Day One hundred and sixty-seven: "My Bologna" from Medium Rarities
Around the time of Pulp Fiction’s release, Quentin Tarantino told Movieline that he originally wanted to use The Knack’s “My Sharona” for the Gimp scene because, in the cult auteur’s mind at least, the naughty hit New Wave smash had a beat conducive to rigorous anal sex.
The sodomy-conducive groove of “My Sharona” is not the only filthy aspect of the song. Like most rock and roll songs, “My Sharona” is a hymn of sexual obsession about the lead singer’s erotic fixation with a teenaged girl. If a song could get #MeTooed a whole bunch of pervy songs from the 1970s and 1980s would get cancelled, including this lurid little ditty.
Given the filthy nature of “My Sharona” musically and lyrically, you would naturally assume that if a frizzy-haired, accordion-playing teenaged weirdo were to make a parody of it called “My Bologna” the parody would be, if anything, even dirtier than the infamously dirty original. You would imagine, understandably, that the wisenheimer would be talking about his bologna the same way a more ribald soul might discuss his trouser salami.
Not Al. When Al put out a song about bologna, you better believe it was actually about processed lunch meat, not a crude double entendre for his genitalia.
The original version of “My Bologna” is raw alright, but not in terms of lyrical content or sexuality. The young Al was a ferocious sexual beast but on wax he kept things PG and family friendly.
No, the rawness of Al’s modest, homemade addition to Capitol’s legacy is musical in nature. When Al revisited this seminal early parody for his self-titled debut legendary guitar god Rick Derringer was handling production and guitar and Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz mastered the song’s driving, pounding rhythm. But on the Capitol version of “My Bologna” Al is a one man band, and not of the busker-with-harmonica-acoustic guitar-and-knee cymbals-in-the-subway variety.
Some artists can sound like a band all by themselves. That’s not Al here. No, Al exactly like what he was: a supremely talented kid trying to replicate the filthy fury of The Knack with just an accordion and his voice. Instead of a beat redolent of sweaty, sweaty fornication, the song moves to the much more leisurely rhythms of solo accordion.
Al might have been performing a parody, a juvenile goof based on someone else’s ubiquitous smash but he was always unique, always a character, always an original even when spoofing someone else’s song.
The low-profile Christmas Eve release of the “My Bologna” single marked the beginning and the end of Al’s relationship with Capitol. The label assumed, not without reason, that the ambitious young singer-songwriter’s future as a recording artist and hit-maker would be brief and undistinguished. They never could have imagined that four full decades after the release of “My Bologna” the kooky kid with the novelty song about lunchmeat would be a national treasure whose accomplishments would dwarf those of the Knack as well as many of the artists he’d go on to lampoon.
Capitol thought Al would be a one-off, a novelty, a single artist at best. They had no idea that he would go the distance, that he was not just an album artist but a box set artist as well, and not just any box set, but a Grammy-winning fifteen volume box set that stands as an enduring testament to the incredible, utterly unique legacy of one of the most over-achieving musicians in the history of American music.
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