Tuesday, July 16, 1996

"Weird Al" Yankovic coming to Waukesha

Pop parodist quit
job after 'Eat It'
made Top 100

By Patrick Meirick
Freeman Staff
 WAUKESHA - Polka fans be                   Wednesday, July 17: Ricochet,
warned: The Yankovic coming                 with opening act Kevin Douglas,
to the Waukesha County Fair                 8 p.m.
on July 2 isn't Frankie, it's               Thursday, July 18: Ricky Van
Weird Al.                                   Shelton, 8 p.m.
 "I do get a few middle-aged                Friday, July 19: Merle
polka fans at every concert who             Haggard and the Strangers,
think I'm Frankie's boy," the               8 p.m.
6-year-old pop parodist said.               Saturday, July 20: "Weird Al"
"They hear the first power                  Yankovic, 8 p.m.
chord and run screaming for                 Sunday, July 21: Loverboy,
the exits."                                 with opening act Survivor,
 Yankovic is Al's real name,                7 pm.
but he's not related to polka-
meister Frankie Yankovic.  The
confusion is understandable,                 When " Eat It," a spoof of Mi-
since Al cut his musical teeth on           chael Jackson's "Beat It,"
accordion lessons from ages 7               climbed onto the Billboard Hot
to 10.  In fact, Al and Frankie             in 1984, Yankovic quit
plan to play together on an up-             day job.  When it hit the Top ,
coming duet album of Frankie's.             his career took off.
 "I try to do a polka medley on              He's obviously not sleeping
every album," Al said, "a dozen             on Murphy beds anymore - he
or so rock tunes played the way             apologetically interrupted this
God meant them to be played."               telephone interview to give in-
 Of course, Al is better known              structions to his gardener.  Yan-
for his parodies of pop hits, like          kovic has now released nine
"Eat It," "Like a Surgeon," and             comedy albums and four compi-
"Amish Paradise." He's been                 lation albums and a "Weird Al"
spoofing songs since he was in              version of "Peter and the
his early teens.                            Wolf."
 Yankovic was a big fan of                   His latest album, "Bad Hair
Doctor Demento, who still plays             Day," features "Amish Paradi-
an extensive collection of nov-             se," a parody of Coolio's rap
elty records on his syndicated              "Gangsta's Paradise." In this
radio show.  In the early '70s,             politically correct era, the song
Yankovic was one of the first               is raising some eyebrows.
fans to send Demento tapes of                "A lot of people think 'Amish
his own music, recorded in the              Paradise' is in bad taste," Yan-
bathroom.  The good doctor                  kovic said.  "I'm not mocking
played the tapes and encour-                Amish people.  I am poking a
aged young Al to keep working               little fun at them.  Obviously,
on his music.                               it's not historically accurate,
 He did, but he didn't focus                but that's the difference between
solely on his music.  He grad-              what I do and a PBS docu-
uated as valedictorian of his               mentary.
high school class, then went on              "I honestly don't want to of-
to get a degree in architecture.            fend anyone, but I don't want to
 "I was a typical nerd, a                   bow to the PC police and never
straight A student," he said. "I            poke fun at anything," he said.
fit the Unabomber profile."                  Yankovic's good intentions
  He achieved some fame with                carry over to the artists whose
a couple of national releases,              songs he skewers.  Yankovic has
"My Bologna" in 1979 and "A-                obtained the songwriter's per
nother One Rides the Bus" in                mission for every parody he's
1980.  He landed a record deal              made, even though the courts
in 1982 and first appeared on               have tended to protect unath-
the budding MTV network with                orized parodies.  In the cases
a video of "Ricky" in 1980.                 of "My Bologna" and other early
 "My first video was $3000                  songs, the permission came well
said Yankovic, who now directs              after the fact.
his own music videos.  "That                 "At the time, I wrote them on
would barely cover catering on              a whim," he said.  "It was only
most shoots these days."                    after they became popular that I
 Then again, Yankovic didn't                had to go crawling to them and
have a lot of cash to throw                 ask them, 'Can I have permis-
around back then.  He was still             sion to do this thing I already
working in a mail room.                     did?'"
 "Unfortunately, rich and                     For now, Yankovic's song-
famous don't go hand in hand.               writing is on hold as his "Bad
You get notoriety long before               Hair Day Tour" twists wildly
the checks start coming in, "he             back and forth across America
said.  "I was still living in a             like an economy-sized hair
$300-a-month apartment with a               weave.
Murphy bed until 'Eat It' came               "This is my favorite part of
out.  People would come over                the job," he said.  "It's com-
and say, 'you live here?'"                  pletely brainless."