Friday, February 10, 2017

Episode 291: Rock Solid LIVE at SF Sketchfest with "Weird Al" Yankovic

Episode 291: Rock Solid LIVE at SF Sketchfest with "Weird Al" Yankovic
Recorded LIVE on Saturday January 21, 2017 at the Swedish American Music Hall with Guest "Weird Al" Yankovic.
From February 9, 2017

With your host:

Pat Francis

00:00:00 Pat and Kyle welcome us LIVE to the 2017 San Francisco Sketchfest in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa.... wait a minute... in beautiful San Francisco. Pat wastes no time in bringing out his special guest, the one and only "Weird Al" Yankovic! Al walks onstage to his classic song "Eat It" off the album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D. Al is originally from California. When did Al first become fascinated with parody songs? It was when he was a kid and he would change the lyrics to songs he heard on the radio as a goof. Then he started to listening to Dr. Demento and heard all these comedy songs, which made him realize that there were kindred spirits out there.
00:05:00 Al went to college for architecture and he decided that he wasn't that into architecture, so he sent out some tapes of his music. He got airplay on Dr. Demento, then he got a record deal, and the rest is history. His parents were supportive of him; as long as he was happy, they were happy. The first single that broke Al through was "My Bologna" off his self-titled debut album. That was actually the re-recorded version, the original single was recorded in the bathroom across the hall from his college radio station. Doug Fieger and the rest of The Knack were very cool about it, in fact they encouraged the vice president of Capitol Records to release it. Pat plays another song off the debut album, "I Love Rocky Road". Most of those early Weird Al songs are indeed about food. "My accountant said if I do enough songs about food I could write off my groceries on my tax returns," says Al.
00:10:00 Al was very lucky with the artists he parodied early on. Another example was when he parodied Queen with "Another One Rides the Bus" for his debut album. The song was recorded live on Dr. Demento, with his drummer John "Bermuda" Schwartz smacking Al's accordion case for percussion. Al's first six albums were produced by Rick Derringer of all people. They hooked up because of a connection between Rick and the writer of one of the songs Al parodied. They got along great, Rick was a lot of fun and even played on the first couple of albums; the guitar solo on "Eat It" is Rick Derringer. When did Al start playing the accordion? He learned it from ages 7-10, his parents just figured Al needed an instrument.
00:15:00 Pat plays a song from Al's second album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D called "I Lost on Jeopardy". When Al did the song, Jeopardy was not on the air at the time, Al based it on the old Art Fleming version. The second album has a fuller production sound, according to Pat. Al says that the albums' production grew exponentially because in those early days, they didn't have enough money for an exorbitant amount of studio time. As he and the band became more popular, they could afford proper studio production time. Pat plays another track off the album, "Theme from Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser)".
00:20:00 Again, Survivor was totally cool with Al parodying their song because, let's face it, Al was making them and the other artists he parodied a nice chunk of change in royalty money.
"I made Michael Jackson enough money for the other glove."
- "Weird Al"

Al's number one rule with a parody song is that it needs to be funny even if you don't know the source material. Pat moves on to Al's third album Dare to Be Stupid and plays the track "Girls Just Want to Have Lunch". Al admits that that song was written under duress because the record company wouldn't release the album unless he did a Cyndi Lauper parody. So that's why Al sings with a harsh voice on it. When did Al start writing original songs? From the beginning. Al always makes sure to even out the parody songs with the originals, although most people only know the parodies because those were the singles.
00:25:00 When he got his first Grammy, his first Gold album, his first Platinum album, it all felt so unreal to Al. Did Al splurge on anything when the money started to come in? Not splurge, but he did buy a house. He made sure he wasn't in debt. Al feels like he's lucky to have a career and he doesn't want to live beyond his means. Pat notes that Al is an all-ages kind of artist and points out a young man in the audience named Enzo. Enzo is a big fan of Al and considers him a personal hero. Pat promises to give Enzo a signed copy of Mandatory Fun. "Now who's your hero?" Pat plays the smash hit "Like a Surgeon". Kyle is a big fan of Al too.
00:30:00 Meeting Dr. Demento was a dream come true for Al. It started with him sending the good doctor tapes of his songs, then he invited him to his radio show where he played live, and they've been friends ever since. Dr. Demento loved the idea of a kid playing the accordion and thinking he was cool. Al's daughter is used to her dad's career. She's not awestruck or jaded by it, it's just part of her life. Where does Al keep his Grammys? They're all in the den on a shelf. His platinum albums are displayed on a wall.
00:35:00 Pat jumps forward to the album Running with Scissors and the epic "The Saga Begins". Pat considers it the "Stairway to Heaven" of parody songs. What music does Al like to listen to? He likes quirky bands, bands with a sense of humor. New Wave, Alternative bands, The British Invasion. Concerning "The Saga Begins," Al wrote the song before the film came out; he based the lyrics on internet rumors. A funny story, a few months later Madonna did her version of "American Pie." Some people were wondering why she was doing "an unfunny version of that 'Weird Al' song." That wouldn't be the only Star Wars song in Al's canon. Off of Dare to Be Stupid, Pat plays "Yoda". Al wrote it in 1980, but it didn't come out until 1985 because of all the paperwork that needed to be done (Lucasfilm had to sign off on it, Ray Davies, etc.)
00:40:00 With Ray, he didn't even know that Al wrote the song. So when he met Al, he agreed to it. That's the case sometimes where management doesn't even tell the artist about Al's parody. Pat plays a song from Al's fourth album Polka Party! called "Here's Johnny". What song parody came to Al immediately after hearing the original? "Fat" was one. That's off of Even Worse. Al still rocks the fat suit on stage. Doesn't smell too kindly after the tour is over, though. Pat thought that Al was gonna answer the question with this song: "Gump" off the album Bad Hair Day. Al has had quite the number of messages on social media tell him to remake the song about a certain political figure. "Too easy," he says.
00:45:00 What's the best song Al wrote that he couldn't get permission to release? Al JUST got permission to release a song that he wrote in 1981! It's a parody of "Taxman" by The Beatles called "Pacman." The song played a few times on Dr. Demento, Apple Records stepped in, and the song was lost forever. Al is a friend of Dhani Harrison, George's son, and that helped finally release the song from the Yankovic Archives. It will be on a career retrospective box set coming out later in the year. Pat mentions a song that Al did in the style of The Doors called "Craigslist" off the album Alpocalypse. Ray Manzarek himself plays keyboards on the song. And that's happened before, the great Mark Knopfler played guitar on his parody, "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies" off the soundtrack to UHF.
00:50:00 Michael Jackson was very supportive of "Eat It" and "Fat." There was a third song written, but never got recorded. After UHF tanked, Al was desperate for a comeback hit and he wanted to do another MJ song. Jackson turned him down because he knew it was too desperate. Al credits Jackson for stopping him because he made this song instead: "Smells Like Nirvana" off of Off the Deep End. Al was a Nirvana fan and was quite happy that they made it big. Pat asks about doing the theme to the Leslie Nielsen film "Spy Hard." Al worked with an 85-piece orchestra and did a James Bond theme pastiche. Pat plays the song "Spy Hard".
00:55:00 Al has done a boatload of music videos. In the early days, the money for the videos was taken out of his royalties. Nowadays he's working with places like Nerdist, Funny or Die, Yahoo, and College Humor who need content, so Al's music video cost is 0. There was a period of time after MTV but before YouTube where it didn't make sense to Al to do music videos. But now with YouTube, it's a very helpful medium to reach people. Pat brings up Al TV. MTV would just give Al these blocks of time to do whatever he wanted. No budget. It was like watching public television on a national scale. Al's most recent album was 2014's Mandatory Fun. It sold like gangbusters, going to number one in the charts (Al's first number one album ever).
01:00:00 Al is not actively working on new music right now, he's got other projects going on. But when he's ready, he'll certainly go back into the studio. "That's the bummer with releasing a complete 'Weird Al' Yankovic box set," he says. "I'm not dead yet. At some point I'll probably be doing something else." Pat goes back to Bad Hair Day with the song "Amish Paradise". There was a whole controversy about whether or not Coolio signed off on the song, he was angry about it. Everything is cool now, all water under the bridge. Pat plays another one, the Chili Peppers-inspired "Bedrock Anthem" off of Alapalooza.
01:05:00 Al doesn't plan on touring this year (he extensively toured for Mandatory Fun), next year he plans on doing a no-frills version of the tour. No costumes, no props, no videos, "Just a bunch of old guys playing instruments." The show is about two hours long, they try to jam as many songs in as possible. It's been the same group of guys since forever: John "Bermuda" Schwartz, Steve Jay, Jim West, and Ruben Valtierra. Al considers them to be both his bandmates and his good friends. Recently Al was the bandleader for the final season of Comedy Bang! Bang! on IFC. He and Scott are friends, he's been on the CBB podcast a bunch of times, and when Scott asked Al to be on the show, Al happily said yes. Pat plays a song in the vein of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" called "Ode to a Superhero" off of the album Poodle Hat. For legal reasons, Al had to call the song "Ode to a Superhero" instead of "Spider-Man."
01:10:00 Which song can Al never leave off the setlist? To him, there's a half dozen of them. But no matter how long the set is, he feels like he's leaving off a song somebody loves. Al tries to put in as many hits, new songs, and deep cuts into the show as he can. Groupies? "I'm still waiting," answers Al. Pat asks why it's "Weird Al" in quotes. They're both in quotes because A) "Weird" is not Al's nickname and B) That is not his legal name. Back in the day, everyone had a wacky on-air name for Dr. Demento and stuff like that. So he came up with "Weird Al." But for his college radio station, he was "Al Matthews," playing all mellow, all night long. Pat plays a song from Mandatory Fun called "Word Crimes".
01:15:00 Thanks so much to the legendary "Weird Al" Yankovic for coming on the show and being 100% AWESOME! While the SF Sketchfest crowd applauds, Pat takes us out with "Tacky" off of Mandatory Fun.
Time Song Album Artist Who
00:00:00 Eat It "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:05:00 My Bologna "Weird Al" Yankovic "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:05:00 I Love Rocky Road "Weird Al" Yankovic "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:10:00 Another One Rides the Bus "Weird Al" Yankovic "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:15:00 I Lost on Jeopardy "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:15:00 Theme from Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser) "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:20:00 Girls Just Want to Have Lunch Dare to Be Stupid "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:25:00 Like a Surgeon Dare to Be Stupid "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:35:00 The Saga Begins Running with Scissors "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:35:00 Yoda Dare to Be Stupid "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:40:00 Here’s Johnny Polka Party! "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:40:00 Fat Even Worse "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:40:00 Gump Bad Hair Day "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:45:00 Craigslist Alpocalypse "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:45:00 Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies UHF Soundtrack "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:50:00 Smells Like Nirvana Off the Deep End "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
00:50:00 Spy Hard Single "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
01:00:00 Amish Paradise Bad Hair Day "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
01:00:00 Bedrock Anthem Alapalooza "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
01:05:00 Ode to a Superhero Poodle Hat "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
01:10:00 Word Crimes Mandatory Fun "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat
01:15:00 Tacky Mandatory Fun "Weird Al" Yankovic Pat

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