Day One hundred and seventy-two: “Jurashiku Park” from Medium Rarities
Welcome, friends, to the Weird Accordion to Al! It’s been a little while since I last updated this column because, funnily enough, I have been working like a fiend on the Weird Accordion to Al book. It took a couple of weeks but I’ve done my first draft of revisions for all fourteen studio albums. And you know what? It’s great! It’s really, really good, and I’m not just saying that because I have an intense personal, financial and professional investment in the book’s success.
I wasn’t sure how the individual entries would hold together as a four hundred page book but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how smoothly and enjoyably it reads. I’m excited about the surprisingly vast amount of legitimately insightful musical and cultural commentary these entries contain but I’m almost as excited about all of the stuff that won’t make it into the book.
I’ve been deleting like mad in a way that really improves the overall product. What kind of stuff won’t make it into the book? This paragraph of course, becooz it’s one of many, many, many, many, many annoyingly navel-gazing passages where I talk about the column itself and its relationship to the book but also becoozzz it’s even more riddled with typos and sloppy grammatically errors than most and also because the last sentence is about having painful hemorrhoids and that has no place, really, in either the column or the book. In conclusion, I have painful hemorrhoids.
Enough nonsense! Onto the part of this entry that I will not giddily delete a month or so from now when I’m doing revisions on the Medium Rarities entries.
Japan has always had a special affinity for Al. Why wouldn’t it? Al is pretty much the Platonic ideal of the perfect American: an outsized cartoon character from California who parodies icons like Madonna and Michael Jackson and makes funny, outrageous songs about food and television.
Al referenced the land of the rising sun in his breakout hit “Eat It” when he famously implored, “How come you're always such a fussy young man?/Don't want no Captain Crunch, don't want no Raisin Bran/Well, don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan?”
Decades later Cibo Matto, a cultishly adored duo made up of two Japanese expatriates who also sing extensively about food (their name “Crazy Food”) paid tribute to Al when they covered “Eat It” for the nifty Dr. Demento Covered in Punk compilation that also gave us Al’s cover of “Beat on the Brat,”
In 1984, when “Eat It” mania was at its apex Al released a pair of compilations for the Japanese market: The Official Music Of “Weird Al” Yankovic Hits Tokyo, which contained mostly originals from Al’s first two albums, as well as Eat It, which focussed on parodies.
Al was even invited to perform on what he was told was Japan’s version of Saturday Night Live, an experience that would prove utterly surreal even if Al spoke the language.
Al’s love affair with Japan continued when he recorded a version of “Jurassic Park”, a tribute to the film of the same name based on the blockbuster novel Michael Crichton published in 1990, a mere two years before his astonishingly racist anti-Japanese manifesto Rising Sun, which was also turned into a hit film.
Given Al’s popularity in Japan, and the international popularity of Jurassic Park as one of the top-grossing blockbusters of all time, the “suits” decided it could not hurt Al’s popularity in the East for him to release “Jurassic Park” in Japanese.
Al might have watched over a hundred episodes of The Flintstones to research “Bedrock Anthem” but even Al has his limits so he did not learn Japanese specifically for this one song; instead he delivered his vocals phonetically and while the song didn’t chart in Japan that doesn’t necessarily make it a failure. “Jurassic Park” didn’t chart in the United States either but that didn’t keep it from becoming one of Al’s best loved and most enduring songs.
“Jurassic Park” is what I like to call a “No Hit Wonder” in the sense that it didn’t crack the top 100 in Al’s home country (though it did reach 5 in Canada) but still feels like a hit. Though the orchestration on both “Jurassic Park” and “Jurashiku Park” is synthetic just a week ago I saw Al perform “Jurassic Park” with a full symphonic orchestra as part of his Strings Attached tour. Kids are starving in Japan alright: starving for sweet, sweet, “Weird Al” Yankovic musical mischief created just for them. That’s exactly what “Jurashiku Park” gave them.
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