To fully appreciate a parody song, you need to be familiar with the original. Weird Al Yankovic’s parodies sound almost identical to the song he’s mocking, except for the lyrics. Richard Cheese does the opposite. He keeps the lyrics the same but changes the music, often for hilarious results.
Mr. Cheese and I worked together at KROQ in the 1990s. I appreciate that he kept me on his mailing list and that he sent me a copy of his newest album, “Back in Black Tie.” All the songs are by dead artists. I was reminded of the Dead Artist Show my friend Jim Glancy once hosted at WGMU.
Because of our KROQ connection, I got the feeling that Richard was slightly more respectful with his covers of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which is an instrumental. He has a lot of fun with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and Rick James’ “Super Freak.” Some of the songs were recorded live at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC. One of the more amusing live tracks is the “Diff’rent Strokes Theme,” which was recorded shortly after Gary Coleman’s death. Those three tracks were my favorites on the album.
Personally, I could have done without Easy-E’s “Gimmie That Nutt.” The extremely explicit lyrics combined with Cheese’s 1950s-style lounge arrangement would have been perfect ammunition for Tipper Gore when she started the PMRC.