I have evidently always loved parody. When “Weird Al” first came out I heard about “Another One Rides the Bus” (from where? where could I have heard about this in like 1981 or 1982, I didn’t know about Dr. Demento), and really wanted to hear it. I knew (and loved) “Another One Bites the Dust” but I had no information about the “Weird Al” song. And there was really no way to learn about it in 1982 or 1983. My only source of record buying was Pathmark. And asking the clerks for “Another One Rides the Bus” inevitably brought me to the Queen album. I’m somehow astonished that even at the tender age of 13, I was more hip and indie than “mainstream records stores” (or at least Pathmark).
I’d be lying if I were to say that “Another One Rides the Bus ” has stood the test of time (although really, hand farts never go out of style). Indeed, no matter how much I love ”Weird Al” (and I have seen him on every tour for the last several tours), that first album just doesn’t really do it for me anymore (although I know I loved it when I got it). It may have something to do with the song parody choices or just the fact that I’ve heard them so many times. But I think part of it is that Al has matured into a really consummate recording artist–his songs are as full and complex as the originals he parodies (and his originals are comparably full). By contrast, this first album is very sparse–focusing on the accordion and sound effects more than trying to recreate the song. And hey, I know he had no budget, it’s totally understandable. It’s just that now all these years later, it sounds more like a demo than anything else.
I also have to wonder if I ever thought these songs were actually funny–at this point Ricky seems just as preposterous a song as Mickey (And, yes, Ricky is better). ”I Love Rocky Road” holds up better than “Ricky” (hand farts you see) and is actually better than the original too. ”Stop Dragging My Car Around” is a pretty funny parody in theory–I like the idea of deflating the original, although I’m not sure that the new lyrics actually work. There’s some funny car jokes, but I’m not sure that the chorus is actually right. I do love the way Al plays with his voice (and the backing hey hey heys are great). Somehow “My Bologna” still holds up surprisingly well–certainly as good as the original.
Al’s originals are a mixed bag. I’ve always loved “Gotta Boogie” even if I didn’t quite get the double meaning until a few years after hearing it. ”Buckingham Blues” is a weird topic choice, although I guess the Charles and Diane wedding was a big enough deal to mock it. ”Happy Birthday” is a pretty funny song and it could easily stand up to a re-recording. (Lyrically the song is very dark and not really kid-friendly (birth and death and all that). ”The Check’s in the Mail” is another song I didn’t “get” until many years later–why would I know these business cliches? Nevertheless, I knew the words quite well and think of it whenever I hear someone spouting a cliche. ”I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” is a fun song that mocks the “self-help” scene. This was probably funnier for older people who might actually know what he’s talking about (Like wow, man can you relate). But even if you don’t get all the references, the chorus is sure fun to sing along. The lyric, “I don’t want no part of that vegetarian scene” is a funny line since he is a vegetarian (although I don’t know when he became one). Musically it’s interesting though because he throws different styles of music into the one song, something he would definitely play with later. ”Such a Groovy Guy” tries a little too hard. And the final song “Mr Frump in The Iron Lung” is just bizarre (and something I didn’t get for many many years–did they even still use iron lungs in 1983?)
In retrospect this isn’t a great indication of what Weird Al would eventually achieve, but there’s a lot of fun stuff and songs that I still remember the lyrics to thirty years later–not a bad thing at all.
[READ: February 22, 2013] Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1
Every Captain Underpants book ends with “Here we Go Again” and an assumed next book. But this is the first book in the series that ends with an actual stated next part (see title). This is also the first book where events of the previous book impact this one. Ms Ribble is still nice! And she is still making cookies every day.
Two things struck me in this book: the language that Pilkey uses is a little more difficult. He’s using bigger words and some harder ideas and I wondered if the audience was getting older with Pilkey or if he just wanted to stretch his audience a bit. Conversely, George and Harold’s spelling is getting worse. It initially bothered me that their spelling was so bad (I don’t want kids to learn bad habits), but now Pilkey points out how bad their spelling is and it is so bad (they spell “once” wrong), that I guess it’s more funny than anything else.
This book also introduced me to squishies. I don’t know of this prank ever took off in schools but of all the things that this series had done that might get parents upset, squishies has to be the worst. Basically you put packs of ketchup under the toilet seat so when someone sits on it–splat. I could see that catching on and causing a lot of trouble.
The bad guy in this book proves to be uber-geek Melvin Sneedly. Melvin has a appeared before. He is a rule-follower and a tattle-tale. He’s also really smart and makes cool inventions like the Combine-O-Tron 2000 (it cracks me up that every thing is still “2000″ even though the books were written in 2003). The Combine-O-Tron in this case combines a hamster and a robot to make a cyborg hamster. But the kids in class are too interested in squishies to care about this cool cyborg. Which really angers Melvin.
Melvin gets mad at the hamster (named Sulu) and goes to punish him, but the cyborg animal gets the first Flip-O-Rama as he paddles Melvin! This gives George and Harold a good idea–they make a comic out of Melvin. It’s the last straw. Melvin decides to use his Combine-O-Tron 2000 to turn himself into a cyborg. And it works! Except that Melvin sneezed just as the machine worked and he became a cyborg booger boy. When he comes to school the next day he gets a chapter devoted all to the way he looks (“The Unnecessarily Disgusting Chapter”) which is so gross that George tells the narrator to stop taking about how gross he is.
Melvin is a gross creature and he is now sort of king of the school because he can do pretty much whatever he wants as no one will touch anything he touched. But on the school field trio to Mr Snoddy’s Tissues, we learn that the tissues start to make Melvin grow and he quickly becomes a dangerous menace. Then it is Captain Underpants to the rescue! He does a great job and saves a lady who gives him a wet sticky boogery kiss. As well all know wetness turns the captain back into Mr Krupp. Uh oh, suddenly we’ve got an angry Mr Krupp in his underwear and a robotic Melvin on the loose! It all looks hopeless until a return to Flip-o-Rama shows us how they escape.
The boys reverse Melvin’s machine (in a foolishly hilarious way). And everything is back to normal. Except…Melvin’s brain is in the Captain’s body and vice versa! What will happen in part 2???
The title chapters in this book prove to be even funnier as well (if you know what he is parodying (like You Can’t Have Your Cake and Edith, too). I think what’s especially fun about these books is that they are exciting and (as Clark put it) you don’t know if Captain Underpants is going to win. Well, you do, but it’s fun to imagine what kind of crazy (or as he sometimes admits) lame and obvious (but also funny) way the boys win.