Friday, February 17, 2012

a backward view due to weird al

I was at the supermarket, and the radio playing background music started playing "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys came on. I didn't recognize it as the Backstreet Boys. I just new it as the song that "Weird Al" Yankovic parodied with his song, "eBay."

Earlier in the day I was with my daughter in the waiting room at doctor's office and Billy Joel's "Vienna" came on the radio. I pointed out to my daughter that the song was by the same guy who did "Piano Man," which Weird Al parodied into "Spider Man." Let me note for the record that I am aware that the Weird Al song is called "Ode to a Superhero." But for reference I find it easier to just call it "Spider Man." We had been talking about royalties, and how songwriters get paid when people put their songs on records. She asked me if Weird Al gets royalties for "Piano Man." She was surprised to learn that "Spider Man" was based on "Piano Man," and not vice versa.

As background, I should explain that we have most of Weird Al's work, and we keep copies of his albums in the car. We didn't used to. But on a family road trip in 2010 our youngest child (who was then two years old) took a strong liking to Weird Al, a few of whose songs were on Doctor Demento compilations that we had brought along. At one point he decided that he liked "Smells Like Nirvana," and had us play that over and over again for hours straight. Mostly he would say "again" every time the song ended. Sometimes he would be distracted when the song ended, and we would hear the beginning of the next song. But eventually he would notice and insist that we go back. At other times he wanted repeated playings of "Weasel Stomping Day," and at others it was "Amish Paradise."

But this past year, on roadtrip 2011, it was "Spiderman." He loves the character and anything about him, so of course he wanted repeat playings of the song. And more repeat playings of the song. And still more repeat playings of the song. At one point I put on the radio and we heard "Piano Man." It was during the instrumental break, and he was all happy until we heard Billy Joel's vocals.

So we, as a family, have a backward view of Weird Al. There are a bunch of his parodies that we are very familiar with, while we have at best a passing awareness of the original work. I love "White & Nerdy," while being unfamiliar with Chamillionaire's "Ridin'." And I can't say what "TMZ" and "Party in the CIA" are parodies of. Admittedly, though, there have been cases where an appreciation of one of his parodies led me to look up and appreciate the original work. I have a new appreciation of Coolio after hearing his song, "Gangsta's Paradise." I only found interest in that because of "Amish Paradise."

Now, part of that is a function of age. At 46 I am not as up on what's cool as I was at 18. When it comes to the songs he parodied on In 3-D, which was released when I was 18, I was pretty familiar with all of those. Of course, in a bunch of cases I still liked the Weird Al parodies better.

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