‘Weird Al’ brings his ‘Vanity Tour’ to Webster
When it comes to American pop music, few can match the following, success and stardom that “Weird Al” Yankovic achieved. He’s one of the few artists who has a fanbase ranging from kids to grandmothers, and he’s become a household name by parodying other people’s music. Almost everyone knows the songs “Eat It”, “Like A Surgeon”, “Smells Like Nirvana”, “Amish Paradise”, “Gump”, “White & Nerdy” and “Word Crimes”. get stuck in your head just thinking about it. Yankovic is a legitimate music icon and seeing him perform live is a one-of-a-kind experience. People will get a chance to see him when he comes to the Indian Ranch in Webster on August 5 as part of “The Unfortunate Return Of The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.”
Yankovic has parodied pop hits since his first breakthrough with “My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona” in 1979 courtesy of radio legend Dr. Demento. Making his own take on pop for over 40 years, he sees the genre as something always eligible to laugh at, and something always fluid.
“Pop music is always changing,” he says over email. “The actors are constantly changing and the music itself is often a reflection of society, which is also constantly changing. I think deep down, pop music has always been a bit ridiculous, so luckily for me there’s always something to laugh at. I think the main things that have changed over the last half century are the ways music is made and consumed. In the 60s and 70s, bands recorded with “real” instruments on analog tape.
“Many songs today are synthesized with sampled sounds in a digital medium that can be infinitely manipulated,” says Yankovic. “While people used to buy their music on vinyl records, most people now seem to rely on streaming services or listen to the music they collected on their hard drives, although vinyl still has a very strong following. ”
Besides making musical parodies, the instrument Yankovic is most affiliated with is the accordion, which he has been playing since his parents bought him one from a door-to-door salesman when he was a child. Over the past two decades the accordion has seen a resurgence in indie rock, punk and other genres, with bands such as Arcade Fire, Gogol Bordello, The Dropkick Murphys, Flogging Molly, Lucero and others using the tool. Yankovic is familiar with these acts, and he welcomes the presence of the accordion in these musical fields.
“I like to see the accordion adopted by contemporary artists; it really is a beautiful and sensual instrument,” he says. “I think the accordion has been slow to gain acceptance into the mainstream as it still carries the stigma of being a bit cheesy and outdated due to its association with ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ and other TV shows. which my grandmother used to watch in the ’60s. I may have done the instrument a disservice myself, as I often used it for comedic effect. In fact, I have a lot of love and respect for the instrument, and I’m happy to see it finally start to conquer the world, as God intended.
You may have already seen a trailer all over the internet, but this fall there will be a biographical movie based on Yankovic’s career called “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story”, which will be released on the Roku channel. Daniel Radcliffe from the “Harry Potter” film series will play Yankovic, who was cast by Yankovic himself for the role, and Yankovic couldn’t be more excited about it.
“The director, Eric Appel, and I thought he would be perfect for the role,” he says of Radcliffe. “He has exactly the right energy. We’re going for a very specific tone with this biopic, and Daniel has both the sense of humor and the acting skills to pull it off. He is absolutely amazing in it. It was actually my idea to make the movie based on the fake “Funny Or Die” trailer that Eric made in 2010.
“Nine years after that fake trailer came out, I suddenly thought, ‘Wait, this has got to be a real movie!'” Yankovic says. “I contacted Eric, and he was on board straight away. We wrote the script together, then showed it all over town until we sold it. Now he is directing the feature film and I am producing. The whole thing still feels completely surreal, it’s the weirdest thing about being on set and watching Daniel Radcliffe recreate scenes from my life.
In 1989, Yankovic starred in the movie “UHF”, which was originally a box office bomb, mainly because it was released alongside several blockbusters, but has since become cult. Many people consider him a forerunner of the internet because of how Yankovic’s character takes over a low-budget TV channel that becomes successful due to its creative content, much like the success of many blogs, YouTube channels and websites today. He’s not 100% sure he agrees, but he appreciates that the film’s current status makes up for its initial performance.
“A lot of fans have told me that ‘UHF’ is prescient, that he’s predicting social media, that he’s the godfather of YouTube,” Yankovic says. “I’ve even read a number of think pieces to that effect. I don’t know if I buy into all of this, but it’s fine to fool ourselves into thinking that the reason it bombed at the box office was because it was so ahead of its time!
When Yankovic’s last album, “Mandatory Fun,” was released in 2014, he said it was his last studio album and he’s stuck by that statement ever since. That being said, he won’t stop creating and releasing new music.
“I don’t want to be tied to the album format anymore,” he says. “I just prefer to put things out in the world when I feel like it. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been very prolific in my music production since ‘Mandatory Fun’, but I’ve done a few fun projects here and there, like ‘The Hamilton Polka’ which I released as a single in 2018. I guess I should mention that I’ve been very busy working on the music for the biopic, including a brand new original song that will play over the end credits. I hope there will be a soundtrack album, we are still trying to figure that out.