Day One Hundred and Three: "I Remember Larry" from Bad Hair Day
Sonically, “I Remember Larry” is a giddy, glorious throwback to the highly synthesized, electronic, extravagantly produced New Wave of the late 1970s and 1980s, specifically the solo albums of Hilly Michaels, who rivals Tonio K (who inspired both “Happy Birthday” and “I Was Only Kidding”) for the distinction of being the single most obscure cult artist to inspire a “Weird Al” Yankovic pastiche.
Michaels may be better known as the drummer for Sparks, another titan of quirky musical comedy that inspired one of Al’s best originals in “Virus Alert”, but Sparks isn’t exactly a household name in the United States either, even as they are exactly the kind of brilliant oddballs Al loves to pay tribute to.
“I Remember Larry” is a throwback lyrically as well to the more apocalyptic, bloody and dark humor of Al’s 1980s, when, as we have exhaustively chronicled, he accidentally created the genre of “Horrorcore” through songs like “I Remember Larry”, which sounds like a zippy, silly, goofy roller-skate through the park but prominently features torture, sadism, abuse and ultimately murder.
“I Remember Larry” is not the first “Weird Al” Yankovic song where the singer appears to be committing some manner of homicide, or at least attempting to do so.
That might seem incongruous for a sunny, wholesome, family-friendly figure like Al but now that I think about it, when we worked together he did occasionally show hints of a darker side. For example, he told me he’s a Vegetarian and a big believer in animal rights and consequently against hunting. Yet he told me over and over again that he felt that he would make an exception for human beings because, in his words, “Human beings truly are the most dangerous game.”
He would talk on and on about how people are the most dangerous but also the most satisfying prey until I finally had to tell him that what he was talking about had nothing to do with Weird Al: The Book, and, frankly, was making me uncomfortable.
That’s when he got this crazy gleam in his eye and he told me, “What if that IS the book? Maybe the “Weirdest” thing we can do with this “book” would be for it to just be images of terrified human beings being hunted for sport!"
When I objected that people might feel a little ripped off if they purchased a book called Weird Al: The Book and it contained zero “Weird Al” Yankovic content a deeply disturbing smile crept upon Al's face and he just grinned a creepy grin and said, “Who do you think is taking all the pictures? Who do you think has the camera in one hand and the rifle and harpoon in the other? I’ll tell you who it’s not: Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum. He’s dead. I took his woman, his song and his life. He gave chase, but was no match for a high-powered rifle with an equally powerful scope.”
Man, now that I really think about it, there were some disturbing signs along the way that Al wasn’t quite as wholesome and innocent as he appeared. That is reflected in songs like “I Remember Larry”, which opens with Al energetically reminiscing about his wacky, traumatic relationship with the titular jokester, a demented, Puck-like imp of a man whose conception of a “prank” generally entails committing an unforgivable crime.
Some of Larry’s actions fall loosely under the category of “juvenile mischief”, like making phony calls (something Al is very much against, as we will discover in the next entry in this column), doling out wedgies, pantsing people, the old “Ben Gay in the jock strap” routine and the like. But a good number of Larry’s offenses qualify as criminal and borderline psychotic, like dumping toxic waste on people’s lawns and cutting cars in two via what I can only imagine is the world’s largest chainsaw, which is no doubt kept next to the biggest ball of twine in Minnesota.
What at first appears to be the song of a good-natured masochist willing to put up with anything in the name of tomfoolery turns sadistic when the singer spends the final verse of the song recounting how he got back at Larry by murdering him. The song sounds every bit as dementedly cheerful and upbeat as ever, only now it’s chronicling Larry being abducted and left for dead.
Two of the three final songs in Bad Hair Day lovingly chronicle in brutal detail a series of crimes, up to and including mass murder, committed by deeply disturbed individuals who include Santa Claus. The other song features The Simpsons in their prime and parodies one of the best pop songs of the decade. It is any wonder “Syndicated Incorporated” comes off as a little bland and wishy-washy in this context?
Like the Hilly Michaels music he’s saluting, “I Remember Larry” sounds full and ambitious, including trippy Beach Boys-gone-psychedelic background vocals, without sounding overly busy. Actually, that trippy closing part contains one of Al's most audacious gags: if you play part of "I Remember Larry" backwards, you can unmistakably hear Al singing, "Wow, you must have a lot of free time on your hands."
Even without that brilliant bit of tomfoolery, "I Remember Larry" still qualifies as a demented gem that’s more than just a pretty good gag and a pretty good, very dark song.
Support the Weird Accordion to Al and Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place for Christmas, man! It’s what Santa would want you to do over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace