Mashed Potatoes Can Be Your Friends: The Non-Negotiable “Weird Al” Yank Originals

Below I decree the best original songs (i.e. songs not specifically parodying another composition) “Weird Al” Yankovic has ever recorded. Amazingly, a track from the Post-Mustache Era sneaks its way in (the Mustache Era of course being 1979-1997).

“Happy Birthday”
“I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”
“Nature Trail To Hell”
“Dare To Be Stupid”
“This Is The Life”
“Stuck In A Closet W/ V. White”
“You Make Me”
“UHF”
“Generic Blues”
“Everything You Know Is Wrong”
“Hardware Store”

These are my absolute faves, obviously, and I think if you stuck ‘em all on one disc and threw that disc into a time capsule future generations would have no problem understanding why we dubbed this frizzy life form “weird” (and why we angled to save his greatest hits). Before anyone pipes up to argue that “UHF” doesn’t work outside the context of UHF the film: yes it does. It’s a song about television as mind control.

Also, “UHF’s” generic rock riff is ten times more satisfying than any other generic rock riff of its time period. That riff, it rustles my jimmies!

Honorable mention: “Let Me Be Your Hog,” which isn’t really a song, just part of a song, but still manages to be fucking hilarious in under, what, twenty seconds? That’s the true mark of genius.

Unsolicited Musings On “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory Fun

- Mandatory Fun’s cover is funny, but not as funny as the fact we could go to war with North Korea over that James Franco movie

- my issues with late period Yank: he doesn’t scream as much as he used to, and rarely do any songs break mid-tempo (even the polka medley here speeds too safely); in Al’s defense, he’s creeping up on 55, and he went plenty nutso on his older albums

- I want to say the Lorde parody “Foil” should be longer to milk more out of the subject twist, but laborious college fight send-up “Sports Song” proves brevity is the soul of wit

- “Word Crimes” is disappointing because Al spends more time just shitting on the grammatically ignorant instead of trying to educate them; it’s very “get off my lawn,” but at least his heart’s in the right place

- Mandatory Fun’s polka medley may be caught in second gear but it’s also plenty fun, as most of his medleys prove to be

- while I appreciate Al taking the piss out of Frank Black on his Pixies style parody “First World Problems,” the song itself is nowhere near as clever as the first world problem rap that mush-mouthed teen posted to YouTube a few years ago; this could be because mush-mouthed teen legit feels the struggle and Al is (generationally?) removed from that kinda thing

- a few of Mandatory Fun’s originals lean alt country, which makes one wonder what a non-weird Yank album would be like at this point; maybe like Wilco, with more references to boogers and socket wrenches?

- “Weird Al” has some major cajones calling out other people for being tacky (“Tacky”) when you consider the fact he’s worn nothing but Hawaiian shirts for his entire career

- overall, Mandatory Fun is limp; not one song is on par with classic Yank, and the album’s closing ballad “Jackson Park Express” (a tale of love and miscommunication on public transit) could be the least engaging song Al’s ever done; of course, it’s all lightyears better than whatever Dr. Elmo’s doing right now, and what do you want from a guy twenty-six years after “Stuck In A Closet With Vanna White?”

- this would be a great place to post a link to the interview I did with “Weird Al” in 2011 where he clears up that rumor about getting punched by Billy Joel’s wife; alas, evil forces have taken it offline

- yes, I am bragging that I interviewed “Weird Al”; career lulls aside, he’s still “Weird Al,” American comedy god, hero of my youth, the Gozer of parody

Q: What’s The Best Music You’ve Heard So Far In 2014?

A: All Night Lotus Party by Volcano Suns; “Razors In The Night” by Blitz; Brody Dalle’s Diploid Love (which actually came out this year); Prince’s Black Album; the s/t debut from Orient Express; “River Rock” by Froggy Landers; Anti Everything by Surf Nazis Must Die; Destroyed by Sloppy Seconds; Iron Prostate’s Loud, Fast, & Rapidly Aging.

Don’t ask me how I made it to 35 without hearing some of this stuff prior. I can only blame ex-girlfriends who ate up valuable listening time with ska or Our Lady Peace.

Give Me Delta Or Give Me Death

Orlando Weekly let me go last week. They said it was a budget thing, but to be honest with you I think they were sick of me pitching Delta Burke stories every day. Hey, it’s not my fault the world’s most beautiful and talented actress hails from this corner of the universe. It’s like Plato said: you can either get on the Delta Burke train or you can get flattened by it.

Stay tuned for the soft launch of my new periodical, Burke Beat, where you’ll finally learn “the real deal” about Delta’s experiences overseas filming Where The Hell’s That Gold?

The Luxury Of My Name

I can close my eyes and pretend they’re talking to me.

On Erdélyi Tamás

Johnny may have been the General, the guy who made the trains run on time, but in a pinch he always deferred to Tommy. That’s because Tommy was smart as hell and could visualize this thing called the Ramones before it even existed. Necessity planted him behind the drums (no one else really grok’d this sound), and how lucky for us. Tommy worked like a dog behind the scenes but that percussive attack was so even and strong that some fans insist the Ramones stopped being the Ramones once he quit.

And only in a band like the Ramones could other members actually harass Tommy for being relatively normal. Witness: the interview snippet in End Of The Century where Dee Dee admits he gave Tommy so much shit back in the day because he was jealous the guy knew how to cook. Regardless of interpersonal dynamics, to fans Tom was Teflon Ramone, the Ramone you just couldn’t dislike for any reason. He drummed on the three best albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia), produced the best two he didn’t play on (Road To Ruin, Too Tough To Die), wrote the lion’s share of their undying anthem “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and remained pleasantly normal as the years rolled on.

Once the Ramones were done, Tommy seemed like the peacekeeper. He wasn’t arguing with Joey on “Howard Stern.” He wasn’t writing books full of dubious claims against his Bruddahs. Tommy just wanted to preserve the legacy and love his fellow Ramone—or at least dispel the myth that they all openly prayed for each other’s death. “Believe it or not, we really loved each other,” he told the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame during the Ramones’ induction. “Even when we weren’t acting civil…we were truly brothers.”

Tommy spoke those words with conviction, clarity, and palpable emotion. Unfortunately, that portion of the ceremony was quickly eclipsed by Johnny announcing “God bless President Bush” as he cradled his statue and Dee Dee thanking himself for being so wonderful (a cute moment, admittedly). In that sense, the induction was typical Ramones: a fat chunk of heart smothered in patriotism and self-reference.

Despite what you may have heard or read (even by my own hand), the Ramones are my favorite musicians in the history of recorded sound. Nothing else fills me with the same joy and excitement, and I mourn the loss of the last surviving original architect.

Thanks for everything, Tommy.

“You Really Embarrassed Me Tonight At Red Lobster.”

Some generations have the JFK assassination. Others, the “it was all a dream!” episode of “Dallas.” For me, I’ll never forget where I was or what I was doing when Santino first broke out his devastating impression of Tim Gunn on “Project Runway.”

I don’t know why they didn’t spin Santino off into “The Fake-Ass Tim Gunn Hour.” That would have been quality programming right there.

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