Nothing beats a good musical rivalry. Tupac and Biggie. Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez. Mark Mothersbaugh and …”Weird Al” Yankovic.
Apparently! In a recently unearthed clip from VH1’s Behind the Music, the music parody master Weird Al opens up about his classic “Dare to Be Stupid,” his 1985 tribute to Devo. Unlike most Weird Al hits, where he just swaps out the lyrics to pop hits for something goofier, “Dare to Be Stupid” is a completely original song, though very clearly done as a tribute to New Wave weirdo geniuses Devo.
As Yankovic details, he’s a big Devo fan and got the chance to play the song for Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh not long before it released. “He seemed to enjoy it!” Yankovic told the show brightly. “He said ‘Wow, that’s a really cool synth sound! I wish we could get that!'”
So far, so good. But the show then smash cuts to Mothersbaugh himself, and there’s just no doing justice to the vibe shift. You gotta watch the whole video to really get a sense of the narrative, but the drama sets in at the 0:36 second mark.
“I was in shock,” Mothersbaugh says, his eyes practically sparking with incandescent rage driven by creative envy. “It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever heard.”
An absolutely astonishing Mozart and Salieri matchup for our generation, in which Mozart is an infamous goofball who seems almost delusional in his unawareness that he has created a powerful enemy consumed by jealousy. “He seemed to enjoy it!” Yankovic says, before humbly musing that “he could have been lying, I don’t know.”
But not only was Mothersbaugh not lying, he is seething to this day: “He re-sculpted that song into something else,” the man says, a hollow shell filled now with nothing but professional enmity. “And I hate him for it, basically.”
Devo’s days are behind them, but Mothersbaugh remains a hot ticket in Hollywood, scoring films like Thor: Ragnarok, The Lego Movie and The Life Aquatic. Weird Al is also headed to the movies, with his very tongue-in-cheek biopic starring Daniel Radcliffe filming as we speak. Let’s hope Weird: The Al Yankovic Story spends plenty of time unpacking this iconic, one-sided feud for the ages.