Day Eighty-Four: "Bedrock Anthem" from Alapalooza
Last week something unbelievably exciting and unprecedented happened in the world of “Weird Al” Yankovic. Yankovic announced the dates for his 2018 tour. That would be exciting enough in its own right. A “Weird Al” Yankovic concert or tour is always a cause for celebration. But what made this announcement particularly exciting was the nature of the tour.
With trademark self-deprecation, Al is calling the 2018 tour the “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.” Al explains: “In case you haven’t heard the rumors… THIS WILL NOT BE OUR NORMAL KIND OF TOUR. I decided we should try something different, just for a change of pace. So next year we’re scaling way, way back. No costumes, no props, no video screens, no computer servers. We’re just going to walk out on stage, sit down on stools, and play a bunch of old songs. Oh, and we’re going to be performing almost exclusively originals (i.e. not parodies). The deep cuts and obscure tracks. The songs that were never hits. The ones you barely remember.
Okay, obviously this tour is not for everybody. By design, it has extremely limited appeal. Instead of doing festivals, fairs and arenas, we’ll be doing small, intimate theatres. Instead of putting on a big flashy production, we’ll be trying to go for something very informal and low-key… kind of an Unplugged/Storytellers vibe. Like we’re just hanging out, playing in your living room. So if you’ve really got your heart set on seeing fat suits and Segways and hearing all your favorite parodies… this probably isn’t the tour for you. Chances are we’ll be doing that kind of show again sometime in the future, just not THIS time.”
If it weren’t called the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour a good name for it would be “No more fat suits, ever.” Needless to say, I am very, very excited about this change in direction. As someone who has spent the last six months writing about the superiority of Al’s originals to his parodies, I am super psyched that that side of his oeuvre will finally get this kind of a showcase.
A little while back I found myself thinking that it would be great to hear a song like “Airline Amy” at a “Weird Al” Yankovic concert, but because of the way he structures his shows, that was probably never going to happen. Now it seems entirely possible that “Airline Amy” will be among the neat obscurities he’ll haul out for lucky fans.
We all know “Weird Al” Yankovic the entertainer. What I’ve tried to write about in the Weird Accordion to Al is Alfred Yankovic the songwriter, musician, cultural icon, satirist and superlative comic craftsman. I feel like the beauty and the glory of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour is that it allows Al to leave “Weird Al” Yankovic the showman behind and send Alfred Yankovic the musician and songwriter and performer out on the road.
I cannot wait. I’m thinking about touring behind Al the way I toured behind Phish in 2010 and 2011 for You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me but with less drugs and less insanity. Also, this time around I’d like to avoid either going broke or going crazy, if possible. But an occasion like this calls for an investment far beyond merely going to Al’s Atlanta show.
This tour will only be self-indulgent in the sense that Al will be following his own muse instead of doing what he knows audiences will respond to. That means that we’re going to hear more songs like “Frank’s 2000 Inch TV” and fewer songs like “Bedrock Anthem.”
At the risk of repeating myself yet again (when you’re nearly one hundred entries into this series, it’s impossible not to), there’s nothing particularly wrong with “Bedrock Anthem” but it’s calculating and contrived in a way Al’s originals just are not.
“Bedrock Anthem” represents one of Al’s time-warped pop culture mash-ups. In this case, Al is cross-pollinating yet another fixtures of 1960s television camp—the mythology of The Flintstones, those prehistoric Honeymooners wannabes who re-emerged in a big way in 1994 as the stars of a dreadful and much-forgotten big screen vehicle that was nevertheless obscenely successful—with the nonsensical but aggressive and aggressively libidinal funk-punk of California jokesters Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Al has written so many songs about television that there’s an entire compilation devoted just to them. These songs tend to follow certain templates: there are songs that describe the premises of various TV shows, songs about how the protagonist hates particular shows and songs about people unhealthily, pathologically obsessed with TV shows, and/or just venerable talk show sidekick Ed McMahon.
“Bedrock Anthem” is sung from the point of view of someone who loves The Flintstones to the point where they desperately want to live inside its world. On a conceptual level, the comic conceit behind “Bedrock Anthem” isn’t terribly dissimilar from that of Lonely Island’s “Lazy Sunday.” In both songs, the intensity and masculine aggression of the delivery renders the incongruous banality of the subject matter hilarious.
There’s absolutely nothing tough or swaggering about going to see The Chronicles of Narnia or wishing that you had a dinosaur to ride on but that doesn’t keep the singers of “Lazy Sunday” or “Bedrock Anthem” from approaching their subject matter as forcefully as possible.
Anthony Kiedis’ delivery, particularly on “Give It Away”, makes just about everything he sings sound like gibberish. If anything, “Yabba Dabba Doo” would be an unusually coherent and elegant lyric from him.
In the VH-1 “Weird Al” Yankovic Behind the Story, Flea complains of “Bedrock Anthem”, “I didn't think it was very good. I enjoy Weird Al's things, but I found it unimaginative. It wasn't that great. Yabba Dabba Doo. I like Weird Al and everything. But you know everyone is hit or miss, except for me, of course.”
That strikes me as unnecessarily snarky. That said, “Bedrock Anthem” is as good as a song with this premise and this source material could be, but it’s not the most imaginative thing Al has ever done. I far prefer the single’s b-side, “Young, Dumb & Ugly” but “Bedrock Anthem” did what it needed to do: it was a single and a music video and landed on the soundtrack to The Flintstones movie.
Al has always been brilliant about balancing art and commerce, passion projects and commercial considerations. “Bedrock Anthem” definitely seemed to have fallen under the “commercial consideration” side of the ledger. Thankfully, it looks like “Weird Al” Yankovic the artist is about to have a nation-wide, Summer-long coming out party I'm beyond excited about.
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