Today I would like to talk about one of my personal favorite artists in the world.
This man, a consecrated comedian, actor, director, singer, and composer, has been doing his thing since the very early 80s; and to the chagrin of some, is still doing his thing to this very day.
This man is Alfred Matthew Yankovic, better known as “Weird Al”.
Weird Al is recognized around the entertainment industry as the man behind countless memorable and catchy songs and videos ranging across a vast gamut of styles and musical genres. Weird Al’s fame has reached the highest peaks of the industry, winning coveted awards and accolades.
If you are familiar with this man’s brilliant parodies, Weird Al’s success comes as no surprise. But if you are not familiar, it will seem strange to learn that the meat of Weird Al’s success is satiric, comedic parody music.
Weird Al has covered and parodied some of the industry’s biggest hits across the years since his debut album in 1983. But, with a career as large and a catalog as broad as Weird Al’s, it is difficult to do him the proper justice in just one post.
So today we are going to focus on the beginning: the infamous decade of the 80s, a decade that was characterized in large part by the technical and musical innovation of its artists. A decade during which Weird Al established himself at the lead vanguard parody music.
Today we will talk about the
15 Best Parody Songs Weird Al Yankovic Released in the 80s
The 70s saw the birth of a new pop-oriented genre of music called New Wave, which would go on to become one of the ’80s most iconic sounds. Weird Al, who has always had a pristine ear for picking the right songs to cover, would pick a New Wave song as his third single, and first-ever music video.
Ricky is a genius video that parodies the 1982 hit song Mickey by Toni Basil. It features the same guitar and synthesizer work, as well as the instantly-recognizable cheerleading chants, but with some superb accordion work as well.
In Ricky, Weird Al manages to capture the spirit of fan-favorite Sitcom I Love Lucy, as it parodies the relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s character, Ricky Ricardo.
One of my favorite lines, which succinctly displays Weird Al’s razor-sharp wit and agile mind is when Lucy says, “Oh Ricky, what a pity you don’t understand when every day’s a rerun and the laughter’s always canned.”
I Love Rocky Road
Here is another single from the same 1983 self-titled album in which we find the first song in our list. This time Weird Al parodies the 1981 Joan Jett cover of the 1975 classic I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by the Arrows.
I Love Rocky Road, as the name so aptly describes, is about a man who has developed an obsession/addiction with the deliciously nutty, marshmallowy, fan-favorite ice cream flavor that is Rocky Road.
This one, like most of Weird Al’s early work, features a blistering accordion solo. It also manages to fit some “hand-fart” melodies to great effect. Weird Al is a comedic genius if there has ever been one.
I Love Rocky Road is every bit as catchy and sing-a-long-y as the Joan Jett cover and the British original.
This next entry in our list of the top 15 parody songs Weird Al released in the 80s once earned the number 1 spot in Dr. Demento’s famous Funny Five countdown, thus giving Weird Al his first big boost of popularity.
My Bologna also has the privilege of being Weird Al’s first single ever!
My Bologna is a perfect example of Weird Al’s relentless commitment to his art. The song was originally recorded in 1979 in a bathroom stall. However, the song was not officially released until 1982.
My Bologna is a clever parody of the international hit My Sharona, the debut single by The Knack.
I grew up listening to My Bologna, not knowing about the original song. When I finally heard My Sharona, I could not help but feel that it was The Knack that was parodying Weird Al and not the other way around.
Another One Rides The Bus
Queen is one of the greatest bands to ever have graced our ears. This is a hill I will gladly die on. Another One Bites The Dust, from Queen’s classic album The Game, is credited as the band’s most successful single.
So, when Weird Al chose Another One Bites The Dust as the inspiration for another Dr. Demento feature, he knew what he was doing. For weeks and weeks on end, listeners would call Dr. Demento’s live show and request for that funny new song by Weird Al.
Lyrically speaking, Another One Rides The Bus tells the story of a man traveling on a crowded public transport while he slowly loses his mind due to various nuisances. This is arguably one of Weird Al’s funniest songs, and he hilariously describes the many foibles of public transport in crowded cities.
Musically speaking, Another Rides The Bus is a very manic song, which often verges on a sort of Punk Rock sensibility that perfectly fits with the exasperating subject. While not as faithful to the original song as other 1980s parodies on this list, Weird Al’s performance manages to keep Queen’s frantic pace and masterful melody work, while being a beast all of its own.
Buy Me A Condo
With this next song, we are now entering the territory of Weird Al’s sophomore album, “In 3D”.
By 1984, after the moderate critical success of his first album, Weird Al had mastered the art of parody, and he began experimenting with compositions that he liked to call Style Parodies. These parodies did not cover specific works by other artists, but rather were musical imitations of various artists’ general styles.
Buy Me A Condo is a bouncy Style Parody of the late great Bob Marly. Modeled after the classic Reggae song Buffalo Soldier, Buy Me A Condo is a pretty straightforward banger with some simple chord and melody progression, but with a sharp and cynical take on the consumerist culture that still rings true almost 40 years later.
The Rye Or The Kaiser
Few songs released in the 1980s are more representative of the cultural and musical extremes that characterized the decade as did Eye Of The Tiger. The 1982 song, used as the theme song for the Hollywood Blockbuster Rocky III, topped charts around the world and inspired countless musicians, including our beloved Weird Al.
In The Rye or The Kaiser Weird Al cleverly explores a future where the great Rocky Balboa gets lazy and fat, and opens up a small neighborhood deli in which he sells salami, liver, and roast beef sandwiches. Oh, and he depressingly beats up on some liverwurst when he reminisces on his former days of glory.
This is one of the many songs through which Weird Al showcases not only his hilarious sense of humor but his legit knack for storytelling.
Like A Surgeon
Here is another great parody from Weird Al inspired by one of the greatest pop songs ever written, Madonna’s Like A Virgin. Released in 1984, Madonna’s hit was characterized by a very 80s-appropriate synthy arrangement and a super-catchy pounding bassline.
Weird Al’s version, which was released a mere 12 months after the original song, is also very bass-driven and maintains Madonna’s timeless melody almost 1 to 1.
Lyrically, Like A Surgeon confidently features Weird Al’s biting sarcasm as he describes a quack surgeon who regularly loses patients on the operating table and frets over the fact that they die before they get the chance to pay him. This directly counters and somehow lightens the original song’s ambiguous and sexually charged lyrics.
All in all, it is a very playful song, and among Weird Al’s catchiest releases in the 1980s, with a great video to boot.
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch
The story goes that Weird Al did not want to write the next song on our list, a cover of Cindy Lauper’s megahit Girls Just Want To Have Fun. Apparently, studio executives threatened Al with holding back his album release unless he covered a song by singer/songwriter Cindy Lauper.
The fact that this is one of the most well-known and beloved Weird Al’s 80s songs is a testament to his character, creative vision, and undeniable talent.
Girls Just Want To Have Lunch speaks to the fact that no matter where a woman comes from, or what kind of things they like to do for fun, they have one thing in common: loving to eat.
That’s all they really want
Don’t ask ’em to dinner or breakfast or brunch
‘Cause girls, they want to have lunch
Oh, girls just want to have lunch
Dog Eat Dog
One thing that has, in my humble opinion, provided Weird Al with longevity over the years and across various cultural and musical movements over several decades is the fact that he can avoid getting bogged down in any particular moment of pop music history.
Dog Eat Dog is one of the best examples of his ability to tap into the right band to elevate his writing. Another style parody, meaning it does not parody a specific song, Dog Eat Dog was inspired by one of the quintessential avant-garde bands of the 80s, Talking Heads.
This song manages the impressive feat of boiling down Talking Heads’ masterful music blend of Punk Rock, Art Rock, Funk, and New Wave, into a succinct 3 and half minute song that would not sound entirely out of place in a real Talking Heads Album.
Lyrically, Dog Eat Dog themes touch upon the price of scaling the 80s corporate ladder.
I don’t have much to say about Weird Al’s Lasagna, a frenetic cover of La Bamba, except to say that it perfectly embodies Weird Al’s contagious style of good-natured fun.
Curiously enough, Lasagna mentions other traditional Italian dishes such as minestrone, ravioli, and calzone. It also marks one of the only times Weird Al has not asked the original artist permission to use the song since La Bamba is a Mexican folk song whose copyrights are not owned by anyone.
One of Weird Al’s most endearing qualities is that, despite being a self-identified outcast, he is one of the most relatable songwriters in the industry.
A perfect example of this relatability is the next song on our list, Alimony, a cheeky little cover of Mony Mony by Billy Idol, which is itself a cover of the original song by the American Pop Rock group Tommy James and the Shondells.
Released on Weird Al’s critically acclaimed 1988 album Even Worse, Alimony Is a song that speaks on one of the perennial plights of divorced men everywhere, having to give a significant portion of their earnings to their ex-spouses.
With such razor-sharp lyrics as Here she comes now, wants her alimony, “Bleeding’ me dry as a bony bony”, and “Lawyer’s callin’ me on the telephony, Trying’ to squeeze some blood from a stone-stony”, Alimony packs quite an emotional punch that is not immediately apparent behind Weird Al’s frenetic and nasally singing.
We’ve already established Weird Al’s penchant for identifying musical hits before the masses, and the next song on our list is probably one of the most explicit examples.
Twister is also one of Weird Al’s shortest songs, coming in at just over a minute, the song parodies the style of the then-up-and-coming rap band The Beastie Boys. While Rap as a musical genre has been around for a long time, in the late 80s it was still not apparent how commercially successful the genre would get.
Looking back today, it is easy to see why someone would parody the Beastie Boys. The lyrical trio would go on to sell 20 million records worldwide and achieve multi-platinum albums. But, in 1988 it was a stroke of genius on Weird Al’s part to feature the young rap band.
The song comes across as a commercial for the timeless game of Twister, with child-like lyrics and a very simple musical score. You ever want to see joy, play this song for a group of 6-year-olds as they play the game. It is pure magic, and Weird Al is a magician.
Isle Thing comes to us the way of Weird Al’s last album of the 1980s, UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff, the sixth in a quickly expanding catalog.
Isle Thing is a witty parody of Wild Thing, Rap’s first-ever single to go Platinum. Weird Al’s version is a story about a woman who introduces our clueless singer to the classic tv show Gilligan’s Island.
This would also mark Weird Al’s first foray into direct Rap covers. Remember that Twister was a Style Parody and not a direct cover of a specific song.
She Drives Like Crazy
This is another example of Weird Al’s ability to write such relatable songs and make the many annoyances we deal with in our everyday lives into funny, sometimes truly hilarious songs.
She Drives Like Crazy, sung to the tune of Fine Young Cannibals hit song She Drives Me Crazy, tells the story of a woman who, to say the least, is a horribly irresponsible driver.
With lyrics such as:
“When you drive, I can’t relax
Got your license from Cracker Jacks
You just hit another tree”
“In the middle of the interstate
Tires squeal wherever we go
Even hitchhikers just say no”
We laugh and cringe because many of us know people that drive just as recklessly.
The final song on our list of best Weird Al 1980s covers and parodies is Spam. That’s right, our favorite musical comedian wrote a song about canned processed meat, and it is freaking fantastic.
This time the band being parodied is REM, one of the world’s greatest alternative rock groups ever. And, just like most of REM’s catalog, Spam is a mid-tempo, rock ballad in a minor key that manages to tug at our heartstrings, except it’s about canned meat.
Only Weird Al can do this.
Only Weird Al’s comedic, and musical genius reaches such heights.
This man has been one step ahead of the music industry, outshining virtually everyone else that does what he does, for decades straight. Today we gave you our 15 favorite Weird Al parodies from the 80s, but his catalog is so extensive that I am sure we have some similar list on the way for the 90s, 2000s, and more.