In the very competitive world of pop music, where there is little room for eclectic tastes or experimentation, there should be absolutely no room for anything "weird", let alone anyone called "Weird". Larry London has this unique and interesting story.
Under normal circumstances it would not be considered weird to win three Grammy Awards among nine nominations, release five platinum and three gold records. For "Weird Al" Yankovic, who was inspired by a nationally syndicated radio program, however, he accomplished all that and directed all his own videos. Those accomplishments would make it seem strange to call him weird.
"That was a name I actually picked up in college. It was my college radio name. Everyone on the station had some bizarre name like Macho Mike, or Goofy Debbie. But I played weird music like Dr. Demento [a nationally-syndicated radio host whose program specialized in novelty/comedy songs], so it seemed to fit and it stuck."
From his earliest releases like "My Bologna" and "Another One Rides The Bus" in the early 1980s to his new album Straight Outta Lynwood, "Weird Al" seems to be anything but weird. His latest achievement is the Top 10 hit "White And Nerdy."
"I know this would be hard for you to imagine, but it's basically my life story," he said. "I've been white and nerdy my entire life, and I'm basically using a lifetime worth of experience and wedging it into a 2:50 pop song."
This year marks the first time in his 27-year parody song career that "Weird Al" has had a single in the Top 10 at the same time as the album it is from "Straight Outta Lynwood".
"The new album is actually a dual disc," he said. "In other countries outside the U.S., I think it's a separate CD and DVD. The DVD has six new music videos. The whole album [is produced] in 5:1 surround sound [and has] karaoke versions. Like I said, there's a nine-minute 'making of the album' featurette. It's chocked full of added value. This is my way to combat piracy. Instead of just having the album, it's loaded with extra features. so people basically are forced to buy this thing."
His new CD is named for the California city where he grew up. "Weird Al" says Straight Outta Lynwood is a parody of gangsta rap group N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton album. Like all his other videos, "White And Nerdy", a spoof of Chamillionaire's hit song, "Ridin'", is loaded with surprises.
"Donny Osmond gets to be featured in the video," he said. "If you do a song called 'White And Nerdy,' who else do you get, really? He was the first call. He was just unbelievable. Seth Green is in the video; Judy Tenuta, and, a couple guys from Mad TV [a U.S. ensemble comedy TV program]. The video was a lot of fun to do."
"Weird Al" studied architecture in college, and helped pay his way by being an accordion teacher. Looking back, "Weird Al" Yankovic says it was not easy to change careers.
"People didn't want to give me a record deal because they figured, 'Oh, he does comedy music, and people who do comedy music have like one hit single if they're lucky, and then nobody ever hears from them again.' I've been able to buck the trends," he said. "The ironic thing about my whole career is that I've been able to hang on for a lot longer than most of the people I've parodied over the years."
Among his collection, one of the most-popular remains "Eat It", the 1984 parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It". "Weird Al" says he plans to do more international touring so worldwide audiences can enjoy the "Weird Al Experience". For Al Yankovic, it's not bad being weird.