Monday, November 1, 2010

Three really good parodies

I was musing about parody songs, or cases in which someone takes a song originally written by someone else and modifies it, usually (but not always) for comic effect. I thought I'd list three of my favorite ones here.

I applied a rule to the list - Weird Al Yankovic would only appear once on the list. So what Weird Al song do I put here? I was originally leaning toward "Amish Paradise," but then decided to go in a different direction. Yankovic's mid and late period songs, whether parody or not, are always inventive, professionally done, and the videos are also executed well. But one song of Yankovic's that stands out is one of his early ones - his parody of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," called "Another One Rides the Bus." Unlike his later productions, this one consists of Al, his accordion, and a guy playing "drums" on an accordion case, all recorded during a live airing of Dr. Demento's radio show. The story of the recording can be found here. The randomness and exuberance of that event is more magical than the most complex device that is planned deep in the bowels of Cupertino.

For more information on that life, and how it changed Jon "Bermuda" Schwarz's life, see this interview.

My second parody is one of those which is not entirely comedic in nature, although it has its comedic elements - heck, when Cheech and Chong do something, there's bound to be comedy in there. The original song, Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," was one that was misinterpreted as a patriotic jingle, but in actuality was a song about injustice. So it's fitting that Cheech and Chong's parody, "Born in East L.A.," also has a serious message embedded within it - namely, the fact that Mexican-Americans who have lived in the U.S. for multiple generations cannot always be equated with the newer arrivals. "Cheech" Marin later turned the song into a movie; here's the trailer.

And if you don't necessarily think of "Born in East L.A." as a serious song, note that Rosa-Linda Fregoso has written a scholarly article on it.

But since this blog (and all my blogs) are all influenced in some way by "The Beatles" (the album, not the band), it's fitting that my third parody choice should be off of that album. The Beatles and the Beach Boys - or, more specifically, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Brian Wilson - had a friendly rivalry in the mid-1960s which led to such "top this!" masterpieces as Pet Sounds and Sergeant Pepper. Wilson began having problems after Pepper (or, more accurately, after other substances), so the rivalry had pretty much ended in the Beatles' favor by 1968, but the band played homage to their American label-mates by constructing a thematic parody of one of the biggest Beach Boy hits, "California Girls." Except, instead of talking about east coast girls, southern girls, and the like, the English version talked about Ukraine girls and Georgian girls (from the then-province of the USSR, not the US state). "Back in the USSR" was a literally wicked opening to the Beatle's double album, and as the Cold War began to thaw, many Western musicians got to sing the song in the USSR itself. McCartney eventually joined them in heading east, not only to Moscow, but to the Ukraine girls themselves, as this 2008 concert clip from Kiev shows:

For a little more background, including who played drums on the original recording and why, consult John T. Marck's site. (And if the Beatles inspired you to find a Ukraine girl, check the ads at the top of Marck's page; you just might get lucky.)
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