I would like to tell you the story of how an unexpected song, more of a joke than a song, played a large part in shaping the foundations of my music taste, back when I was around 10 years old.
The motivation to write this came about this morning, when I was put on to one of those stupid Facebook challenges which asked me to post one album per day, for 10 days, which influenced my taste in music. I was bored, it’s quarantine, I love music, and I was nominated by someone who I really respect, so I thought, “why not?”
This all got me thinking. I looked through all of my albums on my phone lined up a solid 10, but even then I am certain I am missing a few. The problem with this, however, is that there are so many individual songs which shaped so much of my taste long before I started listening to albums in their entirety, which is the only way I listen to music these days.
One of these songs, which still holds a place in my heart, is none other than:
‘Angry White Boy Polka’ by Weird Al Yankovic.
Weird Al – ‘Angry White Boy Polka’
Allow me to explain.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Weird Al is a comedy musician who has had some charting hits over his decades-long career, but all of his songs are comedy covers, all of them jokes, this song being no different.
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It’s a mash-up, a compilation of dozens of rock and contemporary (at the time, that time being 2003) hits all performed as one grand Polka, the only common theme being that each and every song was sung by, you guessed it, angry white boys.
The songs covered include: ‘Chop Suey’ by System of a Down; ‘Fell in Love with a Girl’ by the White Stripes; ‘Last Nite’ by the Strokes; ‘Get Free’ by The Vines; and ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ by the Hives (off of the album Veni Vidi Vicious, which I only mention as it is my favourite album name ever).
The reason this song influenced me so much was because I listened to it for the first time at 10 years old. I had never heard of the Strokes or the Hives or the White Stripes. I had no idea this song was even a mash-up of other hits until I heard one of the songs from it played on the radio and thought it couldn’t have been a coincidence.
At that point, this became 10 year old Lachlan’s bible. His playlist before playlists, his guiding light to music he had never heard of before, because most of what else he heard was Dire Straits and The Eagles which his Dad played. And though he loved them, they had never been as angsty and rage-filled as these songs. These songs were something different entirely. Something which lit a fire.
I spent entire afternoons going through every single song that Weird Al mentioned, searching lyrics by hand into Google, like searching for buried treasure. From that point on I had a taste for rock and punk and that’s all I listened to until I was 13 or 14.
I have come a long way from those times, my music taste changing immensely, but that song is still just as good, because the whole time Weird Al was making fun of white boys, and the fact that it resonated so much with me, a little white boy, makes the joke all the more funny.
The joke was on me. But of all the jokes I’ve heard, none have sounded as sweet.
Thanks Al. Stay weird.