1988

"The Magic Returns"


"Peter and the Wolf" and You
Have you ever been able to listen to Al's rendition of "Peter and the Wolf?"

Yep! In fact, I own the album!
Yes, but only because someone was nice enough to make a bootleg tape of it for me. Please don't kill me.
No, I have never heard this thing before in my life. Will someone please rerelease this album already!!!


Current Results
After the overwhelming success of "Eat It" in 1984, Al really had nowhere to go but down. The next year's Dare To Be Stupid album did fairly well, but it was hardly the runaway hit In 3-D had been. And perhaps the less said about the disastrous sales of 1986's Polka Party! the better. Despite each album getting a Grammy nomination, it seemed as if people were starting to forget about Weird Al.

Al was in need of a new hit, not just to show people that he was still around but something to show the world that he was more than just "The 'Eat It' Guy." Whether it was timing, good luck, or kismet, Al would get that new hit from a very ironic source.

Michael Jackson had just released the follow-up album to his megasmash Thriller, Bad. Although any one of the singles off the album would have made good parody fodder, there was just something about the album's title track that called to Al. Maybe it was the chorus's catchy, albeit repetitive hook? Maybe it was the simple yet challenging musical arrangement? Or maybe, just maybe, "Bad" was the quintessential song that represented just how serious and edgy rock stars thought of themselves in the 1980s, a decade that was already being defined by its bubbly, synthesized, "soft" pop music. It was perfect.

Fortunately, Michael agreed that it was time for another spoof. He even offered Al the set he built for his own spoof on the Moonwalker home video, "Badder" (in which the video was reenacted by children). Al recorded his second Jacko parody, "Fat," in mid-February 1988, with the Even Worse album targeted for an April release.

In a situation that Al had been through before, as funny and as well-done of a song "Fat" was, it was the music video that reaffirmed Al's position as the decade's premier musical satirist. Poking fun at everything from Michael's pointlessly moody opening sequence to the singer's various moves and gyrations, the "Fat" video was a comedic tour-de-force for both Al and director Jay Levey...perhaps they were getting their feet wet for a more-ambitious film project later in the year?

Fat
Another Michael Jackson parody, another video, another Grammy!
The video not only helped Even Worse get as far up as #27 in Billboard (making it Al's second-highest charting album at the time), but it also earned Al his second Grammy Award! In February 1989, Al received the award for Best Concept Video, the last Grammy he would get until 2004 (due to a bizarre "reclassification" of the comedy category that made Al ineligible for a decade).

The success of Even Worse allowed Al to branch out with other projects, making 1988 one of the most diversely productive years of his career. Although Al had previously contributed to movies with songs, he made his first two on-camera film appearances in 1988. Al did brief cameos in both Michael Nesmith's quirky indie comedy Tapeheads, in which he shoves John Cusack out of his way, and the comedy classic The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

If these brief appearances weren't enough, in July production began of Al's very-first movie, UHF. To be released in 1989, Al spent eight weeks in Tulsa starring in a movie he had co-written with Jay, who would also serve as the film's director. The only downside to the UHF production schedule was it prevented Al from touring to promote Even Worse (he even turned down an amazing offer to be the opening act on Michael Jackson's European tour that year!). But still, Al was quickly becoming a Renaissance man.

The fall of 1988 also saw Al release his first "special project" album, one that doesn't really fit in with his usual studio albums of comedic songs. Even though Al always had a large kid fanbase, this new project would be his first (and, so far, only) true-blue children's album. Teaming up with synthesizer wizard Wendy Carlos (who handled the music), Al adapted the story of Peter and the Wolf in true Weird Al fashion, adding characters such as Bob the Janitor. This retelling was joined by Al's "sequel" to Camille Saint-Saens and Ogden Nash's Carnival of the Animals, in which Al spotlights such oft-neglected animals as poodles and cockroaches.

Peter And The Wolf/Carnival Of The Animals Part II would go on to earn Al his third Grammy nomination of the year (the first two for Even Worse and the "Fat" video), this time for Best Children's Recording, making 1988 his most-nominated year ever. Due to the fact that it wasn't released by Scotti Bros. but rather by CBS, the album itself has gone out of print and has become a highly sought-after collector's item, and in fact there are still numerous fans who have yet to discover this gem.

And if there was ever a more clear testament to the success of Al's career at the time, in October Scotti Bros. released "Weird Al" Yankovic's Greatest Hits, a somewhat modest collection of Al's better-known parodies and originals of the past five years. Although maybe not as necessary as other releases, it did give the more-casual listeners a chance to hear Al's best work, and the compilation is often favorably recommended in most music guides.

Weird Al was still around and "badder" than ever!



Go back to the main Silver Accordion page!