Day Fifty-Nine: "Gandhi II" from UHF: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff
Howdy Al-coholics! We have reached a weird milestone in our journey: the first flat-out skit in Al’s oeuvre. Yep, Day Fifty-Nine on the least read column in human history is devoted not to a song but the audio for a fake commercial for a fake film from the Orion motion picture UHF.
The movie is a, thus far unmade sequel to Gandhi called Gandhi II (Al had a lot on his mind at this point, what with the movies and the music and the starring and the writing and the acting and the soundtrack and whatnot, so I do not begrudge him not coming up with a funny joke subtitle) that trades in the original’s prestige-film stateliness for more of a violent, sexed-up blaxploitation vibe.
Set to distinctive wah-wah guitar and disco strings that conjures up a Proustian explosion of pimps and players as well as private eyes, this mock trailer audio showcases a Gandhi who has traded in passive resistance for punching fools with his furious fists. The skit would theoretically be at a disadvantage by virtue of being an audio-only representation of an audio-visual experience but the sound effects of Gandhi kicking all sorts of butts is so loud and evocative that the humor comes through with the force and power of one of the late, revered pacifist icon’s deadly punches or roundhouse kicks.
The revisionist Gandhi of Gandhi II is a sex machine to all the chicks as well as a man of action and while most of what I know about history and science comes from Al’s music, in some ways the portrait of Gandhi that emerges here is historically incorrect. Gandhi was famously a vegetarian, for example, like our pal Al, but the somewhat off-brand Indian icon of peace and independence here orders a “steak, medium rare.”
I derive an additional level of amusement from this skit because Gandhi is played by Al’s manager, Jay Levey, who I had the honor of working with a little on Weird Al: The Book. As I may have related here before (hey, I’m on entry 59 in this, it’s amazing I’m not repeating the same stories every three songs), Levey’s path to managing Al began when he found a Timothy Leary paperback as a young spiritual seeker and sought out a relationship with the man, who somewhat inconveniently happened to be imprisoned at the time.
The two men developed a relationship that led to Levey managing him, and work with that demented doc led to an even more fruitful partnership with the ultimate demented doctor, Dr. Demento. This led to Al, which led to me meeting Jay about five or six years ago in New York. We went to the Sony building and raided their archives looking for Al stuff for the book. It was one of many memorable days working on the book, days when I felt like I was communing with the sum of musical history.
I felt humbled and honored to be in a place like that, where you can all but feel the history, and for something like Weird Al: the Book and there are certain songs and moments that really bring me back to the experience of working on the book. Even today, I sometimes have difficulty believing that I actually had a chance to write a book with my childhood hero and that there's a book out there credited to Nathan Rabin & Al Yankovic.
“Gandhi II” had effects beyond making me nostalgic for a weird time in my life. Just as Al previously invented horrorcore, post-modernism, MTV, the internet, Nerdcore, mash-ups and memes, I’m just going to lazily assume he invented the idea of including snippets of dialogue on a soundtrack, and that Quentin Tarantino stole the idea for Pulp Fiction.
Somewhere, a young Quentin Tarantino was sparking a doobie when he had a brainstorm: he would include snippets of film dialogue as instant-nostalgic flavor for film fans, but when he told his partners about his plan to intersperse snippets from UHF like “Spatula City” and “Gandhi II” in between instantly iconic songs by Urge Overkill, Chuck Berry, Dick Dale and more on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, they told him that’d be confusing and that he should include dialogue from Pulp Fiction instead.
Ol’ QT was disappointed, of course, but the soundtrack producer’s hunch made sense: including sound clips from Pulp Fiction instead of UHF on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack was a lot less confusing. And Al had already included clips from “Spatula City” and “Gandhi II” on the UHF soundtrack, so putting them on the zeitgeist-capturing Pulp Fiction soundtrack would be a weirdly redundant gesture.
Al similarly invented the idea of littering a sound clip on a skit with the sound of explosive gunfire. Given Al’s popularity and influence in gangsta rap circles, it’s not surprising that in the aftermath of the UHF soundtrack, suddenly every gangsta rap album featured the roar of fake gunplay.
Al did it first, even when he didn’t actually do it first, and he brings that originality with him even when imagining a sequel that, to be brutally honest, takes some liberties with the historical record, some might even say to a comic degree. People such as me. In that sentence I just wrote.
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