Al incurs the wrath of a "gangsta" and gets his biggest hit.
In the mid-1990s, Weird Al was back in the mainstream. Both Off The Deep End and Alapalooza went Gold soon after their respective releases, as did Al's video collections; Al racked up two additional Grammy nominations; and the Permanent Record boxed set garnered modest attention (one music critic said, "Too much Weird Al is better than too little."). But Al had yet to have another monster hit since 1992's "Smells Like Nirvana." In 1996 Al would get that new hit song, not to mention some trouble along the way.
The year started off with a showstopping appearance at the Dick Clark-produced American Music Awards, in which both Al and rapper Coolio took the stage to present the award for Best Alternative Group. Although Coolio looked...well, like Coolio, Al went all out and dressed up for the appearance. Decked out in a swanky pin-stripe suit, Al's new look was completed with his long curls twisted into Coolioesque "dreads." Al continued the gentle mocking by imitating Coolio's walk, Coolio's hand gestures, and even his quasi-tough "Yea' bo-oy!" Even though he kept to the script, Coolio was obviously getting a kick out of the exchange. Years later it was revealed that Coolio even gave Al tips on his walk while the two were waiting to go on. Backstage a reporter asked Al what the deal was with the new look. Al shrugged, "I'm just having a bad hair day." Master of promotion.
Soon after, it was revealed that Al's next album, "coincidentally" titled Bad Hair Day, would be out that March. The lead-off single would a parody of, sure enough, Coolio's Dangerous Minds theme "Gangsta's Paradise." Al's parody would be "Amish Paradise," transporting the song from Compton to Lancaster. Unfortunately, the buzz surrounding the album would soon be tempered by minor controversy.
Backstage at the Grammys, after receiving an award for "Gangsta's Paradise," Coolio was asked by a reporter if he had heard Al's parody. The rapper insisted that he never gave Al permission to record the song, and in fact he seemed to be quite bothered by it. Even though the press did pick up on this news, in retrospect it was a minor media blip compared to Al's later problem with Eminem. Meanwhile, Al swore up and down that Scotti Bros. informed him that Coolio's people did in fact grant him permission for the parody, but at the same time he felt horrible that Coolio was so personally offended by the song. It is still not known exactly what happened.
Regardless, both Bad Hair Day and the "Amish Paradise" video came out in mid-March, and both to mostly favorable reviews. The album would go Gold just two months later and, a month after that, would hit Platinum status. BHD would also reach #14 on Billboard's "Billboard 200" album chart, a record high for an Al album (one that has yet to be topped). The music video collection Bad Hair Day: The Videos would also do well, earning Al another Gold Record for sales of 25,000 copies.
Al rode the phenomenal success of Bad Hair Day for the rest of the year. In late March he recorded the title theme to the Leslie Nielsen vehicle Spy Hard. An original take-off of James Bond themes such as "Goldfinger" and "Thunderball," "Spy Hard" found Al heading into new music styles and more elaborate arrangements, much like he did with his first movie theme "This Is The Life" back in 1984. Al was also asked to direct the film's opening titles, essentially making a "Spy Hard" music video. Al delivered big time with a hilarious sequence, accumulating with Al's head literally blowing up following an extended high note. In fact, many movie critics cited Al's opening as the film's only highlight.
Al and the band are decked out in buttonless garb for "Amish Paradise," one of the very few shots in the video to feature all four main band members.
The special would air numerous times, while the non-musical segments would later turn up as a CD-ROM file on Al's next album, Running With Scissors. And until the 1999 release of the "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! home video this show was the closest anyone was going to get to an official release of a live concert.
And by the end of the year, it all went back to Dick Clark. Al was one of the headlining acts for that year's Rockin' New Year's Eve. In addition to performing both "Amish Paradise" and "Gump," the latter to the delight of the Presidents of the United States of America, the guys were also seen on camera singing "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight. Speaking of Dick Clark, Al would soon have cause for even more celebrating.
A bad hair day would turn out to be Al's best year.
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