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Classic Tracks: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It”

If Michael Jackson's "Beat It" is a classic, it stands to reason that Weird Al's parody, "Eat It" is one too—though it is entirely on its own merits.

It was clear from his very first single—“My Bologna,” a parody of The Knack’s “My Sharona”—that Weird Al Yankovic could deliver the goods. He’s built an incredibly lucrative career cleverly sending up pop songs of every style—who can forget “Another One Rides the Bus,” “Addicted to Spuds,” “Girls Just Want to Have Lunch,” “I Want a New Duck,” “I Love Rocky Road,” “The Saga Begins” (a Star Wars parody set to “American Pie”), or this epic Michael Jackson lampoon, “Eat It” (not to be confused with his later MJ masterpiece, “Fat”).

The cover of Weird Al Yankovic's "Eat It" single.
The cover of Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It” single.

“Eat It’” was cut during sessions for Yankovic’s second album, In 3D, recorded at what was then the Scotti Bros.’ Santa Monica Sound Recorders studio in the fall of 1983 and then released in the winter of 1984. Producing, as he had on the first Yankovic album, was none other than rock guitarist Rick Derringer, who also played guitar on the album. The parodist’s regular band—guitarist Jim West, bassist Steve Jay and drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz—also appeared on the album, as did others.

Engineering was Tony Papa, who says, “Usually we tracked it live, with the guitar in a room away from the drums and bass. We always tried to get a great drum and bass take as our foundation. At that point, we’d start layering on top of that. Then, Al would come in and we’d do a whole series of vocal sessions, but he was always there from the beginning to the end.”

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The studio boasted a Neve 8108 in the control room, and Papa says Yankovic’s vocal chain consisted of “a [Sony] C-12 tube mic—I think we used that on every record—and a little bit of reverb. We had a Pultec EQ, which gave him a little more bottom than he would have had normally, and the limiter would have been an 1176.

Asked about whether they tried to replicate the sound of the songs they parodied, Papa says, “Sure. Everybody would get a copy of whatever we were doing as a tribute or parody, or whatever you want to call it, and they’d listen to their part and come in very prepared. I would listen to the song really closely, as well, for reverb and little audio things, and then our mentality was, “Let’s see if we can beat this!” Not copy it, beat it. Sometimes you did, sometimes you didn’t,” he laughs.

The song made it to Number 12 on the singles chart and won a Grammy in 1985.