Weird Al Yankovic Recalls Asking Kurt Cobain’s Permission To Mock ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
Maybe some of you will remember Weird Al with his idiosyncratic songs from the ’90s. With his much-anticipated movie ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’ nearing its premiere, Al Yankovic took part in a joint discussion on Reddit with Daniel Radcliffe. Fans, of course, also had questions about one of his biggest hits of the ’90s, ‘Smells Like Nirvana,’ so Yankovic shared the story behind it.
“I met Kurt Cobain in person a few months after my parody came out,” he said, remembering his first face-to-face encounter with the legendary rocker. “We were both eating in the same restaurant in L.A., and I noticed him at a nearby table with some friends. I timidly went over and thanked him profusely for letting me do ‘Smells Like Nirvana’ and told him I was now obligated to do any favor that he wished. He turned his head and extended his hand, and said, ‘Polish my nails.’ I loved that guy.”
Although he couldn’t get his permission in their first encounter, Weird Al would bring up the subject again in their second conversation, which was made possible by his friend and UHF co-star Victoria Jackson. “I told her, if you ever get Kurt Cobain alone in a room, put him on the phone because I’d love to talk to him — and she did! Directly! He was sweet, and he got it in like five seconds and said, ‘Of course, you can do a parody.’”
He continued, “The famous quote from him was, ‘Is it going to be a song about food?’ because, at that point, that’s primarily what I was known for. And I said, ‘Well, no, it’s going to be a song about how nobody can understand your lyrics.’ And he said, ‘Oh, sure, of course, that’s funny.’ That’s one of those phone conversations I wish I had recorded. I’d love to hear that myself.”
Although Weird Al could legally parody anything he wanted, he usually got his targets’ permission for fair use. He wanted to mock Nirvana in a song, but his managers couldn’t reach the band members. However, his friend Victoria luckily came to his aid. What Cobain found amusing seems to be the theme of the song. As you may know, the song focuses on their hard-to-understand lyrics that have also become one of Nirvana’s trademarks.
As for the music video for the song, it is a near shot-for-shot parody of the original video. In fact, they shot the video at the same location, and some cast members from the original video were also in this video. They seem to have had a lot of fun together, and Weird Al’s observations on Nirvana songs and the Kurt Cobain impersonation are really worth checking out.