Christmas At Ground Zero

Album: Polka Party! (1986)
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Songfacts®:

  • A style parody of Phil Spector-produced Christmas songs of the '60s, this deceptively jolly single makes light of Cold War paranoia as Yankovic celebrates one final holiday amid falling atom bombs. He described it as "a cheery little tune about death, destruction and the end of the world."

    Yankovic wrote the song after his record label (Scotti Brothers Records) kept urging him to do a Christmas record. "I think this song is a little different from what they were expecting," he admitted in the liner notes to the 1994 box set Permanent Record. "Some radio stations actually banned the record, somehow reasoning that most people didn't want to hear about nuclear annihilation during the holiday season."
  • The song drew controversy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks because of its title. When the media dubbed the destroyed World Trade Center site "ground zero," Yankovic's tune was deemed insensitive and temporarily banned from radio airplay. He even stopped playing it live to avoid misinterpretation.

    Lily Hirsch, author of Weird Al: Seriously, explained in a 2022 Songfacts interview: "When Al wrote that song in 1986, it was a reference to the center of a nuclear blast. But, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the term 'ground zero' changed in meaning. And now that song just doesn't really work because most people assume it has something to do with 9/11."
  • Still concerned about the song's commercial potential, Yankovic's record label initially refused to release this as a single. Yankovic responded by using his own money to produce a low-budget music video made up of old television and news footage, along with a live-action sequence of the singer and his friends caroling in gas masks amid the nuclear devastation. The Scotti Brothers relented, and the single was released just in time for Christmas of 1986.
  • This is from Yankovic's fourth studio album, Polka Party!, which also features the James Brown parody "Living With A Hernia." The album was nominated for Best Comedy Recording at the 1988 Grammy Awards but lost to Robin Williams' A Night At The Met.

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