“Weird Al” Yankovic not only kicked off his Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour last week, but he also released “Hamilton Polka,” which somehow manages to cram all of Hamilton into a five-minute polka extravaganza. The incredible song was commissioned by “Weird Al” super fan Lin-Manuel Miranda as the newest chapter in his ongoing Hamildrop series. “There’s only been two other cases where he’s devoted an entire polka medley to a particular artist,” Miranda told Rolling Stone. “There’s ‘Hot Rocks Polka’ on the UHF soundtrack and the Queen polka [‘Bohemian Polka’]. I cannot presume to be in that rarified air as the Rolling fuckin’ Stones! But I asked.”
Miranda became a “Weird Al” super fan one Christmas in the late 1980s when his parents got him many of the early albums on cassette. “I remember the Christmas morning,” he said. “There were all these cassettes, Dare to Be Stupid, Polka Party, In 3-D. I kinda got the mother lode all at once. And that’s the rest of my childhood right here.”
It was on 1984’s “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D in which the first polka medley appeared, “Polkas on 45.” It was a parody of “Stars on 45,” a truly insane 1981 single that crammed “Sugar Sugar” and no fewer than eight Beatles songs into a disco medley. For a single week in June of 1981, it managed to take over the top spot on the Hot 100 from Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes,” making it perhaps the most bizarre Number One song in pop history. (“Bette Davis Eyes” began another solid month at the top the following week before Air Supply’s “The One That You Love” took it out for good.)
“Polkas on 45” tackles a far wider range of songs than “Stars on 45,” including “My Generation,” “Every Breath I Take,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Smoke on the Water.” Future medleys would concentrate on songs from the past couple of years, but for this one he went back over the past two decades of music history. Here’s video of Yankovic playing it at the Starlight Amphitheater in Burbank, California on June 9th, 1984.
Back then, Yankovic seemed like a quintessential novelty act that was probably weeks away from fading into oblivion. If anyone in the audience at that show heard that in 2014 he’d get his first Number One album and then team up with a guy that turned a rapping Alexander Hamilton into one of the biggest hits in Broadway history, they’d dismiss it as the craziest thing they’d ever heard. Then again, if anyone from 1984 travelled to the present the huge popularity of “Weird Al” Yankovic and Hamilton would probably be some of the things they’d find the least surprising.