“Eat It” (1984)
“It was pretty obvious back then that Michael Jackson was the biggest star in the universe. Everything revolved around him. ‘Eat It’ is not that clever a variation on ‘Beat It.’ It’s probably the most obvious pun. If YouTube had existed in 1984, there would have been a million ‘Eat It’ parodies. I just gravitated toward the most obvious parody, and it seemed to work. This really was a bona fide hit. That was number one in Australia, number 12 in the States.
If it hadn’t been for Michael Jackson, I don’t know that I would have a career to this day, because getting permission from him in 1984 opened a whole lot of doors for me. Prior to that, we were getting a lot of resistance and reluctance from people who were like, ‘I don’t know about this Weird Al guy and if I should let him do a parody.’ But after we were able to tell them, ‘Well, Michael Jackson didn’t seem to have a problem with it,’ they were like, ‘Well, sure! If it’s OK with Michael, it certainly should be OK with me.’ That logic seems to work.
Up until ‘White & Nerdy,’ that was my biggest hit, and it really put me on the map and made me a recognizable figure after the ‘Eat It’ video went into heavy rotation on MTV, to the point where I was continually stopped on the street and pointed at as the ‘Eat It’ guy. I had two videos on prior to ‘Eat It.’ I had the video for ‘Ricky’ and the video for ‘I Love Rocky Road.’ Both of them got rotation, mostly because MTV needed videos.
Those videos weren’t anything terribly special or funny, but MTV had a bit of a problem in that they decided in 1981 to start a 24-hour music video channel, and there weren’t a lot of music videos around.They were kind of going, ‘Gee, I wish somebody would make some videos!’ So anybody who submitted videos to them, they were happy to put them in the pipeline. So I got a lot of early airplay even though I maybe didn’t deserve to back then.”
“Polkas on 45″ (1984)
“I had been doing some polka medley stuff in concert prior to that, but In 3D had the first one I recorded. That was ‘Polkas on 45,’ which had a lot of classic rock stuff like Hendrix and the Who and the Beatles. It was really fun. People liked it so much that it became a staple—in fact, on the one or two albums where we haven’t had a polka medley, there has been rioting in the street. People just won’t stand for that. So now I know you have to have a polka medley on every album. We do not want the people to rise up, unless I’m in charge. I grew up playing the accordion, and when you play the accordion every song you play ends up sounding kind of like a polka. That was the running joke when I was a teenager and none of my friends wanted me to join their rock bands because I played the accordion.”
“Buy Me a Condo” (1984)
“People were talking about yuppies a lot, especially in the early ‘80s, and that was really taking over the zeitgeist. So that’s why I wrote songs like ‘Buy Me a Condo.’ I like things that are diametrically opposed, so I thought I’d equate the yuppie culture with a Jamaican vibe. Two things that didn’t seem to quite go together so well. So that was my early reggae song.”
“One More Minute” (1985)
“It was inspired by real life incidents. It certainly wasn’t an accurate description in the song. I had started writing the album shortly after a painful break-up, and I wasn’t feeling funny, I wasn’t in a funny mood, and thought maybe I should take this bitterness and angst and write a funny, bitter love song about it. That wound up being the song.
Once I wrote it, it was a cathartic experience for me, and I was able to write the rest of the album. It has become a cathartic experience for other people now. More than a few people have told me whenever they’re going through a painful break-up, they just crank ‘One More Minute’ and it makes them feel a little better. However, ‘She Never Told Me She Was a Mime’ had no basis in reality. That was just a very random love song. I had never written a song about a mime and had to have it in my oeuvre somewhere.”
“Dog Eat Dog” (1986)
“That came from me working in my last day job. I was working for a radio syndication company called Westwood One. I worked originally in the mail room, and then I worked in the traffic department, where my whole job was to call up radio stations to make sure they played all their Trident spots during the show. It was a little bit, I don’t want to say humiliating, but it was odd for me because at that point I had built up kind of a reputation through the Dr. Demento show, so a lot of these radio stations knew who I was. So they were like, ‘Al Yankovic, the ‘Another One Rides the Bus’ guy? What do you want?’ And I’d be calling to make sure they played all their commercial spots during the show. It was always awkward.
That was my exposure to office life and the banality of it and just how oppressively boring it was. So I mixed that up with a Talking Heads vibe, and that was one of my favorite songs from the album. We did that song on many of the concert tours after that with me wearing the big David Byrne suit.”