an original song from Al’s 1983 self-titled debut. It’s a then-timely goof on Prince Charles and Princess Diana, originally penned as a direct parody of John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane.” (The Cougar turned Al down.) Diana’s tragic death in 1997, however, has rendered the already dated song all but unplayable. Sorry, Chuck and Diane.
“Girls Just Want To Have Lunch” – Dare To Be Stupid (1985)
In the history of Al’s food-related parodies, “Girls Just Want To Have Lunch” ranks pretty low, somewhere between “Livin’ In The Fridge” and “The White Stuff.” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” is a classic, of course, but taking a song of female empowerment and turning it into an extended “ladies sure love to eat!” gag isn’t the best look these days. Still, the line “They’re always in the mood for something to munch” always made us laugh.
“Christmas At Ground Zero” – Polka Party! (1986)
On his 1983 debut, Al took the ubiquitous “Happy Birthday” and warped it into his own liking. So why not apply his talents to a traditional Christmas song? Enter the Phil Spector-esque “Christmas At Ground Zero,” a song that perplexed Al’s record label in 1986, and a song that was mothballed after September 11, 2001. “The sad part is, I can’t really play the song live anymore because too many people misunderstand the connotations of Ground Zero,” Al told The A.V. Club in 2011. “It’s not a reference to 9/11, obviously. It was written in 1987 [sic] when ‘ground zero’ just meant the epicenter of a nuclear attack.” The video’s still a hoot, though!
“Lasagna” – Even Worse (1988)
Again, we’re not suggesting any of these songs are offensive, so save your fingers on the “PC culture run amok!” tweet. Like Al, we’re just having fun! Still, “Lasagna” features the Weird One rattling off a bunch of Italian stereotypes while employing a self-described “bad Italian accent.” And it’s a parody of a traditional Mexican folk song! Weird. Happily, Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of of all the Italian dishes mentioned in “Lasagna,” which is nice. Thank you, Wikipedia!
“Taco Grande” – Off The Deep End (1992)
“Trigger Happy” – Off The Deep End (1992)
There’s a scene in UHF where a random toothless dude named Earl Ramsey says, “Guns don’t kill people…I do.” It’s a throwaway jab at gun nuts; ditto this Beach Boys-esque original from Off The Deep End. “Well you can’t take my guns away, I got a Constitutional right,” sings the delusional (and dangerous) narrator. “Yeah, I gotta be ready if the commies attack us tonight!” Unfortunately, with random gun violence now a depressing fact of life in the United States, lines like “Got a brand new semi-automatic weapon with a laser sight / Oh, I’m prayin’ somebody tries to break in here tonight” aren’t very cute. And the part where poor Fluffy the cat “takes a round” is heartbreaking.
“Pretty Fly For A Rabbi” – Running With Scissors (1999)
Okay, this one’s pretty rough. If you’re in the mood for nothing but moldy stereotypes, try “Canadian Idiot” instead. Plus, good god, The Offspring are terrible.
“Trapped In The Drive-Thru” – Straight Outta Lynwood (2006)
Re-read the intro, but change “Michael Jackson” to “R. Kelly.”