The Musicians Who Denied Weird Al And 6 Other Things You Might Not Know About Mr. Yankovic

In case you missed it, Weird Al is celebrating his new album Mandatory Fun with 8 days of new music videos. I’m not even sure the internet can handle that much Weird Al, but it’s quite the feat for an artist and one hell of a promotional offering.

These days song parodies are a dime a dozen on YouTube with everyone from Cookie Monster to the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders getting in on the action. But we all know there’s only one king of the song parody, and he happens to wield an accordion. Weird Al’s been turning pop music’s biggest hits into silly — and often food oriented — versions of themselves since his 1979 parody, “My Bologna.” In celebration of his 13th — and possibly last — album, Mandatory Fun, here are seven things you might not know about the polka king of parody.

1. His newest album, “Mandatory Fun” might be his last. This might not seem like that strange of a fact, but Al’s been with Capital for 32 years — something that is almost unheard of in the music business and this album is the last one in his contract. He’s had five platinum albums during that time and three Grammy wins, so it’ll be interesting to see if he and Capital celebrate their 33rd anniversary, or if Al moves into a relationship with a new label. He recently told NPR that he might not even do another full-length LP.

“And in fact, I don’t know that I’m going doing anymore traditional albums after this point. I think that digital distribution is more the way for me to go. Like, putting out a single at a time – possibly two or three tracks or an E.P. But I don’t know that putting out 12 songs at once in this day and age for me is the best way for me to get my music out there because if I’m waiting that long chances are a lot of the material is going to be somewhat dated by the time it comes out.”

2. Weird Al called Nirvana during their SNL gig to ask about lampooning “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Dave Grohl told Jimmy Fallon that they first discussed Weird Al covering the song when he called their dressing room during their SNL performance.

“We were in the dressing room and there was the one girl — I can’t remember her name, only that she was a cast member — and she was like, ‘My friend Weird Al wants to talk to you.’ He called into the dressing room to ask if it was cool if he could do the ‘Teen Spirit’ parody.”

The boys were extremely satisfied with how the parody turned out, with Kurt even referring to Weird Al as a musical genius.

3. He was the most popular accordion player in his high school. Granted, he was the only accordion player, having picked up the instrument at the age of seven, but he was still supposedly one of the most popular kids at his Lynnwood, California high school. Al graduated at 16, was valedictorian, involved in the school’s production of Rebel Without a Cause, and started the Volcano Worshipers Club just for added notoriety. “We started the club just to get an extra picture of ourselves in the yearbook.”

4. Madonna was the only artist who gave him a parody idea. As a rule, Weird Al generally come up with his own parody ideas and which songs are deserving enough. His parody “Like A Surgeon” is the only time he’s used an idea from the artist he was parodying after Madonna asked him when he was going to get around to parodying her song “Like a Virgin.”

5. Coolio wasn’t the only artist to deny parody permission. The story of Weird Al lampooning “Gangsta’s Paradise” against Coolio’s wishes can actually be attributed to the fault of Coolio’s record company, who gave a “Yes” without notifying Coolio first. Weird Al wrote Coolio an apology note, but Coolio never responded. (He was probably too busy working on Hollywood Squares jokes or something.) Prince and Paul McCartney also denied Weird Al permission to parody their songs. Prince did allow Al to lampoon the video for “When Doves Cry” with a bathtub scene in UHF, but that’s as far as it’s gone with the purple one. Al recorded “Chicken Pot Pie” a parody of “Live and Let Die” but McCartney asked him not to release it because he’s obviously a fun-hating vegetarian. (Al’s also a vegetarian, just not the fun-hating kind.) Al does occasionally perform the song in concert, though.

6. Bob Odenkirk does the most spot-on Weird Al Parody. Al himself has been parodied over the years, but his favorite spoof on himself came courtesy of Bob Odenkirk who parodied Al with a character named Mal Yinkleyankle on Mr. Show.

7. Al’s fans have speculated about his mysterious use of the number 27. The number 27 pops up somewhat frequently in Al’s songs (“Nature Trail to Hell”, “Fat”, “Callin’ In Sick”) leaving hardcore fans to speculate about some hidden meaning. According to Al’s interview with the A.V. Club, he just used the number a few times because it had the right number of syllables, but then started to incorporate it in just to mess with people’s minds.

“So there was no real thought given to it. But then a few fans picked up on it and said, ‘Oh, Al used the number 27 like three times. This must have some kind of significance.’ As soon I realized that they were fetishizing this, I started doing it on purpose. I started making sure there was at least one number 27 in the lyrics on an album, or incorporated in the artwork, or making sure the video had the number 27. It became a whole cult-like attraction.”