"Weird Al" Yankovic, the comedy music icon, has become a legendary figure in the music industry. Not only has he outlasted many of his fellow comedy music artists, he's outlasted many of the talents he's parodied. Although he rarely records new music due to massive changes in the industry over the course of the past few decades, for many, Yankovic is still the premier of parodists.
In this article, I'll be offering my thoughts on 20 of "Weird" Al Yankovic's songs from the 80s. A mixture of direct parodies and style parodies from all of his 80s albums, you'll hear and see a wide variety of songs that showcase the depths of Yankovic and his band's skill and artistry. I'll also offer personal thoughts on the songs and how I've related to them over the years.
To start us off, we'll go to "Weird Al" Yankovic's self-titled debut album, and the memorable Queen parody "Another One Rides The Bus", which, of course, spoofs "Another One Bites The Dust".
"Another One Bites The Dust" was a funk-rock classic about a stone-cold killer committing his crimes. The slinky backbeat and bass line reflected what a bada*s the killer was. Leave it to "Weird Al" to take that song about an avatar of sleek violence and turn it into a song about how crowded public transportation can get.
I think what makes this song work is that you could imagine the subject of "Another One Bites The Dust" having the misfortune to take public transportation to the site of his next mission, leading to aggravation at his situation. The violence takes on a more comedic manner this way, albeit for some very dark laughs at time. One needs only hear the lyric "I haven't been in a crowd like this since I went to see The Who" to understand how nervy Yankovic's humor could be at times.
From comedic anger to comedic whimsy, we now come to "The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota" from the long-titled album UHF - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack And Other Stuff.
What I like about this song is that it reminds me of family trips back when I still had both parents. It wasn't a long time I had them both as I would lose my dad in 1995 when I was 12, an event which made the 90s, which was already a bad decade for me so far, that much worse. We did a lot of driving throughout the 80s and into the 90s, and while we didn't visit any really outrageous or unusual attractions, it was the time spent with family that made those trips special.
The mention of picking up a stranger named Bernie also reminds me of the kindness my parents showed in my younger years to an older citizen of my town who always had a ukelele with him, and would sing merry songs to the kids. Unlike Bernie in this song, this man wasn't a criminal or a person who meant ill, thankfully. He was just a friendly person we knew. We never saw him again after my dad died, and this man was old to begin with, so I think he's passed away, too, but listening to "The Biggest Ball Of Twine" in Minnesota makes me think of people I knew in my younger years. Strange how a novelty song can generate such nostalgia.
We now come to one of my favorite 80s Christmas songs, "Christmas At Ground Zero", which came from Yankovic's ill-fated 1986 album Polka Party!.
As I discussed in my first article for the 80xchange, there was a lot of fear of nuclear war in the 1980s. The discussion pervaded much of popular culture in the last major decade of the Cold War. Of course, when you're facing a dire predicament, sometimes the only thing you can do is have a sense of humor about it. "Christmas At Ground Zero" is a great example of using humor to cope with chaos.