If I wanted to be hip the 1996 album I would write about would be On Avery Island by Neutral Milk Hotel or Call the Doctor by Sleater-Kinney. There were some great albums that came out that I have listened to in adulthood and reflect the music I am into now. And yet, when I looked at the albums of 1996, I knew there was only one to write about, and that’s Bad Hair Day by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
My reflexive thing to said would be that you know Bad Hair Day. You can picture Weird Al on the cover with his hair in Coolio-style braids. Then I realized you might not know Bad Hair Day at all. The thing I say is that for generations we all had our Weird Al album. A lot of people, maybe most people, get into Weird Al when they are about 11 or 12. One Yankovic album comes out around that time, you get into it, and by the time the next album rolls around you are maybe a bit too old to really be into Weird Al anymore.
For me, that album was Bad Hair Day. It’s the one Weird Al album I owned. My brother owned Running with Scissors, because he’s a few years younger than me. I know Bad Hair Day in and out, but there are Weird Al albums I barely know. That’s because in 1996 I was the perfect age for his music.
My theories aside, I do believe one of the quintessential Weird Al songs is on Bad Hair Day, and that’s “Amish Paradise.” Some of the other parodies from the album, like “Gump” and “Phony Calls” have maybe not had the same legacy, but “Amish Paradise” has subsumed “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Coolio’s song it is a parody of.
I enjoyed the parodies as a kid, and the “Alternative Polka” which includes clean versions of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” and Nine Inch Nails “Closer.” Ultimately, though, my favorite song as a kid was the last one, an original called “The Night Santa Went Crazy.” It was perfect for my pre-teen comedic sensibilities. The idea of Santa Claus turning homicidal and killing his reindeer in violent ways felt mind blowing.
Now, of course, I am an adult. I don’t mind Weird Al. I think UHF is a funny movie and he’s done some cool stuff. Yankovic is a talented guy. His talents and my interests don’t overlap as much, though. This is the story of Weird Al, though. He will always primarily be appreciated by kids who are having their minds blown. I am not going to throw on Bad Hair Day anytime soon. As a kid in 1996, though, it was probably the album I played more than any other.