Watching this clip of 20-year-old Al Yankovic playing “My Bologna” at California Polytechnic State University college in late 1979, it’s very easy to understand why his fellow students started calling him “Weird Al” soon after he arrived on campus. The Knack’s “My Sharona” was the biggest hit of the year, and Yankovic recorded a parody of it in the bathroom of the college radio station. Accompanied only by his accordion, the song is a G-rated ode to bologna. In one of the weirdest twists of fate in the history of recorded music, it launched a hugely successful career that is going strong to this day.
“My Bologna” wasn’t Yankovic’s first parody song, but it was the first one to gain real nation attention. His longtime supporter Dr. Demento put it into heavy rotation on his syndicated show, and it hit Number One on his weekly countdown. Two years later Al signed to Scotti Brothers Records. Many of his early songs were also about food, including “I Love Rocky Road,” “Addicted to Spuds” and “Lasagna,” a parody of “La Bamba.” Anybody can be funny singing a parody song about sex or drugs, but try writing one about potatoes and see how far you get.
The first record was a moderate success, but in 1984 he released “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D. The first single, “Eat It,” parodied Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It was another song about food, with such immortal lines as “Have a banana, have a whole bunch/ It doesn’t matter what you had for lunch.” MTV started playing the parody video, and suddenly Yankovic had fans all over the country. But the whole thing started in a bathroom at California State Polytechnic University, when the weirdest guy on campus played a song on his accordion about bologna.