MAKE THE ROCK HALL "WEIRD"

Press Stuff

He's from L.A., but we should still love him

by Lucinda Breeding
Denton Record-Chronicle
July 10, 2005

This just in from the "Bet You Didn't Know That" files:

"Weird Al" Yankovic fans are begging the state of Texas to join a grassroots campaign to get Yankovic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Seriously.

Texas, can you give Weird Al a little love?

Weird Al saw his star rise in the 1980s. As legend--and the Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com--would have it, Alfred Matthew Yankovic, 45, was destined to be an icon of the absurd.

He took up the accordion when a salesman hit his parents up for a music school enrollment. His affinity for spending hours in front of the television would eventually inspire the comedian to thumb his nose at pop music by co-opting huge hits by the likes of Madonna, the Knack and lesser known popster Greg Kihn. He did this all while wearing a trademark Hawaiian shirt, glasses, and a white man's Jimmy Hendrix 'do. (Update: Weird Al had LASIK surgery in 1997 and doesn't need his nerdy glasses, but still wears them sometimes.)

Before it was cool to make fun of Michael Jackson, Yankovic parodied the tough-guy, gangster confection "Beat It" with "Eat It." In the early 1990s, Yankovic lampooned grunge rock pioneers Nirvana. My bet is that the late Kurt Cobain didn't see that coming. Yankovic also developed a talent for creating accordion medleys of songs that have absolutely no connection.

Before you dismiss him, you ought to know that Yankovic has a slew of Gold and Platinum Records in the United States and Canada. He also graduated at the top of his class at Lynwood High School at 16. And he has three Grammy Awards.

Those who love him are demanding that he get full pop culture coronation by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they mean it. In fact, fan and organizer Greg Method said his crew is spending all of July campaigning the Hall of Fame Foundation. They want Texas fans to send letters and postcards to the foundation's New York office. They are concentrating their efforts during the week of July 17.

"We're spending July focusing on the middle of the country, where Weird Al has always found a large audience," Method said in a press release. "But really, this campaign is a chance for fans in all parts of the country to show how much they love Al. In the end, we hope to have fans in every state who are willing to participate."

Method runs the All Things Yankovic Web site, which will host the campaign Web site.

Perhaps the Texas leg of the campaign could gather strength in Denton, where many people have a healthy respect for the accordion.

Denton Record-Chronicle reporter Matt Zabel astonished the newsroom Friday morning with his genuine approval of the bushy-haired, bespectacled tenor who flats out on all the high notes in his musical comedy shtick.

"I really like Weird Al," Zabel said after I announced the campaign would be the subject of today's column. "He had a really funny movie called UHF. It was a funny movie. I liked it. I don't know if [Record-Chronicle copy editor] Dalton Tomlin knows that. My ideas and his ideas, well, you know."

I asked Tomlin if he knew Zabel shared his love of Yankovic. It turns out he knew.

Oh, and his unedited review of UHF, by e-mail, was:

"Duuuuuuuuuude. It's one of my all-time faves, but I first saw it when I was like 10. It's one of those late '80s/early '90s movies that I'll always like, no matter how cheesy it really is. You're welcome to borrow my DVD."

What do you know? Yankovic's two best Texan promoters might be right here in the office.

Method said his loyal fans are rooting for induction in 2006. They think their man is due for the honors. An artist becomes eligible for induction 25 years after the release of his or her first record. Since 1973, Yankovic has recorded a steady stream of rock parodies, and fans appreciate his ability to take shots while retaining respect for the people he spoofs.

"No other artist has been nearly as successful at making fun of rock n' roll," Method said. "The spirit of rock n' roll is about freedom and nonconformity, and there is perhaps no better quality to show that than the ability to laugh at oneself."

If inducted, Yankovic would be the first performer in the rock Hall of Fame representing comic rock, Method said. He points to two other well-known parodists, Spinal Tap from the film This is Spinal Tap and the fresher faces of Tenacious D.

Yankovic might be the only inductee who truly worked at rock n' clown.

For more information or to jump on the "Weird Al" bandwagon, visit http://members.aol.com/allthngynk/ [again, we've moved]. Also visit Yankovic's official site at www.weirdal.com. [believed to still exist]


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