Skip to main content

246. "Weird Al" Yankovic: UHF (1989)

With four hit albums under his belt and a proven ability to make entertaining music videos, Al got the chance to write and star in his own movie in 1989. The result was the not-spectacular-but-very-watchable UHF (you can read my extended thoughts on it here), about a man who takes over his uncle's TV station.

Of course it came with an album too, but the strange part is that despite being called an "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" only about half the songs actually appear in the film.

Let's tune in:

Song Parodies
Money For Nothing / Beverly Hillbillies is just what it advertises, the Clampett clan's TV theme song put to the tune of Dire Straits' 1985 hit. Reportedly, using the Hillbillies theme was an old idea of Al's. He'd previously done it to the tune of The Rolling Stones' Miss You, and tried to create a version based off Prince's Let's Go Crazy (Prince declined to authorize it, unsurprisingly). Speaking of authorization, Dire Straits maestro Mark Knopfler only agreed to let Al parody his song if Knopfler himself was allowed to play guitar on it. And so it went. The song had a blocky, computer-animated video, and actually appears in the film as a dream sequence.

On that same theme is Isle Thing, a take-off on Tone Loc's Wild Thing. Despite the fact that the song continues Al's obsession with marrying TV shows and pop music, it's actually one of his least conceptually obvious parodies. The lyrics concern a gravelly voiced young man who meets a fine young lady who loves to watch Gilligan's Island. Also of note: The song is Al's second foray into rap in as many albums.

And we're back into painfully obvious territory with She Drives Like Crazy, a rote take on Fine Young Cannibals' original (She Drives Me Crazy). It's the tale of a girl who's such a bad driver that she, "got her license from Cracker Jacks." Al does an admirable job approximating FYC singer Roland Gift on the verses, but on the chorus he sounds like a Muppet.

Finally, there's Spam, after R.E.M.s Stand. Though Al has said he had a great time deconstructing R.E.M.'s layered sound, he should have spent a little more time on the lyrics, which are about the joys of canned, processed meat (made in Austin, Minnesota). There's really not much of a joke there, at least not one that rewards repeat listens. This song would be more interesting if Al redid the lyrics and made them about e-mail spam.

Style Parodies
Generic Blues is one of Al's patented Crazy List songs, this time put to a typical blues backing. The formats compliment each other well as we learn that the singer was "born in a paper sack", had a father who was a waitress, and his hated by all of his brothers and sisters because he was an only child, among many other misfortunes. My favorite part is when Al urges his guitarist to "make it talk" and then tells him to "make it shut up" as the solo drones on.

The Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota is one of my very favorite Al songs, an epic story about a family's vacation to see the titular object. The song goes on for nearly 7 minutes without a chorus to speak of, but never gets tiring. Musically, it owes a huge debt to Harry Chapin, specifically 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, of which it is just shy of being a rip-off.

UHF, long one of my favorite Al originals also owes a dubious musical debt (this time to the guitar bit in The Jacksons' 1984 hit State of Shock, which Al did in polka form on Dare To Be Stupid). Despite that fact, it's a rousing, joyful ode to the power of television.

Film Clips
UHF requires a new, temporary category because it includes four bits take from the film in audio form. Ghandi II and Spatula City are a film trailer and commercial (respectively) that appear on the film's TV station and they work fairly well sans visuals. Fun Zone is an instrumental theme for a children's show on the station, and it really does sound like it could have been the intro to any number of '80s sitcoms/game shows/cartoons. Finally, Let Me Be Your Hog is a nonsense takeoff on The Stooges Let Me Be Your Dog.

Polka Medley
After an album off, the polka medley makes a return. But rather than take on the songs of the day, Hot Rocks Polka tackles the hits of The Rolling Stones (the name Hot Rocks comes from a title of one of their compilations). Here are the songs: It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It), Brown Sugar, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Honkey Tonk Woman, Under My Thumb, Ruby Tuesday, Miss You, Sympathy For the Devil, Get Off Of My Cloud, Shattered, Let's Spend the Night Together, and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction.

What The?!
Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters From a Planet Near Mars is a standard "wacky" track that follows in the footsteps of Nature Trail To Hell and Slime Creatures From Outer Space, and it does honestly sound like it could be the theme song to a weird B movie you come across on USA at 2 AM. But it falls in the "What The?!" category because it seems tailor-made for the film, and yet it's not in there. What the?!

References to food: 3
References to TV: 3
Grade: B-
Fave Song: UHF / Biggest Ball of Twine In Minnesota


Popular posts from this blog

12 by Weezer

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... I decided to take an unconventional route for this 12 by, and pretend Weezer have already released a "greatest hits." Here's what I think that would look like:  1) "Buddy Holly", 2) "Undone - the Sweater Song", 3) "My Name Is Jonas", 4) "The Good Life", 5) "El Scorcho", 6) "Hash Pipe", 7) "Island in the Sun", 8) "Dope Nose", 9) "Keep Fishin'", 10) "Beverly Hills", 11) "We Are All On Drugs", 12) "Pork and Beans".  Here's a different take: 1. " Say It Ain't So"  (from Weezer , 1994)  A little bit heavy, a little bit catchy, quiet-loud dynamics. So basically, it's Pixies lite. The song is interesting lyrically because it's basically nonsense until the "Dear daddy..." bridge, which lets out a t

12 by Jenny Lewis

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... Completely separate from Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis has put together an impressive oeuvre that is very difficult to winnow down to just 12 songs (if you include her work with Rilo Kiley, fuhgeddaboudit). But I've made what I feel is a valiant attempt. Because I admire Jenny's lyrics so much, I'm going to limit my commentary to a favorite couplet from the song. (If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen along here .) 1. "Rise Up With Fists!!!" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "But you can wake up younger, under the knife / And you can wake up sounder, if you get analyzed." 2. "Melt Your Heart" (from  Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "It's like a valentine from your mother / It's bound to melt your heart." 3. "Born Secular" (from Rabbit Fur Coat , 2005) "God works in mysterious ways / And God give

12 by Vicious Vicious

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course). This one features... If you need a reference point for the work of Vicious Vicious mastermind Erik Appelwick, the most appropriate would be Beck. Like Mr. Hansen, Minnesota-based Appelwick has the ability to navigate between making you laugh and making you cry and making you want to dance, and embraces genres from country to R& B to folk to pop.  I've included songs from the two albums Appelwick did under the name Tropical Depression, because honestly there's not a lot of difference between that and Vicious Vicious.  I very literally  wrote the book  on Appelwick, so please feel confident you are hearing from an authority here.  If you have Amazon Music Unlimited, you can listen to an alternate version of list here  (sadly, not all of VV's music is on the service). 1. "Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor" (from Blood + Clover , 2003) A loungy, laconic come-on