Today in Tedium: Last spring, we brought you Tedium′s version of a clip show for our 500-ish issue. In that issue, we did a few updates, curated a “best-of” celebration for that landmark issue of the newsletter (although in my head, Tedium is more of what I’ve always wanted a magazine to be). Recently, I found myself thinking about all the stories I wanted to do but just couldn’t manage to put together enough for a full-fledged Tedium piece. I originally planned to bring you a story about pressure washers—and I assure you it is coming—but time and fate just weren’t on my side to get that together in time. So, I turned my attention to some unfinished thoughts and ideas to flesh them out a little more. Today we’re bringing you a series of mini-pieces about topics that are interesting, but not quite enough to fill out an entire issue. Expect some music, thoughts about nostalgia, and perhaps an idea of what the future might hold. Enjoy. — David @ Tedium
Today’s GIF features imagery from the new Barnes & Barnes album, Pancake Dream.
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“The enigmatic duo behind the classic novelty hit ‘Fish Heads’ (the #1 most requested song of all-time on the ‘Dr. Demento Show’), bring you a new listening experience in ‘Outsider Music for Insiders.’”
— Night Flight (a cult classic television show that expanded into covering punk, art films, and uniquely weird music), in a recent email advertisement for the addition of the videos from Barnes & Barnes’ new album to their streaming service. As a copywriter, I adore Night Flight’s succinct copy for the ad and as a fan of both the service and the artist, it marks an exciting development. Other documentaries, digital magazines, music videos, and old episodes of Night Flight are also available there for those interested in such things.
The great Barnes & Barnes comeback
In the world of novelty music, there’s one band that never quite attained Weird Al status, but nevertheless cemented their legacy among fans of the genre. The song for which they’re primarily known, “Fish Heads,” is almost nothing like any of their other work.
When we did our novelty song deep dive for the song in 2019, we enlisted the help of both Dr. Demento and Barnes & Barnes’ manager John Cafiero (he also manages another band you might have heard about: The Misfits). Cafiero was a huge Barnes & Barnes fan back when they were still relatively new, even going so far as to write to them to ask questions about their music.
These days, Bill Mumy’s exhaustive liner notes to each B&B album could probably answer any burning question about the band. And to be fair, the band is so unique, it’s tough to give them the typical Tedium treatment. To give them their due, we’d need to devote several issues to their history, development, and how fans kept them going after all these years.
While “Fish Heads” and “Love Tap” were certainly popular, it wasn’t all they had to offer. The rest of their oeuvre is remarkably distinct, sometimes goofy, occasionally NSFW, and at times incredibly serious. Just listen to their Soak it Up EP or Koduvoner album (or their long-lost unreleased recording Hictabur) to see the shift starting to take place.
From their 1980 debut, Voobaha—a vinyl remaster of which was graciously provided to us for review by John Cafiero—to their second album Spazchow, the band showcased not only their humor but their fine musicianship. Just because the songs are goofy sometimes doesn’t mean the music is bad. It only added to their appeal. But as tastes changed and their initial audience moved on to newer things, they also changed course a bit.
From relying heavily upon the funny-sounding made-up words that represented their native “Lumanian” language to supporting themselves with exceptional music, Barnes & Barnes developed a decent following. They were friends with (and occasionally played music alongside) several musical luminaries of their time.
These guys were all over the music scene in one way or another, yet their music is largely overlooked by the masses. But those who have the opportunity to listen will find them worthwhile, even if it’s just for a laugh or two.
The year Zabagabeewas released as a VHS documentary and celebration of the group. It contained several music videos made by Mumy and Haimer In addition to various interviews. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo and members of America appeared in their VHS “documentary” Zabagabee. Miguel Ferrer, Terry Hatcher, Bill Paxton, and Dr. Demento made appearances in their music videos (many of which are also on that VHS tape). They did episodes of The Dr. Demento Show alongside “Weird Al” Yankovic. They even produced Wildman Fischer records and more throughout their career, making them one of the most versatile bands you’ve probably never heard of!
Barnes & Barnes get serious
Barnes and Barnes once tried their hand at being a bit more serious. Their half-incredibly serious/half-novelty record Amazing Adult Fantasy is a great example of transitioning from one form to the other without losing their sense of humor. They’d return to novelty form with their next—and arguably most popular—album Sicks. They recorded a children’s album, The Dinosaur Album, under several prehistoric pseudonyms. It’s much better than any children’s record I’ve ever heard. 1991′s Loozanteen had plenty of well-done material but served as a temporary swan song for Barnes & Barnes until they returned with Opbopachop in 2009.
Now—largely thanks to one half of the duo, Robert Haimer—it’s easier than ever to hear pretty much any official release or rarity you could ever desire. In a bit of a twist, we know they’re aware of our work here at Tedium and seem to enjoy it. Robert Haimer has told us twice about how much he loved the “Fish Heads” piece. Bill Mumy complimented our 2017 (updated 2018) Wild Man Fischer piece—actually my second-ever piece for Tedium that Ernie was a little wary about when I pitched it—in a Facebook group dedicated to Barnes & Barnes. I’m not on Facebook, so I learned about it from a friend.
So how about that new album? Ernie and I discussed it briefly when it was announced, during which he mentioned it was announced so close to release it seemed more like a surprise release. And what a surprise the entire record was! The music is phenomenal. Bill Mumy’s playing just keeps getting better. The production is amazing. The songs are a bit more serious.
My copy came with a CD, a sticker, a DVD, a ball cap, and a t-shirt. The liner notes double as a Pancake Dream poster. Mumy, Haimer, artist Mike Bell (who did the wonderful artwork), and Demented Punk Records outdid themselves with the production, packaging, and promotion.
This is probably the first time Barnes & Barnes has really received much promotion for their albums. Not only did Dr. Demento and Demented Punk Records make a fairly decent promotional push for the album, but Night Flight went above and beyond. Right now, users can watch all twelve of the remarkable videos for the album there ( along with plenty of other stuff like old Night Flight episodes, Gumby, and some classic video magazines).
Their last few recordings sort of just came and went, largely distributed/advertised among fans of the group. Opbopachop and some of those unreleased albums was a CDBaby release. Remember those guys? They pivoted to a completely different business model.
As Barnes and Barnes might say, “Yeah.”
“This definitely ain’t ‘Fish Heads’! Pancake Dream finds the brothers Barnes at their most hypnotic and avant-garde, creating lyrics and soundscapes that will forever plague my dreams and haunt my every waking moment. Yeah!”
— “Weird Al” Yankovic, in the promotional copy for the new Barnes & Barnes album on Demented Punk Records. It’s no surprise that Weird Al is a fan—after all, he did play on a few of their songs and still collaborates with Bill Mumy on occasion.
The official debut of some obligatory Tedium Weird Al content
Recent news came as a shock and a pleasant surprise to Weird Al fans everywhere: Roku’s streaming service (apparently, that’s a thing!) is making a new Weird Al biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe as Al.
This exciting news—coupled with the two shows I’m attending this year—reignited my interest in writing about Al. But what can I say that hasn’t aptly been covered elsewhere. Nathan Rabin wrote the book on Al. Lily Hirsch’s recent Weird Al: Seriously takes a more academic approach to Al’s work and is a compelling read from start to finish.
Weird Al already starred in his own goofy biopic film in the ’80s, called The Compleat Al. Nathan Rabin wrote a fantastic piece about it in his book The Weird Accordion To Al: Ridiculously Self-indulgent, Ill-advised Vanity Edition (Nathan sold me two copies and it’s well worth the read). But the real story isn’t the biopic; it’s the 2022 tour! It’s sort of a follow-up and continuation of his 2018 tour.
Embarking on the original Ill-advised Vanity Tour tour in 2018, Al decided to shake things up and play predominantly original songs. His originals—clever, creative, and always enjoyable—often took a backseat to his parodies. He wanted to do a show for the hardcore fans. He told Rolling Stone:
I’m at a point in my life and career where I can do whatever I feel like doing, regardless of whether it’s commercial, or whether it’s something people actually want to go see. I know this tour is going to be held in high regard by the hardcore fans, but more than anything, this is for me and the guys in the band because this is a tour that we’re going to really enjoy doing.
So he went on tour and throughout his shows proceeded to play original songs and unique cover songs at each and every show.
A tour with an orchestra, one pandemic, and several years later, Al is now hitting the road again this year for “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-indulgent Ill-advised Vanity Tour” in 2022.
But the fact that he’s returning to do such a grand tour—similar to the 2018 tour— seems like a love letter to his fans. And many of us are turning up for it.
We spoke with Lauren Carey of the Beer’d Al podcast about the upcoming tour. She told us, “There’s always something magical about going to a concert. But it’s almost impossible to put into words how magical it is to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in concert.”
She explained how being at an Al show is like “being in on the most amazing secret in the universe.” It’s a place where you can belong and be with people who have similar interests and want to enjoy the same music as you. Like many of us, she first saw Al when she was 13 and immediately fell in love with his shows. As a fan, creator, and contemporary to other Weird Al experts, she is overjoyed to be attending shows on this tour. She told Tedium:
I’ve been audience to his epic costume changes, multimedia video extravaganzas, and moving orchestral arrangements almost a dozen times since then. But I’m most excited for the Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent Ill-Advised Vanity Tour. Why? Because it’s truly Al’s love letter to us. He’s giving us the weirdest of the weird—the deepest deep cuts. I’m excited for the chance to sit in a room with hundreds of people just as weird as me as our collective best friend gives us a bit more of his magic.
Being a “Weird Al” fan has certainly been interesting over the past few years. Right now seems to be the “Era of Weird Al.”
I’m seeing him in concert—both meet & greets—twice this year, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it. I wonder if we can put together our own version of Heavy Metal Parking Lot and call it ”Weird Al” Parking Lot? A man can dream …
The number of shows “Weird Al” Yankovic performed on the first Ridiculously Indulgent Ill-advised Vanity Tour. Each show has a song medley, a few Al favorites, and a unique cover song. Some highlights include Al’s cover or PUSA’s “Peaches,” The Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat,” and TMBG’s “Particle Man.” If you were a regular reader, you probably saw that list coming. The entirety of the tour is available on Stitcher Premium and worth listening to whether you’re an Al fan or not.
The bizarre nature of lingering nostalgia
A few years back, I started a “media project” called Nostalgia Ward with a friend. It wasn’t an exploration of nostalgia for the sake of nostalgia. Instead, it was meant to highlight the absurdity and importance of the media from our past. After some minor commercial preservation efforts, it pivoted unsuccessfully to a music project. Now, it’s as defunct as the very media it sought to preserve. But that failure is a good thing, leading us to new horizons.
Getting older is bizarre but fulfilling. There is sentimental value in nostalgia, but it’s also a source for utility and inspiration. There’s still a burgeoning NES homebrew scene. More homebrews for other systems are constantly coming. People reverse engineer SNES games. Lego and Dungeons & Dragons are more popular than ever—especially among older people. We’ve approached a point in our culture where there’s no shame in having hobbies and not working all the time.
Lego, in particular, is really taking off these days. Discussions over certain design choices and a commitment to more environmentally friendly Lego bricks—made from recycled plastic— underscore a larger point about the brand: it’s not just a kid’s toy.
No, Lego is an important part of our collective culture for adults and children alike. Lego knows and understands this now, but there was a time when they absolutely
Granted, there are plenty of kits—Lego Super Mario and Lego City certainly come to mind—that are geared more toward younger folks. Then there are all the magnificent Lego Ideas models specifically intended for adult builders/collectors. Take the Lego NES, for instance. It’s an intricate set with moving parts and a very realistic look. It features
The first page of the manual shows a “build it together” scenario of someone my age, building it with someone my parents’ age. This is clearly a model intended for people like me. It’s also taking me forever to build it and I’m considering incorporating a Raspberry Pi into the mix somehow down the line. I haven’t gotten that far yet.
The amount of money an original Playmates 1988 Michelangelo toy sold for at an auction in 2017. We’re definitely fans of the TMNT around here, but that’s a bit much for an old toy. While there is certainly a market for vintage toys, this does seem like a fairly high amount—especially with so many of our childhood favorite action figures making triumphant returns these days in the form of re-releases …
Traveling back in time via your local Walmart store
It still feels a bit weird to see the things I loved as a kid circle back into the early ’90s at a Kaybee Toys Store. Alongside all those Lego kits, I saw re-released versions of GI Joe, Transformers, The Real Ghostbusters, and Masters of the Universe toys that I played with or owned as a kid.
There was even a rerelease of the classic Turtle Van from the original TMNT Playmates line. It was surreal. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to purchase or collect any of them, but it’s interesting to see this stuff come around again. YouTube personalities have made veritable careers off this stuff, of course, and there’s definitely a market for it.
Now I know how our parents felt when the 1950s intruded on the ’80s. Happy Days, anyone? There’s always a time when “the good old days” seem better than the present. But aside from art, music, style, and pop culture, how many of us have asked ourselves if we truly want to live in those times?
Bereft of our instant internet access and smartphones, would we enjoy our time and live a better life? Or would we simply adapt to the time frame and experience a chronic case of “same shit, a different decade?” It’s hard to qualify or predict how we might feel if Bill & Ted or “Doc” Brown showed up one day and offered to take us back to any point in history we’d care to go.
I’d probably go for something practical, just like “Weird Al” sings in his They Might Be Giants pastiche, “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” In the song, some aliens abduct him and after doing whatever it is that aliens do, they offer to send him back to any point in history he wants to go. He chooses to go back in time and pay his phone bill. Wouldn’t we all?
The other day I heard a radio show focused on the ’90s. I answered all the trivia questions correctly. It was pretty funny because I don’t really care about any of that stuff; it simply drew on the knowledge that’d been sitting in my head for the past few decades unused. That prompted some thought about the bizarre nature of nostalgia and how it seems to influence everything we do—at least in a pop-culture sense—today.
That’s the nostalgia pendulum for you, though. Who knows what things will look like in the next 30 years? Not us, that’s for sure.
The number of pieces I used to make a cool Tedium logo out of Lego bricks. If you’re a fan of what we do here at Tedium, you know DIY and projects are always pretty close to our hearts. From zines to songs, to some cool upcoming stuff that Ernie’s doing, the spirit of DIY is strong around here. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we made a Tedium logo out of Lego. Want to build your own? It’s pretty easy. You’ll need a few plates, some flat pieces, and quite a number of larger bricks. If there’s enough interest, we’d be happy to make a video tutorial sometime in the future.
During the writing of this fluffy piece, my life got sidetracked a bit. My old car finally bit the dust. I spent the early morning hours of an early January day in the emergency room with my dad after he fell. And it hasn’t necessarily been a great month on the health front, though things are going much better now.
A lot of good things happened too, for which I’m grateful. Music is still a significant part of my life, but I’m putting the brakes on excessive music topics in my writing this year. That means there’s still going to be plenty of them, but also some branching out into a few more unique topics. Writing about WD-40 last year really piqued my interest in exploring some of the tools we use every day.
I’d also love to collaborate at some point with Make Weird Music, finish some of my short stories, finally outline that 33 ⅓ book, and maybe write for a few other publications this year. Later this year, we have interviews lined up with the folks behind the NES Maker and the NintendoCore band I Fight Dragons. No, really. We set it up via email and everything. It’s going to be fantastic. Perhaps an interesting ad campaign breakdown is in the works too.
Who knows what the future might hold? Whatever it is, I’m excited to be on this journey and continue it for a long time to come!
Thanks again to David for taking us on a journey into novelty and nostalgia we didn’t know we needed. Find this one an interesting read? Share it with a pal!
Also, looking for some more interesting content to check out on this here internet? Be sure to check out Refind.