by Sean Smith
This week the world has witnessed the career resurgence of parodist Weird Al Yankovic. It all started on Monday when he kicked off his #8videos8days campaign by releasing a video for his Pharrell Williams “Happy” parody “Tacky.” The campaign, which has also given us parodies to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Lorde’s “Royals” so far, is designed to draw attention to Weird Al Yankovic’s fourteenth studio album release Mandatory Fun, which hit stores and iTunes on Tuesday.
While it is fun to watch Weird Al catch on with a new generation of listeners, it is something that he has done in the past. He first gained significant notoriety in the 1980s with parodies of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (his version was”Eat It”) and “Bad” (his version was “Fat”). In the nineties he gained a younger audience when parodying Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” with his highly succussful “Amish Paradise.” Then in the 2000s, he again gained a new audience when remaking Chamillionare’s smash hit “Ridin’ Dirty” into “White & Nerdy.” Weird Al Yankovic has offered up many great parody songs over the years that would be worthy of remembering this week on #tbt, but today I want to take a look back at Weird Al’s beginnings and spotlight one of his earliest works to make an impact “My Bologna.”
Weird Al Yankovic first started creating parodies of popular songs when he was just eight years of age. Using an accordion that his parents bought him just before he turned seven, he would rewrite Top 40 songs with humorous lyrics. At the same time he became a fan of a popular nationally syndicated comedy radio show hosted by Dr. Demento. A show that would later feature some of his own work. After Weird Al graduated high school, he enrolled at California Polytechnic State University. It was there that his fellow students gave him the nickname of Weird Al due to his different personality. While at Cal Poly Tech he also became a DJ at the school’s radio station. His on air personality mimicked the comedy persona which he learned from listening to Dr. Demento’s program.
During Weird Al’s senior year, The Knack had a number one hit with “My Sherona.” Weird Al found the song to be great fodder for a parody and so he recorded his version of the popular song in the bathroom across the hall from the radio station studio and called it “My Bologna.” He sent that recording to Dr. Demento, who in turn played it regularly on his national program after it became popular among his audience. Weird Al also took the bold step of sending his parody of “My Sherona” to The Knack’s frontman Doug Fieger. Fieger loved the parody of his work so much that he took “My Bologna” to his label Capitol Records and lobbied for them to sign Weird Al to the label. Fieger’s pitch to Capitol worked and they signed Weird Al Yankovic to a six month record deal and released “My Bologna” as a single.
While Weird Al Yankovic’s deal with Capitol records would ultimately end after six months with no full length album being released, he would go on to sign another deal with Scotti Brothers Records in 1982. In 1983, Scotti Brothers released Weird Al’s self-titled debut album, which featured his breakthrough parody “My Bologna.” That album would win a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording and ultimately set the table for the success that Weird Al enjoys today.
So in light of Weird Al Yankovic releasing his latest album Mandatory Fun earlier this week and once again making himself relevant to yet another younger generation of listeners, today we remember the parody song that earned him his first record deal “My Bologna.” Enjoy!
Weird Al Yankovic’
Scotti Brothers Records