“Weird Al” Trivia

  • Alfred Matthew Yankovic, better known by his stage name Weird Al” Yankovic.
  • Pharrell’s “Happy” is his target. “Tacky“—the first of eight videos he’s releasing in July.
  • Weird Al” plays Instruments:  Vocals, accordion, keyboards, theremin
  • As of March 2000, “Weird Al” has had four gold and four platinum records in the United States, five gold, two platinum, and one double platinum record in Canada. He has also won two Grammy Awards and been nominated for eight more.
  • There was once a bi-monthly Al fanzine called “The Midnight Star”. This title is taken from the second song on Yankovic’s album “…In 3-D” (Incidentally, the song itself is a satirical homage to supermarket tabloids).
  • He directed some of his music videos, such as “Amish Paradise”, “Gump”, “Headline News” and “Bedrock Anthem”.
  • Weird Al Trivia“Weird Al” got his first accordion lesson on October 22, 1966, one day before his seventh birthday.
  • Gives a special thanks to Dr. Demento (Barry Hansen) on each of his albums, since the radio DJ was the first to play his songs on the air.
  • Weird Al” graduated with valedictorian honors from Lynwood High School…at the tender age of 16! Moreover, Yankovic was one of the most popular kids in his class. He also claims to have started a club called “The Volcano Worshippers,” so he could get his picture onto even more pages in the school yearbook.
  • Weird Al” went to California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where he majored in Architecture and graduated with honors. The Compleat Al (1985) includes an architectural rendering by Al of a food-oriented city called “Burgeropolis”.
  • Has jokingly said that he was born in an elevator on the way to the delivery room.
  • Weird Al” produced the album “Babalu Music”, a collection of musical numbers from the television series I Love Lucy (1951), and includes a Yankovic-edited medley of Desi Arnaz melodies.
  • His first song, “My Bologna” (a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona”), was recorded in a college bathroom. After being played on the “Dr. Demento Show” radio program, it caught the attention of Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack, and Fieger arranged for his record label to sign Yankovic for a short contract. The resulting single (now a collector’s item) brought him to national attention, and “My Bologna” became Al’s first hit. Yankovic subsequently presented Fieger with a large bologna.
  • Weird Al” fell under the disfavor of rap star Coolio, who claimed that Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise” (a parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise”) was disrespectful of his song which he felt was too serious to parody. Yankovic said that his record label had been given permission by Coolio to parody the song but the rapper denied giving that sanction (the confusion appears to have been caused by a breakdown in the chain of communication, where a “yes” was given by his record label without Coolio’s knowledge). In response Yankovic wrote Coolio a letter of apology to which he has (to date) not responded. No legal action has been taken. Ironically, “Gangsta’s Paradise” is itself a sampled reworking of Stevie Wonder’s “Pasttime Paradise”.
  • Main vice: desserts.
  • Along with the Hawaiian shirt and canvas shoes, his trademark look used to be glasses and a mustache. In 1997, he shaved off his mustache and underwent LASIK surgery to correct his nearsightedness, but his publicists insisted that he wear costume glasses and a fake mustache. In 1999, he decided that the costume was too annoying, and revealed his “new” look (reasoning that “if Madonna can change her look every time she puts out a new album, I can certainly change my look every ten years or so”). He still wears the costume glasses and mustache during some of his performances when he wants to recreate the “classic” Weird Al look.
  • Appeared in all three “Naked Gun” films” The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988), The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994).
  • Since 2001, his song “Christmas at Ground Zero” has been banned at some radio stations due to content. Although the song is about nuclear war at Christmas and was recorded in 1986 (from his album “Polka Party”), those stations have feared that “Ground Zero” has recently become synonymous with the World Trade Center buildings collapsing.
  • Daughter Nina Yankovic born to Al and Suzanne on February 11, 2003.
  • Yankovic wrote the song “One More Minute” after being dumped by a then-girlfriend. He sought to remake this song as a duet with Frank Sinatra, but Sinatra declined Yankovic’s invitation.
  • His album “Poodle Hat” won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy album. Al has also won Grammy Awards for “Eat It” and “Fat”.
  • Despite sharing a last name and a passion for accordion music, “Weird Al” was no relation to the legendary “Polka King”, Frankie Yankovic. Despite this, both men were good friends. “Weird Al” even appeared as a guest accordionist on a recording of “Who Stole the Kishka” on Frankie’s Grammy-nominated album “Songs of the Polka King, Volume One”. Shortly after Frankie’s death, Al was figuratively bombarded with sympathy mail from fans.
  • Parents Nick Yankovic and Mary Yankovic were killed on April 9, 2004, when a closed fireplace-flue caused their home to fill with carbon monoxide.
  • Weird Al” was the subject of a 1999 episode of VH-1’s Behind the Music (1997) documentary. Unlike other such celebrity documentaries in this series, his did not include any mention of alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, gambling, religious cults or sexual escapades. Yankovic agreed to appear because, having created his own mock-biography in The Compleat Al (1985), he decided it would be fun to have someone do a serious biography on him.
  • Weird Al” has been a vegetarian ever since 1992. A girlfriend at the time gave him the book “Diet for a New America”, and Yankovic said he felt it made some compelling arguments to be vegetarian. He currently eats no meat and tries also to avoid dairy and egg products.
  • As a rule, all parody ideas are his, with one exception: “Like a Surgeon” came about from a comment Madonna made asking when he was going to turn “Like a Virgin” into that parody.
  • Is an only child.
  • Weird Al” said he knew he’d made it as a famous musician when he went to a party, saw Paul McCartney and before he could introduce himself to the former Beatle, McCartney recognized him and said, “Hey! It’s Weird Al!”
  • One of the few artists to consistently turn down Yankovic’s requests to do parodies has been Prince. Originally, Yankovic envisioned the centerpiece song “Beverly Hillbillies” in the movie UHF (1989) to be a parody of “Let’s Go Crazy” and reportedly also wanted to do parodies of “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain”. After years of asking, Yankovic tried a different tactic: he requested permission to parody one of Prince’s videos (but not the song itself); to his surprise, approval was granted. Thus, the video for Weird Al’s original song “UHF” includes a segment parodying Prince’s bathtub sequence in the video for “When Doves Cry”. Incidentally, Weird Al’s song “Amish Paradise” contains the lyric “So tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1699”, a reference to Prince’s hit “1999”.
  • Another artist to have denied parody permission is Paul McCartney. Yankovic wrote a parody of “Live and Let Die” called “Chicken Pot Pie”, but McCartney (a staunch vegetarian) denied permission. As a result, Yankovic has never released the song, but has performed it in concert.
  • Has directed music videos by other artists, notably “Only a Fool” by The Black Crowes, and “The River” by the boy-band Hanson (which was itself a parody of Titanic (1997)).
  • Says his most frequent question by reporters is “Do you write any original songs?” The irony is that roughly half of his material (since his very first album) is original–sometimes parodying the *style* of an artist, but not based on any existing melody or lyrics.
  • Along with his trademark song parodies, most of his albums include a track in which Al and his band perform polka-style (but lyrically faithful) renditions of popular hits (he is an accordionist, after all). Most of these have been eclectic medleys of recent hits, although the “Hot Rocks Polka” (from the UHF (1989) soundtrack) was a collection of The Rolling Stones hits, and the album “Alapalooza” featured a complete polka version of Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody”, called “Bohemian Polka”.
  • His offical website, WeirdAl.com, is maintained by his long-time drummer, Jon Schwartz (a.k.a. “Bermuda” Schwartz).
  • When he asked Nirvana for permission to parody “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, their first question was, “Will it be about food?”. When Yankovic explained that “Smells Like Nirvana” would be about how nobody could understand their singing, they agreed that it sounded funny and granted permission.
  • His album covers are frequently parodies as well: Michael Jackson’s album “Bad” was spoofed as “Even Worse” (Yankovic even hired the same photo, artwork and wardrobe team to replicate the cover precisely); Nirvana’s album “Nevermind” became “Off the Deep End” (with Al replicating the naked baby in the pool photo himself); and the Jurassic Park (1993) soundtrack was turned into “Alapalooza”.
  • His video for “Fat” was filmed in the same parking garage as Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, and included several of the same actors and dancers. The “fat suit” he wore (which weighed 40 pounds) caused him to lose weight, not only because it made him sweat profusely, but the sight of himself as being grotesquely obese made him want to eat less.
  • He used the money he earned from “My Bologna” to found his own short-lived record label, Placebo Records, which released his second record (an “EP” record with only four songs). Copies of the record are hot collector’s items.
  • The contract that allows his records to be released by record companies outside the United States also grants permission for those companies to use other cover artwork. As a result, some truly bizarre covers have been produced, particularly in Japan and other non-English-speaking areas.
  • During the height of his “Eat It” fame, he spoofed Michael Jackson’s Pepsi sponsorship by appearing briefly in a Diet Coke commercial. The spot showed a figure from the back, in a “Thriller”-style jacket, who then turned to reveal it was Al.
  • Was offered the opening spot for the European leg of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” tour. However, he was involved in the production of his movie UHF (1989) at the time, and respectfully declined.
  • Has released his own version of “Peter and the Wolf”; this is a collaboration with electronic-music-pioneer Wendy Carlos.
  • The Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) movies have inspired two of Yankovic’s best-known and best-loved parodies: “Yoda”, taken from “Lola” and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980); and “The Saga Begins”, taken from Don McLean’s “American Pie” and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).
  • [October 2005] His music video collection ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection (2003) went Platinum.
  • Wrote “Yoda” (a parody of The Kinks’ “Lola”) as far back as 1980, but couldn’t release it until 1985 with his 3rd album, “Dare to Be Stupid”, because Ray Davies considered the song too personal for parody. However, after the massive success of “Eat It”, Davies was convinced that Yankovic could successfully perform the parody while respecting the original.
  • After graduating college, he applied to work at McDonald’s, but was rejected for being overqualified.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Yankovic is not under any explicit obligation to obtain permission from the composers of the songs he parodies — courts in the United States and other countries have consistently given great latitude to parody, almost always ruling that it is protected under the tenets of free expression and social critique (the exceptions are generally cases where the resulting work violates principles of good taste). However, out of respect for his peers in the entertainment industry, he has always asked permission, and (the Coolio controversy notwithstanding) has consistently abided by the artists’ wishes. While permission isn’t mandatory, he *is* obligated to pay royalties for any direct parodies.
  • When he requested permission to parody Dire Straits’ song “Money for Nothing”, authorization was granted — with the stipulation that Mark Knopfler (a fan of Weird Al) be allowed to play lead guitar on the song. Thus, “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies” (featured on the UHF (1989) soundtrack) is one of the few Yankovic songs in which Jim West *doesn’t* play lead guitar.
  • Wrote a parody of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” called “You’re Pitiful”. After Blunt’s record company, Atlantic Records, granted permission, Al recorded the song, but then permission was revoked. Although he abided by the decision (the song isn’t on his new album), Al responded by putting the song on his MySpace page for free download, and there’s a not-so-subtle snipe at Atlantic Records in the new video “White and Nerdy”.
  • His paternal grandparents, Matt and Mary Yankovic, were Serbian immigrants. His maternal grandfather, Alfred Vivalda, was an Italian immigrant, and his maternal grandmother, Fairy Kidwell, was born in Kentucky, and had English ancestry.
  • Bill Mumy was a mutual friend of Al and his wife, and introduced them.
  • Another person who turned down Weird Al’s request for a parody was Yoko Ono. Al approached Paul McCartney about parodying The Beatles song “Free as a Bird” with “Gee I’m a Nerd”. McCartney turned the decision over to Ono, who told Al she didn’t feel comfortable with his parodying the song. “Gee I’m a Nerd” has since become a concert-only song (as have many Weird Al songs that never received a full blessing), and Al has said that if he knows beforehand that Ono will be in the audience, then, out of respect for her, they won’t play it.
  • Shortly after the release of the album “Straight Outta Lynwood”, it was noted that Al’s trademark number 27 could be seen in the license plate on the car on the cover. Al revealed that the number 27 is actually a homage to his mother, who was born on Feburary 7, 1923 (or 2/7/23).
  • After doing a short polka parody of “Jocko Homo”, members of Devo ran into Al at a party and asked why they weren’t worthy of a full song parody. Al responded with the pastiche piece “Dare to Be Stupid”. Reportedly, the members of Devo were not impressed.
  • Weird Al” penned a parody of George Harrison’s “Taxman”, titled “PacMan”, with Barnes & Barnes, but it was never commercially released.
  • Is a longtime and devoted friend of the late George Harrison, whom he respected as a singer and songwriter. Yankovic wrote a parody of “Got My Mind Set on You”, called “(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long”. Harrison even accepted his permission, therefore, it was released as a song off his album “Even Worse”.
  • Recorded his first album at Cherokee Recording Studios in 1982. The album sold over 500,000 copies.
  • While he uses the original music in his parodies, it is not the original master track. He and his band take the original and transpose it by ear into a new key.
  • After the incident with Coolio and “Amish Paradise”, Al acquires permission for his parodies directly from the artists, and not through intermediaries.
  • “Eat It” was his highest charting U.S. single on the Billboard Hot 100 for more than twenty years, until “White & Nerdy” broke into the Top 10.
  • His 1984 recording of “I Lost on Jeopardy” a parody of Greg Kihn’s 1983 #2 Pop hit, “Our Love’s In Jeopardy”, referenced the original “Jeopardy” with Art Fleming as host. The show ran from 1964-75 and was revived briefly during the 1978-79 season. A popular 1984 video of the song featured Al, his parents, Art Fleming, original announcer Don Pardo, Greg Kihn and Al’s mentor, the comedic novelty DJ, “Dr. Demento”. Interestingly, “Jeopardy”(1984), hosted by Alex Trebek, as we know it today, premiered in syndication, just 3 months after the records’s release. Initialy, many viewers , at first, had mistaken “Jeopardy”(1984) the quiz show, which initially aired after midnight in many markets, for the then popular music video. At least, for the first several minutes.
  • Despite not requiring permission from artists/bands to parody their songs, he is required by law to pay royalties for any parodies that directly sample any lyrics, music, etc., from other songs. Because of the number of parodies he’s written, recorded and performed, Weird Al’s royalties are among the most complicated in the music industry.
  • Now lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Suzanne Krajewski, and their new born daughter, Nina. [February 2003]
  • Preparing for the “Poodle Hat” tour. [April 2003]
  • Has finished the first six songs of his new album. No information as to when it will come out. Currently lives in Beverly Hills with his Wife and Daughter. [October 2005]
  • Working on his next album. [July 2005]
  • His new album “Straight Outta Lynwood” is being released at the end of this month. The video of the first single from the album “Don’t Download This Song” (directed and animated by Bill Plympton) has been uploaded to MySpace by Al. [September 2006]
  • Preparing for an as yet unnamed tour kicking off June 19th in San Diego [March 2003]
  • Has finished the first six songs of his new album. No information as to when it will come out. Currently lives in Hollywood Hills with his wife and daughter. [October 2005]
  • Currently on tour in the US.
  • Yankovic and wife Suzanne Krajewski welcomed daughter, Nina, in 2003.

 

 

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