Ranking Polka Party
In October of 1986 I was just a couple of months into being a freshman in high school and I didn’t have any idea who Weird Al Yankovic was. That didn’t stop him from releasing this album on the 21st day of that month.
This is actually a hard album to write about. There are no really big break-out songs, and the album itself was not received well and didn’t sell very well. I remember reading somewhere that Al wondered if this was it, if he was done. I’m sure that anyone who has chosen to reflect popular culture as his job would always have in the back of his mind “This can’t last forever.” I don’t know Al personally, but I can guess this was a difficult time for him. Of course, 26 years later we can see his fears were unfounded, but at the time I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
9. Toothless People – A parody of the Mick Jagger song, “Ruthless People,” the theme song for a movie by the same name. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. This song is about people who’ve lost their teeth, whether through age or neglect.
8. Living with a Hernia – A parody of the James Brown song “Living in America,” which was on the Rocky IV soundtrack. I credit this song for fully 90% of my medical knowledge about hernias, including the names of several different types.
7. Dog Eat Dog – A style parody (sometimes called a “pastiche”) of the Talking Heads. This one’s set in an office and talks about office politics.
6. Here’s Johnny – The third parody based off a song from a movie soundtrack on this album! This one’s based on the El DeBarge song “Who’s Johnny?” but, as usual, this song supersedes that one. This one pokes a little fun at Johnny Carson’s sidekick Ed McMahon, while at the same time celebrating him.
5. Addicted to Spuds – Also better than the Robert Palmer song it spoofs, mostly because I, too, love potatoes.
4. One of Those Days – A series of unfortunate events befall Al throughout the day, with each next one getting worse and worse. Particularly bad? “I left my Beatles records out in the sun.” …though I guess the bomb being dropped and Nazis tying you up and covering you with ants would also be pretty bad.
3. Good Enough for Now – The following year after I did “One More Minute” for a talent show, I did this one. I couldn’t find someone to accompany me, so I borrowed a guitar and learned one chord that I randomly strummed at various times throughout the song. This one was not as well received – I think people thought I was talking about a particular person and took it as misogynistic or something. The chorus goes “You’re sort of everything I ever wanted / You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow / You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of / Well not really, but you’re good enough for now.”
I think I was just ahead of my time, though, because a few years later (when I was overseeing the talent show), a couple of guys did this song again and it went over very well.
2. Polka Party! – If you’re a fan of 80s music, this is the polka for you: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Falco, and Tears for Fears. It’s a perfect summation of the decade!
1. Christmas at Ground Zero – You forget just how incredibly dark this song is because it’s sung in such a light and cheerful way. “Everywhere the atom bombs are droppin’ / It’s the end of all humanity / No more time for last-minute shoppin’ / It’s time to face your final destiny.” It’s pretty grim, and plays on the fears of a generation raised during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war served as a backdrop to pretty much everything else. For all its grimness and darkness, though, I absolutely love this one, and I know I’m not alone.
We’re about 30% of the way through, folks! Nine more albums to do – but 10 or 11 if we count side projects and other things! I don’t know if we’ll handle those, but I can’t imagine not at least mentioning his version of “Peter and the Wolf.”