"One More Minute" from Dare To Be Stupid
Before we get onto the silliness, a bit of business. Since this site launched a little over a month ago, it's featured a new The Weird Accordion To Al article every day, in addition to the daily "Big Whoop" blog and features like Lukewarm Takes, Control Nathan Rabin, My World of Flops and many, many more. I love writing The Weird Accordion To Al but it is an enormous amount of work and judging by the page-views, also probably more commentary on "Weird Al" Yankovic than most of y'all can handle. I don't blame you. Five articles every week ranging from 600 to 1500 words is a lot for anything, even the music and culture of "Weird Al" Yankovic.
To that end, beginning next week, The Weird Accordion To Al will run thrice weekly, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That's still an awful lot of "Weird Al" Yankovic, but hopefully not an overwhelming amount. This way, I can continue to do the series and Al justice, without burning out or going insane or abandoning my wife and son for the kind but demanding mistress that is Nathan Rabin's Happy Place.
Now onto the silliness!
As I have hopefully chronicled here, Al writes funny songs maybe better than anyone else alive. He certainly writes parody songs better than anyone else alive. But sometimes Al will write a song so good that it transcends comedy altogether and endures as just a beautiful song. That’s true of Dare To Be Stupid’s title song and it’s equally true of “One More Minute.”
The song exaggerates slightly, for comic effect, the extent and nature of the singer’s heartbreak and emotional distress, or at least I’d like to think it does, but there is a core of genuine emotional hurt underneath the ghoulish comedic excess. “One More Minute” isn’t a great parody of a break-up song or a great goof on the tremblingly emotional break-up ballad: it’s a great break-up song, period.
“Dare To Be Stupid”, “This Is The Life” and “One More Minute” aren’t just three of the best originals Al has ever written: they’re three of his best songs, period. These Dare To Be Stupid standouts are at once indelibly rooted in a very specific era—the nerds-with-synthesizers-and-attitudes New Wave of Devo, the Great Depression and the 1950s and 1960s of Elvis Presley’s innocent stage—and timeless and enduring.
The song begins on a straight-faced note, with Al channeling the achingly emotional intimacy of “Are You Lonesome Tonight”-era Elvis Presley to address a girlfriend who has broken up for him for another man. The singer struggles to at least appear magnanimous but he’s not doing a very good job of handling his emotions and, as the kids say, things escalate quickly: one minute, he’s dutifully ripping his ex's page out of his Rolodex: the next he’s burning down one of their old hang-outs solely because he associates it with a dead relationship.
The line about “burning down the malt shop where we used to go, just because it reminds me of you!” signals a shift in the song’s tone. From here on out, the singer attempts to put a good face on the break-up with hilariously over-the-top descriptions of the torments of the damned he’d willingly subject himself to rather than endure another miserable moment with his ex.
Al’s affability allows him to get away with an awful lot because if you really look at “One More Minute” it’s full of so much violent imagery that, despite what Tipper Gore might have claimed, it was actually Al’s heartbroken doo-wop tearjerker that inspired the “Parental Advisory” sticker, rather than Prince’s “Darling Nikki” or W.A.S.P’s “Animal (Make Sweet Passionate Love Like A Beast).”
Oh, and what year was the Parental Advisory sticker introduced? That would be 1985. What year was Dare To Be Stupid released? The same year. Coincidence? No. Tipper Gore and the rest of angry mob of stern busybodies pretended to be concerned about metal and funk and rap, but really it was all about Al with her. She helped create the Parental Advisory sticker as a way of taming his tendency towards violent provocation but he’s such a genius that they could never hang a “Parental advisory” sticker on anything he did. I think it's safe to say that if Iron Maiden was singing about ripping out intestines with a fork or spending eternity eating shards of broken glass, the way Al does here, family groups would be up in arms about it.
Al has seldom sounded more perversely masochistic than when he’s contemplating just how much he’d rather jump naked on a huge pile of thumbtacks, or dive into a swimming pool filled with double-edged razor blades rather than endure another moment of romantic misery.
Over velvety waves of doo-wop back up vocals, the singer grows more and more enraged until he’s yelling about his willingness to tear his heart out of his ribcage and stomp on it until death rather than experience the less appealing option of one last date with his ex. Al has seldom been this expressive or emotional in his delivery. I particularly like the sheer volume of anger and bitterness Al breathes into a bitterly, bitterly sarcastic, “Darlin’.”
“One More Minute” is relatively unique in Al’s oeuvre in that it contains what is known in the “business” as a dick joke, and not just a dick joke, mind you, but a masturbation joke when he croons forlornly, “I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love and I have to use the self-service pumps.”
Dick jokes are the essence of comedy throughout all cultures and nationalities. From the Lakota Indian to frozen Antarctica to the mean street of West Philly, all humor is essentially penis-based, which makes it all the more remarkable that Al has made people laugh for nearly forty years without resorting to dick jokes. Or profanity.
Is the line about the self-service pumps the only dick joke in Al’s music? I don’t know, I’m not that familiar with his work but I’m enjoying what I’m hearing. If you’re only going to have one memorable dick joke in your work, this is a pretty good one to go in and out on. It also helps that it’s subtle enough to soar over the heads of kids entirely.
It’s a testament to our country’s weird puritanism when it comes to sex that a relatively mild joke about a heartbroken man masturbating his pain away somehow feels as adult and transgressive as lyrics about ripping out intestines with silverware and having blood sucked out by leeches.
I bet that a young Method Man, circa Enter The 36 Chambers was sitting quietly with a notebook and a pen trying to think about what he should write his Wu-Tang Clan skit about: a nice day at the beach? The importance of education? A tribute to his grandmother’s lovely flower garden? Maybe a romantic interlude where he goes on a date with a pretty young lady that ends with a goodnight smooch?
Then young Meth blasted the Dare To Be Stupid cassette he always listened to for inspiration and on came “One More Minute”, with its incredibly detailed descriptions of some of the ways that the human body can be tortured and the human spirit can be humiliated and debased, and had a eureka moment. HE would also use his art to describe how a body can be abused with lip-smacking sadism. But where Al’s stomach-churningly graphic descriptions of the unconscionable torment he would willingly endure rather than be subjected to his ex-girlfriend’s presence for even a speck longer serve a point both comic and emotional, Method Man’s gleeful descriptions of torture serve no purpose whatsoever.
Similarly, I like to imagine that a young Insane Clown Posse became obsessed with the song and decided that they would either form a doo wop group or devote their career to describing ways that sinners can be tortured if their lives and morality fail to meet the duo’s high standards. Since their harmonies were a little rusty, and neither could master the whole, super-deep-bass talking guy-thing they decide they’d focus on the torture rather than doo wop aspect of the song. The rest, as they say, is history.
Am I claiming here that “Weird Al” invented horrorcore with “One More Minute?” Yes, yes I am. I’m also arguing that he is primarily responsible for Parental Advisory stickers. Those are some pretty impressive legacies for a single song from a single artist but I think I can say without hyperbole that the “Weird Al” Yankovic of Dare To Be Stupid had the energy and ambition of youth and the guile and calculation of a much older man.
To the rest of the world, it might have seemed like he was just chasing the zeitgeist, but Al was building a legacy, one silly song at a time, and few, if any songs, in Al’s oeuvre cut deeper than this bleakly hilarious look at romantic despair.
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