Random Rules: "Weird Al" Yankovic
In Random Rules, The A.V. Club asks some of its favorite people to set their MP3 players to shuffle and comment on the first few tracks that come up—no cheating or skipping embarrassing tracks allowed.
The shuffler: Grammy Award-winning parodist/accordion enthusiast/director "Weird Al" Yankovic, whose new album, Straight Outta Lynwood, is currently riding high on the strength of the single "White And Nerdy."
The Beatles, "She's A Woman" (alternate version from Anthology 2)
"Weird Al" Yankovic: I've got pretty much the whole Beatles library. What can I say? Old-school Beatles fan. I'm a big fan of all the British Invasion stuff: The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, and all that. When I was a little kid, I thought, "If I ever get rich, I'm going to have, like, all the Beatles albums." And now they're all on my little iPod. How about that?
The Rutles, "Eine Kleine Middle Klasse Musik"
WAY: This is from their Archaeology CD, which I'm frankly not as familiar with as their debut. I loved All You Need Is Cash, their TV special, which I think is one of the finest parodies ever, and one of my favorite TV specials. The sequel album just wasn't up to standards, as far as I was concerned. Still enjoyable, but I kind of wish they had just left things as they were.
Nirvana, "You Know You're Right"
WAY: Very cool. I remember when that single came on the radio. [It was released in 2002 with the greatest-hits album Nirvana. —ed.] It just made me so sad for the state of pop music. Because here was a song that was 10 years old that was much better than anything else on the radio. It made me so nostalgic for the early '90s when Nirvana came out. You just do not hear this kind of music anymore.
The A.V. Club: Did you always like Nirvana?
WAY: Yeah, I was always a huge fan. I was obviously thrilled when Kurt allowed me to do my parody ["Smells Like Nirvana"]. It was very bittersweet and flattering when I got to go through his journals, you know, the book that was published. He actually wrote some very nice things about me in the margins. There was one piece where he scribbled, "'Weird Al' Yankovic is a modern rock genius.'" That was one of the coolest things I'd ever read.
WAY: What can I say about Hole? I actually really like this album [Celebrity Skin]. I'm not the biggest Courtney Love fan, but I do enjoy this album. Hitler made the trains run on time, what can I say?
Frank Zappa, "Baby Snakes"
WAY: Big Zappa fan, obviously. He's one of my all-time heroes. On my last album, I actually did a Zappa homage called "Genius In France."
AVC: Did you ever get to meet him?
WAY: I did, actually. Briefly, back when I had a day job. I was working at the radio-syndication company Westwood One in Culver City, which at the time syndicated the Dr. Demento radio show. It was kind of cool, even though I was basically getting people's lunches and taking out the garbage for them. I got to hang out with DJs, and every once in a while meet some of the rock stars that would come into the building. Frank Zappa was one of them. I got him to sign my tattered copy of Freak Out! He actually knew who I was, which blew my mind, because I had built up a bit of a cult following on Dr. Demento by that time. He said, "Oh, my son Dweezil really likes 'Another One Rides The Bus.'" I think Dweezil was maybe 13 years old at the time. It just blew my mind, because Frank was and still is one of my all-time heroes. And the fact that he knew who this mailroom guy was, was unbelievable to me.
Alanis Morissette, "Right Through You"
WAY: I like Alanis. We used to hang out. We used to go to the theater all the time. She doesn't really call much anymore; I don't know what happened there. I think it's just one of those albums that's kind of mandatory for people to have, I suppose. Didn't she just release the 10th-anniversary version where she basically rerecorded the whole thing?
WAY: I think I'm going to do that myself. I'm going to start with my debut album and go through my entire catalogue and re-record everything 15 years after the fact.
AVC: People want acoustic parodies of The Knack.
WAY: I think I'm going to do accordion solo versions of all my hits. That'd work.
Ben Folds Five, "Alice Childress"
WAY: I'm a big Ben Folds Five fan, and a big fan of Ben Folds. He's always been one of my favorite artists. And one of the cool things about whatever success I've been able to grab for myself is that I get to work with people that I really enjoy and admire, like Ben. I was able to direct his video for his "Rockin' The Suburbs." Through working together, we became friends. He agreed to play piano on one of the songs on my Poodle Hat album. Last time I was in Nashville, he invited me to drop by his recording studio and sing background vocals on a song on his Songs For Silverman album. So I get to be one of his quirky friends. Me and William Shatner. The two of us get to lower his street cred.