The song had been done by other polka groups before. I remember hearing it on the radio but with lyrics and in German by some other group. The Emeralds did an instrumental version which became an international hit. Soon it acquired a goofy dance routine to go with it. You may have seen it at performed a wedding reception.
Shortly after I first heard the song on the radio, TV commercials started to air for a hits compilation titled Bird Dance by The Emeralds (Show and Dance Band), a group from Canada. It came out on K-Tel Records which had some distribution in the USA, especially in the Midwest.
There are two versions of the song. This one was recorded and released first, but also appears listed as “version 2” on the compilation. Originally called “Bird Dance” people quickly nick named it “Chicken Dance” and that became the alternate song title.
This exact recording is heard in the Weird: The Al Yankovic Story while the actors do the dance. You can watch it for free on the Roku Channel. If you have not you should. it’s a great time. The song also appears on the forthcoming CD and Vinyl soundtrack to be released in January 2023. I’ve heard the new mix and I prefer the original. The new mix is too tinny.
I believe my Grandma found her copy on a merch table at the Yack Arena in Wyandotte, Michigan. Dozens of ethnic festivals were held there every year in the 1980s. Polka music was popular among the elderly population that had immigrated from Central and Eastern Europe decades before.
But because I was a weird kid, the story does not end there. You see, ever since I was about 9 years old I knew that I wanted to own a radio station some day. I was also a bit of a nerd that liked to tinker with things.
One Christmas I received an electronic projects kit from Radio Shack that looked like this.
You would follow the wiring instructions in the manual to create a host of different circuits. It was fun to put them together. One of the projects was a low-power AM radio transmitter.
I put that circuit together but I wired in my cassette recorder and connected the TV antenna located on out roof. The tape in the cassette recorder was of course Bird Dance by The Emeralds (Show and Dance Band). I went out to the back yard to find my grandmother. I tuned her radio into the broadcast and it worked like a charm. Good times. :)
Someone apparently used a VHS to record an episode of VH1 Behind The Music, including commercial breaks, as it aired on cable TV in 1999. The episode focuses on Weird Al Yankovic and treats us to interviews with Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo), Dr Demento, Doug Feiger (The Knack) and The Weird One, himself.
Many years later someone attempted to transfer the video cassette recording to digital. It seems to have been captured at slower and glitchy frame rates. The contrast is low so everything is grayed out. The sound quality is basic to bad. You can probably find the DVD in a public library if you really want. The YouTube title says “High Quality”. This is a lie.
Still, this beast is watchable and entertaining. It helps if you are a fan of His Weirdness. Furthermore, it’s fascinating because of the commercials. It’s like a time capsule.
Do you think a Tampon or a maxi-pad could feel like a diaper? Do you remember what it feels like to wear a diaper? Well apparently this was a huge problem in 1999 and it needed to be addressed on VH1. Watch for the commercial in the video.
But why would a feminine hygiene product manufacturer want you to know about Weird Al? They didn’t. At the time there was a pretense that the companies running advertisements during live broadcasts were sponsoring the content that it interrupted. This was a carry-over from old time radio and early television.
We cover Yankovic a lot around here and his music is always in rotation on the live stream. We’ve even created a T-Shirt design in his honor. Order one today!