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Archive for the ‘“Weird Al” Yankovic’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: NEGATIVLAND-Escape From Noise (1987).

This was my introduction to Negativland.  And I loved it.  I loved everything about his album.  I used to play songs from it on my college radio show all the time.

I loved that the first track, “Announcement” opens with this ponderous statement

This announcement from the producers of this record contains important information for radio program directors, and is not for broadcast. The first cut on this record has been cross-format-focused for airplay success. As you well know, a record must break on radio in order to actually provide a living for the artists involved. Up until now, you’ve had to make these record-breaking decisions on your own, relying only on perplexing intangibilities like taste and intuition. But now, there’s a better way.  The cut that follows is the product of newly-developed compositional techniques, based on state-of-the-art marketing analysis technology. This cut has been analytically designed to break on radio. And it will, sooner or later.

After a count down comes the “radio hit” they call “Quiet Please” which opens with a cacophony of noise–smashing cymbals jagged guitars and bizarre sound effects with a man yelling “Quiet Please!”  It’s insane and really quite catchy–at least by 2019 standards.

After we hear David say, “I’m going to record all the noise,”, his mom talks about how much noise they don’t have there before a Girl says Michael Jackson and then a loud voice lists a whole bunch of 1980s bands indulging Weird Al and David…Booie (Bowie).

AND WE ESPECIALLY CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THIS HOUR AND THE DESTROYING OF ROCK MUSIC DIRECTED SPECIFICALLY AGAINST CHILDREN AND WORKING SPECIFICALLY THROUGH THESE INDIVIDUALS FOR WHOM WE CALL FOR THE JUDGMENT IN THE SACRED FIRE IN THIS HOUR BEFORE THE THRONE OF ALMIGHTY GOD

This rant is followed by a catchy bouncy synth riff which opens the next song “Escape from Noise.”  It continues the premise of breaking music on the radio.  But then a man starts shouting about the noise all around us.  “Is there any escape from noise?”  This line always made me chuckle: IT’S NO WONDER YOU’RE EXHAUSTED AFTER A DAY OF SHOPPING.

Then David states in his inimitable voice:

Supposing you’re watching the Playboy Channel, (“Ooooh yes! Oh….”) and it’s just about time for them to have an orgasm(“….Oh! Oh! Harder! Oh! Oh! I think I’m gonna explode! Oh! Oh!”) When all of a sudden: Wham! The horrible noise comes in, and completely destroys your orgasm on the Playboy Channel. (“Oh yes-“).

“The Playboy Channel” also features Jello Biafra, flushing a toilet.

The bouncy riff returns for “Stress in Marriage.”  Along with other various song snippets, the announcer tells us, there’s enough built-in stress in marriage without noise contributing.

“Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song” is a straight up folk song (and very catchy too.  But there’s a surprisingly dramatic temp throughout as a bee gets into the last bottle of the previous lime soda.

I brought a case of Nehi, and Double Cola, too
A half a dozen Upper 10’s, and good old Mountain Dew
I bought a quart of Cola-Up, to get me through the day
But just one bottle of Nesbitt’s Lime Soda
And we had to throw it away

“Over the Hiccups” features a little girl (Louisa Michaels) singing “Over the Rainbow” while suffering from the hiccups  It’s cute and bizarre.

“Sycamore” is a fascinating song that splices spoken clips about guns and a planned community.

“Car Bomb” is two minutes of thumping drums and screaming vocals.  Each “verse” ends in a shout of CAR BOMB! and a humongous explosion.  It’s awesome.

“Methods of Torture” has various synth sounds and then describes how sound was used as methods of torture: “put someone’s head in side a bell and ring it.  And eventually they’ll go insane.

“Yellow Black and Rectangular” is a pretty song–various bell-like sounds looping while a man and woman talk about a sign that’s yellow and black with wedge shapes inside.  The splicing is exquisite.

“Backstage Pass” has samples of presumably Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart (see below) with a sitar, I guess?  Not the best song on the record, for sure (and an homophobic slur).  But it leads into the masterpiece that is “Christianity Is Stupid.”

“Christianity Is Stupid” is a four-minute track that samples the propaganda movie If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, with primarily the narrator saying over and over “Christianity is Stupid, Communism is Good.  Give up!”    It’s awesome.

Shop as usual and avoid panic buying.

You can only follow that up with something more ridiculous and sublime: “Time Zones.”  I’m not sure why, but this track was a personal favorite among myself and my friends.  After a musical interlude, a narrator talks about the Soviet Union before a transistor radio begins talking about how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union.  Eleven.  Eleven.

“You Don’t Even Live Here” is a great recording of a hearing in which a woman yells about a nuclear reactor being built in their community.  It’s pretty inspiring, actually (even if it is rather distorted).  The music is pretty cool, too.

“The Way of It” ends the disc in a kind of recap–”this is not the way of it…all that shouting, all that noise.”  Followed by “Endscape” a little cheering section to close the record.

I haven’t listened to this is many years, but it sounded even better this time through.  This album is so far ahead of it’s time it’s ridiculous.  Its not even funny.

The creators of this masterpiece were:

  • Mark Hosler: Singing, synthesizers, guitars, voice tapes, percussions, rhythm loops, bomb parts, David manipulation, tiny metal banjo, recorder, lots of other noises, mix
  • Don Joyce: Yelling, talking tapes, electric tympani, synthesizer, lyrics, singing, Booper bee, bomb parts and assembly, noises everywhere, mix
  • Chris Grigg: Drums, synthesizer, singing, computer & software, field recordings, mix
  • David Wills: Talking, shortwave, family tape, bomb parts, regular Booper
  • Richard Lyons: Singing, lyrics, voice
With contributions from
  • Ian Allen: Helicopter (on “Sycamore”), Rhythm Loop (on “Car Bomb”), Bell (on “Time Zones”)
  • Jello Biafra c/o Dead Kennedys: Toilet Flushing (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • Das c/o Big City Orchestra: Voice Tapes (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Dina Emerson: Wordless Vocals (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Steve Fisk: Optigan and Voice Tapes (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Tera Freedman: Voice Tape (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Phil Freihofner: Bomb Parts (on “Car Bomb”)
  • Ray Briem: radio talk show host (on “Time Zones”)
  • Ed Markmann: Paid Voice
  • Fred Frith: Urban Drum and Halfspeed Violin (on “Michael Jackson”)
  • Jerry Garcia c/o Grateful Dead: Mouth Sounds and Chimes (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Alexander Hacke c/o Einstürzende Neubauten: Metal Noises (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Mickey Hart c/o Grateful Dead: Percussion and Processed Animals (on “Backstage Pass”)
  • Tom Herman c/o Tripod Jimmie: Torture Guitars (on “Methods of Torture”)
  • Henry Kaiser: Doublespeed Disco Guitars (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Louisa Michaels c/o Step One Nursery School: Singing (on “Over the Hiccups”)
  • Mark Mothersbaugh c/o Devo: Jazz Bass, Jimi Hendrix, E-cussion, Saxophone and Noises (on “The Playboy Channel”)
  • The Residents Hoots and Clanging (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)
  • Rev. Ivan Stang c/o The Church of the SubGenius: Larynx (on “Christianity Is Stupid”)
  • Rand Weatherwax c/o CBS: Orchestra Hits and E-cussion (on “Quiet Please”)
  • Rob Wortman c/o Kingshouse: Leaf blower (on “You Don’t Even Live Here”)

[READ: April 20, 2019] “Quality Time”

This story was sitting on my kitchen table and my mother-in-law picked it up and wondered why I had a 19 year-old story from the New Yorker.  She bristled at the early sentence: “She had her husband’s permission.”

This shaped my view of the story before I read it and I looked at it with a 2019 viewpoint to see if the story was retrograde.

The fact that a woman is hit by a car and killed didn’t help very much.  Especially since, although her death affects him, it is never given a justification.  Nor is it even a plot point, per se. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 16, 2018] “Weird Al” Yankovic

The last time I saw “Weird Al” I kind of assumed that would be the last time I saw him…  I love his shows but I have seen him possibly more than any other performer.  I joked with my friend Matt that I wished he would play a deep cut amid all of the hits.   his originals.

Well lo and beheld, Al listened and announced this tour, the brilliantly named The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  And when he announced the show, he explained that there would be no costumes: “Please note: this is a scaled-down tour in smaller, more intimate theaters, with limited production (no costumes, props, or video screens) and Al’s set list will be comprised almost entirely of his original (non-parody) songs.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 16, 2018] Emo Philips

I don’t really know all that much about Emo Phillips.  I know that he was kinda popular in the 1980s, but I didn’t know he was still doing stand up–I’ve mostly known him through his association with Weird Al.  Emo was in UHF as the shop teacher who (spoiler) cuts his fingers off.

Well, apparently Emo has been plugging away all this time and has remained friendly with Al.  So for Al’s Vanity tour, he asked Emo to open.  Emo even made a joke about this.  He said that during the filming of UHF, he asked Al when the two of them might tour together and Al said (mockingly) “when donald trump is president.”

Emo’s comedy is really dark but–delivered in his bizarre manner that goes somehow beyond deadpan–it makes his jokes really hilarious. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2017] Katy Perry

For Tabby’s birthday, I bought her (and us) tickets to see Katy Perry.  She’s a pretty big fan and we thought this would be a fun “big” concert (bigger than “Weird Al”, anyhow).  I’m not a Top 40 person (no duh), but I like a few of her songs (“Firework” and “Roar” are wonderfully catchy uplifting anthems).

I had heard that her shows put the spectacle in spectacular.  And I love spectacle.  I wish we had been able to get a little closer (but I wasn’t paying $500 a ticket), but hey for a first concert it wasn’t too bad. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 10, 2016] OhBree

I was really excited to see The Family Crest and to see that they were playing at Boot & Saddle (how would they fit a 8 piece band up there, I wondered).  I hadn’t heard of OhBree before this show, so I looked them up and discovered they are a Philly band also with 8 people (!) who play a wonderfully weird blend of punk with horns (but not ska) and super catchy rocking melodies.  All supporting some pretty peculiar (and often amusing) lyrics.

The band is made up of Andrew Scott – Songwriting/Keys/Guitar/Bass/Vocals ;  Adam Laub – Drums/Synthesizer/Vocals ; Bob Iacono – Trumpet ; Tyler Mack – Guitar/Bass/Trombone ; Kyle Press – Bari/Tenor Saxophone ; Vince Tampio – Mellophone/Trumpet/Slide Trumpet ; Lucas Kozinski – Guitar ; Connor Przybyszewski – Trombone

And they all crammed into that tiny Boot & Saddle stage which they had never played at before (a surprise given their Philly roots). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 20, 2016] “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC

2016-09-20-19-37-57Back on June 16, 2015, Sarah and I took the kids to this very venue to see “Weird Al” perform.  He is (amazingly) still touring the Mandatory Fun World Tour, and he made another stop in Bethlehem en route to Radio City Music Hall.  I wasn’t planning on going this time since I know that his shows from the same tour are identical.  But when I learned that my friend Matt and many members of his family were going to go, it sounded like a fun celebration.  So we bought some tickets (not 3rd row like last time, although 13th row isn’t too shabby, it turns out), and met our friends for a fun night.

The Sands is a casino, and we were going to eat in one of the fancier restaurants lining the casino.  Well, PA state law says that a security guard must accompany minors around the casino.  So we got an escort to the Chinese Food place.  Then we sat down, were shocked at the prices–seriously shocked. I mean, it’s a casino, but c’mon it’s Bethlehem, there’s no way any Chinese Food is worth $28 a plate.  So we walked out (a first for me) and got escorted back to the food court where we ate overpriced food court Chinese Food instead.

Then we went in and were pleased with our seats and our neighbors.  And then the show started. (more…)

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