Ranking Off The Deep End
My friend Brian went to a Weird Al concert last night, so it seemed like a good impetus to do the next album. I’ve been able to go to two Weird Al concerts and they are simply fantastic. He is 52 years old, but his energy and enthusiasm are infectiously young. Laughter, it would seem, really is a good medicine.
This is kind of a weird album for me. It has one of my favorite Al songs but overall it’s probably my least favorite of his albums. Don’t confuse “least favorite” with “don’t like” – I still enjoy it, I just don’t enjoy it as much as some of his other albums. I remember the first time I heard this album. I was on summer tour with a singing group for my college, performing in schools and churches. People from the church would house us for the night and we would leave for the next place in the morning. At one house I stayed in, the son had a cassette of this in his room and I stayed up way too late listening to the whole thing. This album was released in April of 1992, but I think it was the summer of 1993 that I heard it for the first time.
Onward to the list!
11. Taco Grande – A parody of “Rico Suave” about Mexican food. I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food, nor am I huge fan of Latin-style music. This song wasn’t really targeted to me. Note: this song features Cheech Marin rapping in Spanish, even though he only knew basic Spanish. He read the rap phonetically.
10. I Was Only Kidding – A relationship song, the basic premise being “Remember when I said you were beautiful and I would love you forever? I was only kidding!” Kind of meaner than I expect Al to be.
9. You Don’t Love Me Anymore – Another relationship song, with Al figuring out that the girl in the song doesn’t love him anymore. He figures it out because she keeps trying to kill him. The video for this song spoofs the video for “More Than Words,” but the song is an Al original.
8. The Plumbing Song – A parody of two Milli Vanilli songs, way before the lip-synching scandal broke. “Blame it on the drain” is a phrase that is handy to sing any time you have plumbing troubles, though I doubt most plumbers would get it/enjoy it.
7. Airline Amy – A sort-of relationship song, in the sense that Al’s fallen in love with a stewardess. It includes a couple of great lines like “I found a little piece of heaven / On a 747” and “You set my ever-lovin’ heart on fire.”
6. The White Stuff – A New Kids on the Block parody about Oreo cookies. To this day I can’t eat an Oreo with singing “The white stuff!” in my head. The secret to writing a catchy parody song? Base it on a catchy original.
5. I Can’t Watch This – A TV song about horrible shows. It’s funny how often Al gripes about TV, because he clearly loves it. This is a parody of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.”
4. Polka Your Eyes Out – Polka melody that includes The B52’s, Billy Idol, R.E.M., and ends with Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby,” and I would go so far as to say it “ends brilliantly with Vanilla Ice’s ‘Ice Ice Baby’.”
3. Trigger Happy – A Beach Boys-inspired song about gun ownership. His pronunciation of the word “pillow” in this song always stuck out to me, because he pronounces it “pellow.” Eh, fun song any way, but probably won’t be used by the NRA any time soon.
2. When I Was Your Age – A song about how everything was so much harder when he was a kid. As the song progresses, things get worse and worse, to the point where I’d probably put this one in the “dark comedy” category. Sample lyric: “Daddy’d whup us every night til a quarter after twelve / Then he’d get too tired and he’d make us whup ourselves.”
1. Smells Like Nirvana – One of Al’s most famous songs, a parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” When Al talked to Kurt Cobain to ask permission to do the parody, Kurt asked if it was going to be about food. “It’s going to be about how people can’t understand your lyrics,” Al replied. Kurt was quoted as saying later he knew their band had made it big when Weird Al did a parody of their song. This song, much like “(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long” makes fun of the song itself, and has kazoos, mooing, and yelling enough for any three other songs combined. A definite Al classic.
Bonus: Bite Me – At the very end of the last song (“You Don’t Love Me Anymore”), there’s a 10-minute gap of silence, followed by 7 seconds of Al screaming and making weird noises. It was inspired by Nirvana doing basically the same thing on their album, and was meant to “scare people who had forgotten the album was playing,” Al says. On the (sadly) short-live Weird Al Saturday morning TV show, this was used at the end of the episodes.
Some of the bigger news about this album is what didn’t make it. Al had been waiting for Michael Jackson’s next album to hit, and when he asked MJ if he could parody “Black or White,” MJ said no, because he didn’t want to dilute the message in that song. He did say Al could use any other song on the album, though, but Al did not. Al also had an idea to use Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” as a basis for “Chicken Pot Pie,” and Paul McCartney was keen to have Al do a parody of one of his songs, but had to “begrudgingly refuse,” as he was a vegetarian and could not condone the eating of meat. Al understood, since he is also a vegetarian. Throughout the course of his career, Al has asked Prince for permission to parody his songs and has always been denied. Some people just have no sense of humor, I guess.