My Favorite Album: "Weird Al" Yankovic on Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, July 11th, 2020  

My Favorite Album: “Weird Al” Yankovic on Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”

"I decided to go all-in for Elton—I plastered my entire room with his posters."

Mar 10, 2020 Photography by Robyn von Swank Issue #66 - My Favorite Album - Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney
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When "Weird Al" Yankovic attended Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road farewell tour last year at the Los Angeles Forum, it felt like things had come full circle.

"My very first concert was Elton John at the Los Angeles Forum," Yankovic wrote during a recent e-mail interview. "My parents were very protective and absolutely didn't want me going to some crazy rock show, but I guess I finally twisted their arms hard enough." 

Before he became "Weird Al" and poked fun at pop culture through song, coming to prominence in the 1980s with such parody hits as "Eat It," he was Alfred Yankovic, who as a teenager spent hours in his bedroom listening to Elton John. John's 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was particularly special. It was the first album Yankovic bought with his own money. 

"I don't know if it's my favorite album—that's always a tricky question to answer-but it was probably the most impactful," he says. "The album...is a masterwork, and arguably the creative peak of Elton John's career."

First Listen

"I remember hearing 'Love Lies Bleeding' a lot on KMET FM when the album first came out, and I loved it. Besides being a really solid rocker, it had such a cool arrangement...the ascending chords in the intro, the breakdown with the flutes...it just spoke to me. I would crank up the volume way past the pain threshold. And then when I heard some of the other amazing tracks on that album, I decided to go all-in for Elton-I plastered my entire room with his posters."

Favorite Songs

"Well, 'Love Lies Bleeding,' and also its long instrumental intro, 'Funeral For a Friend.' I would amaze and sometimes annoy the people in my college dorm by playing that song on the accordion. My favorite radio hit from the album was 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting'—one of the all-time greatest rock songs. I remember Keith Richards publicly talking about how jealous he was that Elton and Bernie [Taupin] had written that song instead of him and Mick [Jagger]."

Yellow Brick Education

"When I took accordion lessons, I only was taught polka music, classical pieces, and a few public domain standards. I kind of taught myself rock and roll on the accordion by playing along with that album. I figured out all the chords for every song, then wrote them out and memorized them. I'm not sure how much my actual songwriting was inspired by Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but it was definitely part of my musical education."

On Covering Elton on His 2018 Tour

"Our last tour was the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour...so it was really more about pleasing me than the audience. Although, I'm very happy to say, the audiences wound up enjoying it too. So, I indulged my teenage self by playing some songs on the concert stage that I'd only ever played before alone in my bedroom. I have to say, it made 'teenage me' very happy. Oddly, I've never done an Elton John parody, or even a sound-alike pastiche. The closest I came was about 16 years ago, when I was trying to write a song about Spider-Man.... I almost did the parody to the tune of 'Rocket Man,' but ultimately decided that Billy Joel's 'Piano Man' worked better. Hopefully I'll get around to my Elton homage someday!"

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar's print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

www.weirdal.com

www.eltonjohn.com

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