"Weird Al" spoofs rock songs with his own spin on lyrics

Gannett News Service
Chicago Sun Times August 11, 1996
Showcase section, page 21

It's a weird, weird, weird, weird wold for the King of Accordion.

"Weird Al" Yankovic made a name for himself with silly songs like "Amish Paradise," the parody of the hit rap song "Gansta's Paradise." With his off-the-wall humor, it's ironic- you might even say weird- that his music sometimes has a pretty serious effect on people.

"I've had a few people tell me that they were literally suicidal, and listening to my albums snapped them out of that," Yankovic says by telephone from Los Angeles. "Affecting people is the trye measure of success."

Yankovic's success includes Grammy Awards, best-selling videos and hit records.

The world was first exposed to his warped sense of humor, and accordion playing, in 1979 when he released "My Bologna," a spoof of the Knack's "My Sharona." Then, he turned Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" into "Another One Rides the Bus," Michael Jackson's "Bad" into "Fat" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" into "Smells Like Nirvana".

Got a great idea for a "Weird Al" song? He doesn't need anymore mediocre ideas, he says.

"Ninety-nine percent of the ideas people throw at me at the supermarket are that caliber," he says.

He'll stick with his own wacky mind, which came up with the concept of "Amish Paradise," the hit from his new album, "Bad Hair Day." He has received a little backlash from the politically incorrect song about life in Lancaster, PA.

"Part of me is very careful not to offend people, and part of me is saying, 'What's the big deal?' " Yankovic says. "We're talking comedy here, not a documentary."

The latest from the world according to "Weird Al" also includes "Gump," a song based on the Presidents of the United States of America's "Lump" and the 1994 hit movie, and "Phony Calls," which parodies TLC's "Waterfalls".

Yankovic, 36, has been receiveing good reviews for his work on the James Bons spoof, "Spy Hard." He wrote, performed and directed the theme song, for which a New York Times reviewer wrote: " 'Spy Hard' is never funnier than during its opening credit sequence in which 'Weird Al' Yankovic bellows his parody of the brassy theme song from 'Goldfinger' whileobese cartoon silhouettes swim across the screen."

Because people are so tuned in to Yankovic's videos and TV performances, he makes an extra effort in staging his concerts. Performing with the same band he's had since the early 1980s- another difference between him and your average rock star- he puts on a visual show.

"There's a lot of costume changes, and a large screen that we project film clips on," Yankovic says. "It's almost two hours of chorographed insanity."

Talk about crazy stuff: How about the newspaper report that he had a falling out with polka veteran Frankie Yankovic and refused to even acknowledge him as his father?

The two performers are not related, although the elder was an inspriation for the younger. Thanks to "Weird Al's" parents, who had 78s of Frankie Yankovic's in the garage, he took accordion lessons from the seventh to 10th grades.

"It wasn't traumatic for me," "Weird Al" says, "but I don't think I was the one to beg my parents for accordion lessons."