Day One hundred and thirty-seventh: "Weasel Stomping Day" from Straight Outta Lynwood
One of the reasons I greatly prefer Al’s originals to his parodies is because they tend to explore darker, deeper and more demented subject matter than the hits he’s known for. To generalize, Al’s parodies focus on the evergreen territory of food, television, TV and movies (specifically the Star Wars motion pictures, although God knows his oeuvre is overflowing with nods to Star Trek as well) while his originals are more likely to be about torture, murder, insanity, death, romance as a horrifying form of mental illness, mental illness, insanity and crazed narcissism.
It’s on the originals that American pop parodist Al Yankovic truly gets “weird” and “Weasel Stomping Day”, the ultimate deep cut, is a beautiful example of just how strange and ghoulish Al can get when he’s not worrying about appealing to the narrow sensibilities of radio people or the pop market.
On “Weasel Stomping Day”, Al goes in for that “sick humor” that’s all the rage these days and can be seen and heard in the X-rated party albums of David Allen Coe and that irreverent rag National Lampoon. You know National Lampoon. They’re the comedy revolutionaries who famously put out a cover with a gun to a dog’s head with the headline “If you don’t buy this magazine we’ll KILL this dog.”
Literally everyone who looked at this cover purchased the magazine to keep the poor, adorable dog from being cruelly murdered but those demented souls killed the dog anyway, then feasted on his roasted flesh in a bacchanal of historic proportions. They drank mead from bejeweled chalices, wore kingly crowns and howled “We are GODS of Satire! The rules of mere mortals mean NOTHING to us! We shall RULE the culture and someday be vaguely connected to the making and marketing of late-period Chevy Chase vehicle Vegas Vacation.”
That’s not Al. He’s not a crazed libertine flaunting his contempt for bourgeoisie society but he does have an underlying sadistic streak that finds perhaps its purest reflection in this chipper little tune about a fictional holiday where, for reasons seemingly lost to time, children and adults alike put on viking helmets, slather mayonnaise on the lawn and brutally torture and then murder weasels.
Why? No one knows. As the morbidly syrupy voices crooning the tune in horrific harmony assert, “Why do we do it, who can say/But it’s such a festive holiday/So let the stomping fun begin/Bash their weaselly skulls right in/It’s tradition that makes it okay!”
The ghoulishly gleeful weasel-stomping enthusiasts of this delightfully dark ditty aren’t the only people with questionable, questionably barbaric traditions. Heck, I am a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion (I’ll pause briefly here for you to deal with your shock) and according to our religion, a while back G-d was all, “Hey, I’m gonna need you to lop off part of every dude’s dick from now on as a display of devotion. That’s not gonna be a problem, is it?”
And my ancestors, were a little less than enthused and G-d could see how trepidatious they were about the whole slicing of the penis thing so he was all, “I’ll make it worth your while! How about if I fix it so that in the distant future your ancestors dominate the field of entertainment law?” and my ancestors were all, “Yeah, we dunno know if that’s enough for that whole ‘cutting out dicks’ thing. To be honest, that sounds painful. Are you going to fix it so that it’s not painful? You can do that, right? You’re G-d.”
And then the Lord of Israel counter-offered “Look, it’s going to hurt very badly. As badly as you’d expect, but I’ll throw in musical theater and a lot of the film business. And lets just say you won’t need to be worried about being under represented in the world of investment banking.”
Did my ancestors say yes? Let’s just say my second son’s bris is scheduled in about a month.
Musically, “Weasel Stomping Day” sounds like the kind of annoyingly catchy anthem you might hear outside a ride at Disney Land. “It’s a Small World” is the undisputed king of those clamorous contraptions. Like “Weasel Stomping Day” its catchiness is nothing short of sadistic. You simply cannot get these songs out of your head, which means that a disturbingly large number of people who bought this album had lyrics like “You’ll know what this day’s all about when you stomp a weasel’s guts right out” and “All the little girls and boys love that wonderful crunching noise.”
“Weasel Stomping Day” is as cloying sonically as it is deranged thematically, a wholesome 1960s family cartoon family-friendly song about the least wholesome, family-friendly subject matter imaginable: the mindless slaughter and mass murder of terrified, blameless animals by Americans driven into a frenzy of violent madness by something as simple and banal a holiday with singularly barbaric customs.
Holidays, real and imagined, are invariably dark days in Al’s world, as evidenced by his pair of apocalyptic, bloody Christmas songs and his equally apocalyptic birthday song. “Weasel Stomping Day” starts dark and gets increasingly brutal until words cheering the ritualistic assault and killing of small animals are augmented by the sound effects of of the crunching of weasel bones as they’re beaten bloody en masse.
I have now written one hundred and thirty seven articles about the songs of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’m writing my second book about him and have been to, I believe twelve or thirteen of his concerts. I’m fairly familiar with his aesthetic and his work and I still found myself cringing a little in simultaneous mortification and amusement that one of his songs went to such a dark, brutal place.
It was redolent of the many moments on tour when I would look around and see audience members literally gasping with surprise at a particularly dark song or nasty turn of phrase. “Weasel Stomping Day” illustrates that deep into his career Al retained the awesome power to shock and surprise as well as delight and amuse even his most devoted and obsessive fans.
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