'Weird Al' Yankovic: The Stories Behind The Songs

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“The Saga Begins” (1999)
“Stand-up comic Brian Posehn has a whole bit in his act where he talks about playing my stuff for his kids, and he won’t play them Michael Jackson. So years later they’ll be in college and hear Michael Jackson and think, ‘This guy’s totally ripping off Weird Al!’

A lot of people who aren’t maybe that tapped into pop culture, they learn about pop music from my albums in a reverse way. My albums are sort of like time capsules of all the biggest hits from the last couple of years. So people will learn about pop music through my songs. I did my Star Wars song ‘The Saga Begins’ in 1999, which was a parody of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie.’ Most kids of the Radio Disney age aren’t familiar with a hit from 1971. They just think, ‘Oh, Al’s got this song about Star Wars.’

What happened was the next year after my song came out, Madonna did like a disco cover version of ‘American Pie,’ and all these kids were going, ‘How come Madonna is doing an unfunny version of a Weird Al song? That’s bizarre!'”


“Genius In France” (2003)
“I put that at the end of an album because it’s a long song, but that was a real labor of love. That was obviously meant to sound like Frank Zappa. That was quite a challenge. I don’t like easy challenges. To do a pastiche of Zappa is quite an undertaking, and it’s meant to sound mostly like early to mid ‘70s Zappa. I listened to his catalog and made notes about his idiosyncrasies and his musical stylings and I tried to put on a skin and tried to do a song in his style, which is very difficult to achieve.

I think having  [his son] Dweezil Zappa play the opening guitar lick adds a little more authenticity to it, but we gave it our best shot, and that’s one of the songs I’m most proud of. I think we recorded it in 17 separate sections and then spliced them all together. If you add up all the time I spent on that one song, it’s probably two or three months out of my life. Zappa is one of my all-time heroes, so there was this extra pressure. You don’t want to mess up. You want to do justice to the song. I was definitely feeling the pressure.

My Mt. Rushmore of inspirations would probably be Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman, but Zappa is way up there too. I heard the Apostrophe album when it came out in the early ‘70s, and that was a huge inspiration to me.”

“Trapped In the Drive Thru” (2006)
“It’s tough sometimes to parody something that’s already way out there. ‘Trapped in the Closet’ was one example of ‘Where do I go with this?’ It was already so far out in left field that a parody seems redundant. So in that case, I made it as banal as possible. I took this wild story and made it about a couple trying to figure out where to go to dinner and ended up at the drive thru. It was this highly dramatic 10 minute song basically about nothing.

I haven’t gotten any direct feedback from R. Kelly, but I know that he obviously approved it. In fact, he was nice enough to lower his rate on it so I could add another song to my album. I found out that because the parody was so long, he was entitled to an additional payment. But he was nice enough to wave that so I could include another song on my album. So he was very nice to me and very supportive.”

“Skipper Dan” (2009)
“It’s a very bittersweet song. The skippers at Disneyland seem to really like it, and the people in the acting profession, especially those who are struggling, don’t seem to like it so much. It really brings them down.

It was based on a real life experience.I went with my family to Disneyland and we went on the Jungle Cruise, and the skipper just made some offhand comment about his failed acting career, and a lightbulb just went off and I thought, ‘There’s a whole song there.’ I don’t think the skipper’s name was actually Dan, but it just seemed to work.”

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