Yankovic originally plans to parody Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" for UHF's centrepiece, but Prince becomes famous for always refusing to grant permission for any "Weird Al" song parodies, only permitting his likeness to be depicted in videos. "I haven't approached Prince in the last 15 years or so, so his personality might've changed," Yankovic says. "But back when he was turning me down, we'd never get a reason out of him, it was always just 'No." So, I don't know his thought process or what kinda problem he had with it. It was frustrating and, as a result, I've taken a number of cheap shots at him over the years because he's the de facto scapegoat—the one guy who hasn't had enough of a sense of humour to let me take a shot at him. But that's his prerogative."
For the "UHF" music video, Yankovic does a remarkable array of impressions of the Beatles, Billy Idol, George Michael, INXS, Randy Newman, Robert Palmer, David Byrne, Guns N' Roses, Peter Gabriel, ZZ Top, and yes, Prince among others. Scotti Bros. changes their distribution from CBS to BMG and every "Weird Al" album is released on CD. Yankovic begins to work on a new album in June 1990, going without Derringer as producer for the first time and overseeing the sessions himself. Unfortunately, there's nothing on the top 40 that compels him to craft an impactful parody; Yankovic opts to hold off on releasing a new album until a big song inspires him. He does complete a project in the interim that speaks to his sense of TV history: Babalu Music is a collection of Ricky Ricardo's musical numbers for the I Love Lucy show, compiled by Al and released on both audio and video. The title track of both versions is a montage of original Lucy music and dialogue, produced and arranged by Yankovic with a new rhythm track for dance clubs and video channels. He writes his next batch of originals and then records parodies of New Kids on the Block and MC Hammer.
1991 to 1995
In November, 1991 Michael Jackson releases his new album Dangerous, and Yankovic approaches him about releasing "Snack All Night," a parody of Jackson's hit, "Black or White." Though a fan, Jackson worries that a parody would compromise his song's message about racial equality and denies permission, suggesting Yankovic select another song from his album to riff on instead. When Guns N' Roses' version of the Wings song "Live and Let Die" becomes a hit, Yankovic seeks out Paul McCartney, another self-professed "Weird Al fan," for permission to release a parody called "Chicken Pot Pie." A strict vegetarian, McCartney too feels the parody might diminish his personal principles. Though disappointed, Yankovic appreciates the explanations, especially compared to the responses he receives from artists like Prince, which seem more ego-driven.
"There have been a couple of songs that have been too personal or have a special message, and I understand that. But if somebody just blanket turns you down all the time, that's a more deep-seeded reason where, obviously this person just doesn't want to be made fun of. But at the same time, I'm not a mind reader."
Nirvana explodes behind their surprising chart-topping album, Nevermind, which kick starts an alternative music revolution, ripe for Yankovic's picking. Inspired by the general discussion about how unintelligible Kurt Cobain's lyrics and singing are, Yankovic composes a parody of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" called "Smells Like Nirvana." When he hears that Nirvana are appearing on Saturday Night Live, he asks cast member/UHF co-star Victoria Jackson to snag Cobain for a chat on the phone. Cobain knows Yankovic's work and permits the parody. "Is it going to be a song about food?" Cobain asks, to which Yankovic explains that no, he's working on a song about how no one can understand what he's singing about. "Oh, that's a funny idea, go ahead," Cobain says.
Off the Deep End is released in April, 1992 and its cover mimics Nevermind. The "Smells Like Nirvana" video uses the same set as the original, the same janitor, some of the same cheerleaders and many of the same extras. It also features cameos by Dick Van Patten, Michael Richards, and various farm animals. MTV places it in high rotation and Rolling Stone goes on to rank it #68 on their list of the 100 best videos of all time. Spy magazine selects it as "Video of the Year," and at the MTV Video Awards, Al is nominated for Best Male Performance alongside Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. The video propels Off The Deep End up to #17 on Billboard. Cobain is quoted as saying that he didn't think his band had "made it" until they were parodied by Yankovic. Off the Deep End goes platinum and earns Yankovic another Grammy nomination. The Off the Deep End tour is elaborate with costume changes and Yankovic smashes a cheap guitar (so provided on his rider) at the end of every show.
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