My Top 10 “Weird Al” Yankovic Original Songs

Last April Fools’ Day, I counted down my Top 10 “Weird Al” Yankovic parodies. It was a great list, and it fit the day perfectly.

Apart from writing and recording such inspired parodies, he also does what are called “style parodies”, where he lampoons a particular band or artist’s style of music. It’s not changing the words of an existing song; it’s writing original lyrics and music, sometimes in genres of certain artists. Over the years, only a small handful of these were released as singles. Although some of his style parodies will appear on this list, it’s really a Top 10 list of his original songs.

To compile this list, I checked out the track listings for all his albums on their respective Wikipedia pages, jotting down the ones that I remember really liking and making an initial ranking. Then I listened to the 20-ish songs I had listed. What surprised me is that beyond my top five, my re-listening rankings didn’t match my memory rankings. Maybe I’m older and I find different things funnier now. Whatever the reason, let’s start the Top 10:

 

#10 – Midnight Star

Al would later cover similar ground in songs like Jerry Springer (parody of Barenaked Ladies’ One Week) and TMZ (parody of Taylor Swift’s You Belong with Me), but he does it first in this second track from In 3-D, his second album. He sings about the made-up tabloid fodder that you’d find in those silly magazines in the supermarket checkout line. You know the ones that feature stories about UFOs landing and how to improve bust sizes. But the public’s gonna read them, right? This particular song holds a special place in my heart because my roommate freshman year in college was part of an a capella group, and he borrowed my In 3-D cassette to arrange this song for his group!

 

#9 – Lame Claim to Fame

Apparently this is a style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids. I don’t know who/what that is, but this track from his most recent album Mandatory Fun is a lot of fun. It’s all about people who have tenuous connections or banal encounters with celebrities. Maybe using the same napkin dispenser at a Taco Bell or having the same plumber. I have such a connection, I guess, as I stood about fifteen feet away from Billy Joel an hour or so before the opening night of his Storm Front tour when he came out to check out the stage from a distance, only I didn’t realize it was him until he walked away. Pretty lame, right? I must point out my favorite line in the song: “I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who knows Kevin Bacon.” Six degrees of awesomeness!

 

#8 – The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

From his album UHF—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff, this long and rambly story is a style parody of Gordon Litefoot and Harry Chapin—two master songwriter/storytellers who have some epically told tales in their music. Respectfully, they’re responsible for weighty songs The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Cats in the Cradle. To parody that with a family road trip to such an inane location—the titular ball of twine—is comic genius. The list of other places the family has been and the difficulties they have on the journey, along with the hitchhiker they pick up, are hysterical. Even more so are the various words used to rhyme with “Minnesota”!

 

#7 – When I Was Your Age

As I say in the introduction to this list, 46-year-old me listening to these songs again had some slightly different opinions than memories of listening to these songs when I was younger. Off the Deep End came out when I was in college, and its largest draw, rightfully so, is the Nirvana parody Smells Like Nirvana. This song made my initial list on strength of concept alone—a crotchety old grandfather ranting about how kids have it easier today—but listening to it as an adult parent and teacher, looking at what my children and students have that I don’t—it takes on new meaning and is even funnier. I find myself spouting “when I was your age” stories all the time now, particular in regards to phones. When I was young and the phone rang, everyone in the house ran to it to be the one who answered and found out who it was; now when the phone rings, we look and see who it is and often choose not to answer. Oh my!

 

#6 – Dare To Be Stupid

The title track from Al’s third album, and quite honestly the best sounding Devo song not recorded by Devo. Seriously, Al’s that spot-on with this one. Because I have all his earlier albums on cassette, I don’t listen to them as often as I did in high school and college. I think I forgot how much fun this song is. The lyrics are filled with lots of cliché statements—like putting all your eggs in one basket—and pop culture references of the era—being a coffee achiever or squeezing the Charmin when Mr. Whipple’s not around. In fact, it’s not fair to call this a parody of Devo. It’s more of an homage, and Al and his gang don’t hold back at all in the video.

 

#5 – Dog Eat Dog

When I did my countdown of parodies last April Fools’ Day, I strived to feature one song from each album. Unfortunately, I did not include one from Polka Party! I hope this makes up for it, as this is an outstanding style parody of Talking Heads. The song tells about a mindless, corporate drone working in a cubicle. In fact, I’m shocked that the movie Office Space didn’t use this song in some capacity! I mean, the similarities between them are uncanny. For example, in Office Space, Milton laments Lumberg taking his red stapler and mutters “That’s my stapler” through most of the film. In this song, recorded thirteen years earlier, Al sings “This is not my beautiful stapler”—brilliantly lifting from Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime. I’ve seen him perform this song in concert, wearing a grossly oversized white suit to further parody David Byrne. Just amazing.

 

#4 – Craigslist

Last year’s list ended with the song eBay (parody of The Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way) from the album Poodle Hat. Two albums later on Alpocalypse, he tackled another online bartering site. Okay, maybe eBay is more of an auction site. But Craiglist is a virtual clearinghouse of all sorts of stuff—people selling items, people looking to buy items, people offering services, people seeking services, people looking for love or more. The site—well, really some of the users of the site—is ripe for mockery. But to do it to a tune inspired by The Doors?! Yeah, you read that right. The lyrics are funny enough as is, but combined with the music and Al’s pitch perfect Jim Morrison impression, it’s brilliant. And super psychedelic in the final verse about a trash can of Styrofoam peanuts.

 

#3 – Your Horoscope for Today

Everyone knows that newspaper horoscopes are written positively to give people hope, and vaguely to allow people to apply them to whatever the heck they want. Well, imagine if they weren’t written so positively. Imagine they referred to your life as pathetic or commented on your explosive flatulence. Okay, so fart jokes are pretty low-brow, but who cares? This song races through the twelve signs of the zodiac with such gleeful ska-infused abandon that it’s hard not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the predictions. Taken from his album Running with Scissors, I remember my first time listening to this song—or several times because I was laughing so loud and the song goes so quickly that I had to replay it. A lot.

 

#2 – Skipper Dan

Alpocalypse gets a second track in the top five of this countdown, rightfully so. If this was a list of Top 10 “Weird Al” songs that tell a great story, this one would top it. You can feel the main character’s plight in this supposed Weezer style parody (I don’t really hear that). It tells the tale of a guy who dreamed of becoming an actor. His journey started off so hopeful through high school and college, but instead of ending up on Broadway or in Quentin Tarantino films, he’s doing a very different kind of acting—being a tour guide on a theme park’s jungle cruise ride. No offense to people with this job, as I’m sure many of them love their job. I mean, working at an amusement park for a living; pretty cool, right? But with the fame of acting being a tricky career to break into, I’m sure some of them had bigger dreams like Dan. Either way, there’s a sincerity in the way Al sings these lyrics.

 

Before I get to MY FAVORITE “WEIRD AL” PARODY, here are five Honorable Mentions:

I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead – From his first album, this song resists those trying to center themselves. I remember hearing it on Dr. Demento when I was younger and enjoying the beat, though I doubt I knew what it meant.

Callin’ in Sick – This grunge-inspired song from Bad Hair Day sings about something we all want to do. So next time you take an illicit sick day, listen to this song.

One More Minute – Some doo-wop from Dare To Be Stupid, which lists lots of disgusting or dangerous things the singer would rather do than spend any more time with an ex.

Wanna B Ur Lover – I wasn’t as big a fan of this song from Poodle Hat when I first heard it. But seeing Al perform it in concert, wandering through the audience and singing the lame and sleazy pick-up lines to fans elevate it to a classic.

Gotta Boogie – Also from his first album, the title makes you think this is a parody of disco. The music kinda goes there, but the lyrics? ’Snot what it’s all about.

 

And finally…

#1 – BOB

I’ve done two Top 10 lists of “Weird Al” songs now, on two consecutive April Fools’ Days, and both of them end with a song on his Poodle Hat album. Between the two countdowns, I’ve featured four songs from this album! Anyway, this is hands down the best track on the album, and perhaps one of the best songs he’s ever written. Don’t let the simple name fool you, as it’s packed with double meaning. First off, it’s a style parody of Bob Dylan. The video is an almost perfect remake of Dylan’s video for Subterranean Homesick Blues—the one where Dylan stands there with cue cards of certain words from the song. Al does the same thing, but if you only listened to the song without the video, you might not realize what’s so cool about the seemingly arbitrary lyrics. If you watch the video and look carefully at each card, you might see that each line of the song is a palindrome. That’s all this song is—a series of palindromes, some of which contain really funny images. Add that to the fact that the title is also a palindrome, and this song really rocks.

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? Fire away!

Comments

  1. Paula McKeever says:

    Heh heh….didn’t know about Bob until our son told us about your list. But before he could press play, I saw the setting for the video and slipped into a time warp. Good timing: Mr. Zimmerman got his Nobel today. And remember: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Thanks for the list!

Speak Your Mind

*