Paul McCartney is caught in written form somewhere stating that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was meant to be The Beatles “Freak Out!” Of course, everybody knew the connection between the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” and “Sgt. Pepper”, even in the sixties. It might be after all that one of the many Frank Zappa‘s masterpieces didn’t get its due credit that caused the desire in Zappa to get even with “We’re Only in It for the Money”, an outright parody, right from the intended cover, in the vein of the soundtrack of the summer of love.
Rumor has it that Lennon or McCartney weren’t kind to give permission for the parody cover until they quickly grasped the implications of a refusal. Remember, those were the days in which Irving Berlin et al. v. E.C. Publications, Inc. ruling was still fresh and it wasn’t too difficult to get into legal trouble for parodying copyrighted material. Anyway, The Beatles understood they should be part of the joke, too. They can still claim what they did in a four-track recording machine, but few still credit them with the first-concept-album nonsense.
Fast forward two decades. A white-and-nerdy guy responding to the nickname of “Weird Al” Yankovic hits the comedic jackpot with a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”. He could have recorded it without Jackson’s permission, but he did asked for it anyway. It wouldn’t be the only Jackson parody, and in fact Michael let Yankovic use the set in which “Bad” was filmed, for his own “Fat” video.
A decade later, the late Kurt Cobain says he thought Nirvana “finally made it”, when “Weird Al” records a “Smells Like Teen Spirit” parody, which properly condenses in just one song the spirit of the entire Seattle movement. In the aughts, Yankovic out-performs Chamillionaire with “White and Nerdy“, which has more hits on You Tube than the covered song. Adult Swims states that if someone would have said in the eighties that twenty years after, Yankovic would stay current while Michael Jackson would be down and out, he would be labeled crazy. But it happened anyway.
Lady Gaga is the new big thing. I won’t be questioning the sincerity of her belief in the causes she champions, but damn right I’m going to question her artistic integrity. “Weird Al” was planning to use “Mother Monster’s Manifesto” a.k.a. “Born this way” as the first single of his upcoming album. He sent the lyrics to Lady Gaga asking for a permission. She said she had to hear it first. He toils a little bit in the studio and sends the result to Gaga and she denies permission. End of story?
Not at all. As president Obama would say, let me be clear: Yankovic needs absolutely no permission to parody any subject he wants. The U.S. Supreme Court says so. He’s just a classy guy. Anyway, backlash wasn’t a word Lady Gaga was familiar with, until now. “Weird Al” decided to upload his song to You Tube and Gaga receives the wrath and fury of disappointed fans. For an artist that considers herself as a product of You Tube and gladly defends Rebecca Black (for which I salute her), her lack of grasp of her denial until the reaction hit her is at least baffling.
She finally panics and gives her blessing to the parody which merely describes her knack for scandal, silly clothing and self-important cocky arrogance for what it is: a marketing device. “Born this way” might be Gaga’s major artistic statement, lyrically and visually speaking, but her knock off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (already a Sly and the Family Stone knock off) is frankly embarrassing. Why can’t she acknowledge the obvious? Does she think she won’t sell anymore? You can’t understand why she freaks out when similarities to Madonna’s career like this (not to mention plagiarism) are pointed to her.
Indeed, Dr. sipmac.
- Weird Al Yankovic Parodies Lady Gaga (wlte.radio.com)
- Perform This Way: Weird Al Parodies Lady Gaga! (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Lady Gaga Won’t Allow “Weird Al” Yankovic To Release Parody Song (laughingsquid.com)
- WATCH: Weird Al’s Unauthorized Lady Gaga Parody Hits YouTube (huffingtonpost.com)
- Fame Brief: Weird Al, Fair Use, and the Lady Gaga Saga (abovethelaw.com)
- Weird Al parody nixed by Lady Gaga (salon.com)
- Rock N’ Roll Diary Extra: The “Sgt. Pepper’s” Album Cover (wcbsfm.radio.com)
- Rock N’ Roll Diary Extra: The “Sgt. Pepper’s” Album Cover (wncx.radio.com)
- Paul McCartney Wins Grammy for ‘Helter Skelter’ – in 2011 (newsfeed.time.com)
- Paul McCartney Channels His Inner Little Monster (tmz.com)