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. Â 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. Â 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.” Â I don’t know Al personally, but I can guess this was a difficult time for him. Â 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”) Â 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! Â This one’s based on the El DeBarge song “Who’s Johnny?” but, as usual, this songÂ supersedesÂ 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. Â 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. Â 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.” Â 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. Â 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! Â 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.”