Day Ninety-Nine: "Since You've Been Gone" from Bad Hair Day
It’s a testament to the depth and talent of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic that we’re nearly one hundred entries into our epic exploration of the man’s music and we’re hitting yet another first. I could be wrong, and often am, about everything from Bitcoin to which was the pro-slavery side in the American Civil War (I could have sworn it was The North, but apparently it was something called the "Confederacy") but I believe that this is the first a cappella song Al ever released, some sixteen years and nine albums into his career as a recording artist.
Most acts successfully manage to go their entire careers without releasing even a single a cappella song, to the relief of their fans. But Al isn’t just any musician. For starters, his beloved “goofs” frequently take the melodies of hit songs and then change the lyrics so that they’re about food or television programs. That’s pretty crazy. “Weird” even. Ninety-nine entries in, I finally feel that Al has earned the nickname “Weird.” This is the song that did it.
“Since You’ve Been Gone” may break new ground sonically for Al, although folks who’ve had the honor of seeing Al and the gang live (which I’m guessing is most of you) know that he and his band can confidently list “tight a cappella crooning” as part of their remarkable skill set.
Lyrically, “Since You’ve Been Gone” fits in perfectly with Al’s songs about romantic relationships, which are populated by a rogue’s gallery of creeps, weirdoes, lunatics and obsessives I have taken to calling his Lousy Lothsarios, his Creepy Casanovas. Love and romantic entanglements are frequently painful and bittersweet in the pop music canon.
In Al’s warped world, however, there’s all kinds of bitterness but no sweetness, unless we’re talking about the melodies of classics like “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” and “One More Minute”, where much of the humor comes from the contrast between the lovely music and the horrifying sentiments being expressed.
The singer of “Since You’ve Been Gone” is in a whole world of pain, but it’s not the abstract ache of a typical love song. As with so many of Al’s warped anti-love songs, Al is, if anything, maybe a little too graphic and evocative in detailing the exact nature of his torment. For Al, being apart from his object of desire and derision makes him feel like he’s “chewing on tinfoil” (tinfoil of course being a typically Al object of obsession and the subject of a future song), and has “got a great big mouthful of cod liver oil.”
Our miserable, lovelorn loser concedes that he’s been in a “buttload of pain” as of late, which is an unusual way to express romantic despair and also about as ribald and profane as Al gets. As someone who has somehow managed to make it 100,000 words into this series without swearing even once, I would like to publicly shame Al for using words like “buttload.” My God, children listen to your songs, and parental locks on laptops keep them from ever having access to language like that.
Al manages to fit a surprising number of incredibly graphic, painful and surreal images of visceral physical pain, from a two-ton bowling ball being dropped on his poor feet to having a red hot cactus shoved up his nose in just eighty two seconds and even manages to close things with a punchline and a twist.
After letting us know just how terrible life has been since the singer’s partner left him he closes by confiding that he feels almost as bad since she’s been gone as he did when they were still together. It’s a cute, dark twist from a song that benefits from the novelty of an a cappella song popping up so deep into Al’s discography, as well as a welcome succinctness.
There’s a time and place for a cappella, and “Since You’ve Been Gone” establishes that time is somewhere in the eighty to eighty five second range.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and the Weird Accordion to Al over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace