As you’ve probably guessed from all the coverage, we here at ToughPigs have been so excited for The Muppets Mayhem, myself included. Naturally, there are a number of reasons that kept me so jazzed–
–that’s odd. Anyway, this is a chance to spotlight a bunch of characters that have typically been featured in supporting roles, and give dimension to–
–Alright, now this is getting disruptive. As I was saying, it’s a moment to really peel back the layers and delve into the personas that we’ve–
Well, I guess there’s no denying it. Perhaps the most exciting moment for me is the first-ever onscreen collaboration between the Muppets and the king of comedy music, the prince of parodies, and a favorite artist among the ToughPigs staff, Mr. Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic. No longer will his Muppet appearances be limited to a 1984 photoshoot for Muppet Magazine, this one’s got sound and movement and everything.
But why just limit it to that? As we’ve already demonstrated, the Electric Mayhem have a long history of covering songs. Few things would make me happier in this world than to witness my favorite Muppet-based band (sorry, Geri and the Atrics) perform a song from Yankovic’s repertoire. But with decades of songs and over a dozen albums, which tunes best match up with the Mayhem’s style? Being a “Weird Al” aficionado, I’ve decided to challenge myself to pick only one song from each of his studio albums that I think the band could really groove and rock out to. So put on your aloha shirts, break out the accordion, and cook yourself up a Twinkie-weiner sandwich, because it’s time to get weird!
“Weird Al” Yankovic (1983)
You might think that right off the bat, I’d go straight to a parody. But Yankovic’s self-titled debut album proved that he was also more than capable of creating smart, silly original music as well. And there are plenty of choices for a solid Mayhem cover, like “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung” or “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead,” though Janice may object to the skewering of new-agers in the latter. Instead, I’ll pick a track that exudes the ultra-cool swagger of Dr. Teeth, “Such a Groovy Guy.” It also features a rad saxophone solo for Zoot as well as a great drumbeat for Animal, and the lyrics have that perfect silly cynicism of the Mayhem’s early years. You too might just think of “Love Ya to Death” when you hear it!
In 3-D (1984)
This was the album that launched Yankovic into the music stratosphere with his still-popular parody, “Eat It.” And as fun as it would be to see Animal devouring his drum kit and much of the stage while the band jams to this, I think there’s an even better choice to be made with a different parody, “I Lost on Jeopardy.” Given how Zoot has a propensity for “skipping a groove” now and then, I could see him hilariously relating this tale of game show woe. Plus, you wouldn’t have to look hard to come up with clues.
Dare to be Stupid (1985)
To quote another famous musician, you think that people would’ve had enough of silly love songs. And the Mayhem have done their fair share of them over the years, from “Tenderly” to “Lady Be Good.” So I think it’s time to mix things up and give them a hate song to sing. And nobody expresses romantic resentment better than Yankovic in “One More Minute.” The downtempo doo-wop ballad would show the band’s versatility, and give them an excuse to sing “dippity dippity doo.” (And let’s be honest, the Muppets have already made plenty of fun of Yoda. Let’s give the Jedi master a break.) The only question is whether Floyd or Janice would be the perfect lead singer on this. Or maybe this is a breakup duet? The mind boggles.
Polka Party! (1986)
The Electric Mayhem have never been afraid to explore avenues of music outside the rock mainstream, and the new wave scene that gave us Talking Heads seems right up their alley. On top of that, Dr. Teeth has never hidden his love of greenbacks, simoleons, and good ol’ American moolah, so they could turn the counterculture on its head with a cover of “Dog Eat Dog.” Only they give this celebration of the corporate cubicle lifestyle the funkified it rightfully deserves. Plus, you could watch them filing papers and making copies. Classic Mayhem!
Even Worse (1988)
Once again, I’m going to skip right past the popular Michael Jackson spoof, which on this album, is “Fat” (mostly because I think it’s just too ripe an opportunity to make fat jokes at Miss Piggy’s expense). In lieu of that, turn your ears to a different parody, in this case, the self-aware “(This Song’s Just) Six Words Long.” Imagine the band musically arguing about a song that’s nearly all filler, according to its lyrics. It works in a serialized show like “The Muppets Mayhem” or as its own sketch. On top of that, it’s actually got room for a trumpet solo, so even Lips can get a moment in the limelight.
UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff (1989)
Speaking of sketches, sometimes you can’t ignore a good idea. So imagine this: the band wailing on an upbeat song while gigantic Muppet hamsters tear up the set behind them. That, my dear reader, is the promise of “Attack of the Radioactive Hamsters from a Planet Near Mars.” It feels like a bit from “The Muppet Show” that came eight years too late. And the Mayhem are the perfect narrators for this tale of destruction, as they’re probably the only ones who wouldn’t freak out or stop playing during this rampage. I mean, it can’t be too far removed from chase music, right?
Off the Deep End (1992)
Another avenue the Electric Mayhem have occasionally crossed is that of the slow, plaintive melody. During his breakout years of the ‘80s and ‘90s, “Weird Al” tended to do more uptempo stuff, but there’s one gem on this album that isn’t afraid to take it low-key in “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.” It could be one of those profound solos that Floyd really excelled in, like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” or “Blackbird.” Maybe he’d like to do one that wasn’t created by those four guys from Liverpool.
You know, going down this list so far, Janice hasn’t really had a big showcase for her voice. Luckily, His Weirdness has the solution, with the uber-mellow rhythms of “Frank’s 2000″ TV” With the rest of the band providing the harmonious backing vocals, the flower-power guitarist would really make this song shine brighter than the glare on Robert De Niro’s mole. Do you think Frank ever used his TV to watch “The Muppet Show?” Maybe not if it’s Frank Oz. He was kinda there for the whole thing.
Bad Hair Day (1996)
This album contains one of Al’s biggest hits in “Amish Paradise,” which is a great song, but as I’ve learned writing this, just because it’s a great Yankovic song, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good Electric Mayhem song. In this case, it doesn’t really utilize a lot of the instruments the band plays. On the other hand, “I Remember Larry” is something that works for the whole band. The reminiscence of a borderline dangerous prankster has just the right dark streak that Dr. Teeth can sink his golden tooth into. But would they do the backwards section? I suppose they could, if they had enough free time on their hands.
Running with Scissors (1999)
Admittedly, it’s rare to find a song, particularly in Yankovic’s catalog, that really utilizes a horn section. And when you’ve got both Zoot and Lips on the roster, they deserve to be heard… when you can understand them. But with the swing revival of the late ‘90s, Yankovic let the trumpets and saxes blow with “Grapefruit Diet.” Between the horns and Dr. Teeth’s raspy vocals, this is a song to get the band into the swing of things. Plus, it’s a parody of “Zoot Suit Riot.” It’s got Zoot right in the name!
Poodle Hat (2003)
As I’ve alluded to, Al’s songs can feature some very evocative lyrics, which make for some great ideas for bits. Here’s an idea: the band letting loose with a bluesy riff while dancing Whatnots lose various body parts. Sounds like a sketch straight out of “The Muppet Show,” right? It also happens to be the basic premise of “Party at the Leper Colony.” A style parody of the Bo Diddley beat, it’s got a wailing sax solo for Zoot, and a fantastic drum beat for Animal. My only concern is if it’s too mean-spirited towards those affected by leprosy, not that the Muppets haven’t done bits that come off as somewhat offensive in hindsight before. If that doesn’t work, there’s always “Hardware Store,” but only if the Muppet performers don’t mind risking a sprained wrist.
Straight Outta Lynwood (2006)
It’s no secret that the Mayhem have never been afraid to make some “out there” song choices, putting rock spins on Chopin to grooving with chickens in “Barnyard Boogie.” This album offers a tune that takes a musical odyssey in the style of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, all while saluting an often overlooked organ of the human body, in “Pancreas.” Much like the band itself, you can’t nail down a particular tempo or motif. It’s wonderfully unpredictable… or should I say unpredicta-bile? Wocka wocka! Wait, bile is produced by the liver. Forget I said that. They’re actually unpredicta-somatostatin.
In case you’ve been locked in your house without an internet connection for the last twenty years, here’s a news flash: Disney owns the Muppets, including the Electric Mayhem. And Disney sure does love its corporate synergy. Now Yankovic has never parodied a Disney song, but he has paid tribute to the Cast Members that keep the Jungle Cruise running at the Disney Parks with “Skipper Dan.” The Mouse House would have to be willing to poke a little fun at itself, but getting to see the band perform this on an actual Jungle Cruise boat could be a career highlight. License those music rights, Mickey!
Mandatory Fun (2014)
Hey, you know what? The Electric Mayhem have played with an awful lot of stars, from Elton John to Paul Simon. And if the trailer is any indication, “The Muppets Mayhem” will have plenty more famous people for the gang to meet. Perhaps they can take a skewed look at celebrity culture with the Southern rock anthem. “Lame Claim to Fame.” Dr. Teeth would be the perfect lead singer, with Animal getting the rare opportunity to play cowbell (possibly with a cow attached). It may not be one of Yankovic’s biggest hits, but obscurity has never put off the Mayhem before.
So which “Weird Al” songs would you like to hear the Electric Mayhem perform? Be sure to keep the conversation going, and never be afraid to be weird!
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by Matthew Soberman (firstname.lastname@example.org)