Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

So I said, “If it’s a choice between Weird Al or U2, I’ll pick Weird Al every time.”

So she said thoughtfully, “Yeeeeees, that probably says a lot about the sort of person you are.”

Guilty. When I was a kid, I could never understand why serious things even existed. I genuinely didn’t get why on earth people actually paid money to go watch a boring serious film with no jokes in it. Serious music, serious TV shows, serious books (really hard to fathom that one) – why not just inject some humour and make the whole thing, oh I don’t know - fun?

As I discovered in later life, Weird Al was the answer to my question, and the answer he told me was that I was right.

Look at this man in 1981. He’s now a world-famous millionaire rock-star. And it’s not because of any of yer boring glitzy-image, love songs or sex appeal. It’s because he’s funny.

One night in my late teens/late 80s (by which I mean I was a teenager in the late 1980s, okay?) I found myself with a group of mates watching a video of Rock Around The Clock - a music marathon that had been transmitted by the BBC a few years earlier. Most of it was the same boring dry dull waste-of-time-and-money serious (ya-a-awn) music that had totally failed to grab me throughout my teenage years.

But then, in the middle of all this misery, there was suddenly this parody.

Better, it was a parody of a serious video that we had been watching about an hour earlier – Michael Jackson’s Beat It. And it was a good parody too. Pretty well shot-for-shot every bit of the earlier video had been re-filmed and lampooned. The self-pretentious lyrics had all been re-written to be about food. I swear I was thinking about that video for literally years and years afterwards, mainly because I (understandably) couldn’t remember the artist’s name.

But I did remember the song’s title - Eat It.

You better listen, better do what you're told,
You haven't even touched your tuna casserole,
You better chow down or it's gonna get cold,
So eat it. Just eat it.

One day, via a BBC database, I found out the identity of this funnyman – “Weird Al” Yankovic. Now at last I could start scouring Our Price for popular music records that had been improved with comedy. All I had to do now was remember how to spell the guy’s name.

Alas, after many attempts at checking under Y for Yankovic, J for Jankovic, WE for Wierd, WI for WEIRD, A for Al and even through the HUMOUR/COMEDY sections, I had to admit defeat. People were vaguely aware of Al Yankovic, but he just hadn’t made it big in the UK. Apart from a brief glimpse of him performing a bit of Fat on America’s Top Ten in the small hours, I only had my memory to prove that he had ever really existed. And as far as I believed at that stage, he only parodied songs by Michael Jackson anyway.

I went to the library to check on the information super highway, but they told me that their futuristic server was down, and wouldn’t be up-and-running for about another 12 years.

1996 – I was 25 and wandering about Gastown in Vancouver, Canada when I spotted Granville record store. Yes!

Inside I gasped as I found tons of his stuff on CD. I wanted to buy them all, but quite apart from the expense, I figured I’d better pace myself. After all, I only had a faded memory to go on. He might actually be rubbish.

I bought three. As I was on holiday, I had no CD player with me. When I got home, I think I left it about 3 months before finally finding a good moment, taking the sellophane off, and hoping that there were actually CDs in the cases. (no taking them back to the shop now)

The very first track was entitled Jurassic Park and came in a case designed to parody the movie’s poster. The song was based on MacArthur Park. It was great, but not as great as that album - Alapalooza - ‘s finale, the tantalisingly entitled Bohemian Polka. Deep down, inside, I really wanted this to turn out to be a full-length rendition of the whole of Queen’s infamous Bohemian Rhapsody, only played as a polka number.

It was far beyond my wildest hopes, with accordion, tuba, swanee-whistles and thigh-slapping galore. Even the backing-vocals had been carefully polkarised. At last. There was an artist out there in the world who ‘got’ what I found funny.

Over the next decade I set about slowly completing my collection, mainly by asking long-suffering friends like Herschel to pick up some more CDs for me whenever they were stateside. Over time I became more analytical, finding his later album Poodle Hat to be a bit of a disaster (barring the hilarious home-movies extra) and realising that the tracks I really liked were the ones in which he was positive and celebrating, like White And Nerdy.

Finally, having amassed every mainstream Al CD, a VHS of his 80s movie UHF, and watched Flatmate Dave’s DVD of all his videos, tonight I found myself outside the St James Theatre on Queen Street here in Auckland. Musically, there was only one thing really missing from my collection of his work.

Attending one of his live concerts.

It was a collection I was about to complete.

Click here for "Weird Al" And Me part 2 of 5.
Click here for "Weird Al" And Me part 3 of 5.
Click here for "Weird Al" And Me part 4 of 5.
Click here for "Weird Al" And Me part 5 of 5.

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3 comment(s):

At 6:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it might be worthwhile to point out that the dancers who appear in Weird Als stage show are the employees of the venues participating in the tour and that providing these dancers for him is part of the stipulations necessary for a venue to be considered suitable. The working conditions, arrangements and remuneration therefore is solely the responsibility of the employer, namely the venue concerned and neither Weird Al nor his management team would have any personal knowledge of those arrangements. as per, in fact, this clause in the purchase rider
PURCHASER to provide (2) TWO experienced female dancers, who will appear on stage
for one song during the show. Details to be provided by Tour Manager during advance of
Dancers shall be OVER the age of 18 and provide the following:
PURCHASER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PAYMENT TO DANCERS." ~tour rider: Paradise Artists for Weird Al Yankovic~

I hope that makes that clearer

At 10:43 am, Blogger Ludovica said...

Anonymous is quite right. I know one of the girls who did the dancing at one of the concerts last summer and she got it by winning a competition. She didnt meet Weird Al or his crew until a couple of hours before the show and she said that as far as she was concerned the arrangement was with the theatre and in this case there was no payment, the dancing gig was the prize in a competition. She had a great time and said it was a good experience

At 5:47 pm, Blogger Steve Goble said...

Hi Louise and Anonymous – thanks for reading, and commenting! :)

Louise, I enjoyed reading your outstanding account of your trip to see Al in the States – what an adventure! I'm glad you had such a great time, and am sure everyone else there did too.

I feel I should point-out that the sentence I used to have on a different post to this one regarding the voluntary employment terms offered for the dancing positions actually linked to the online job advert for further information / contact details. I didn't state or suggest the identity of the employing party myself, so I do hope that no opinion has been inferred. When I read Anonymous' comment a while back I discovered that the job advert was no longer online, being from almost two years ago now, so I'm guessing that neither of you will have seen it. Anyway to avoid any misunderstanding I immediately took down both the dead link and my sentence that had related to it.

Hope that makes that clearer! :)

Awesome show, I'm still on a high about it... :)


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