The True Story Of Weird Al's Morbid Christmas Classic

Parody musician "Weird Al" Yankovic has a musical career full of creative tunes like "Eat It," "Like a Surgeon," and "Another One Rides The Bus," which are beloved by fans. His fascinating rise to fame is documented in the new movie "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story," premiering in July 2022 (via IMDb). But "Weird Al" definitely has some songs that have aged poorly, including a Christmas song that's so macabre that he — and most radio stations — won't play it anymore.

Genius reports that when "Weird Al" penned "Christmas at Ground Zero" in October 1986, he was referring to a hypothetical nuclear holocaust. He wrote lyrics like "Everywhere the atom bombs are dropping / It's the end of all humanity" and "We can dodge debris while we trim the tree / Underneath the mushroom cloud." 

"Weird Al" was channeling the saccharine, glossy Christmas songs of Phil Spector with his signature parody twist, per AV Club. The song is written from the point of view of someone at a "ground zero," meaning the middle of a hypothetical atomic bombing, where there would be death and destruction instead of Christmas cheer.

Weird Al's record label didn't like the song

In an interview with AV Club, "Weird Al" revealed that his record label disliked the song so much that they refused to fund it as a single release. Determined to bring his vision to light, "Weird Al" paid for the music video himself. The end result was a music video created mostly with public-domain footage from the Cold War.

The Daily Herald reports that this was the first music video Yankovic ever directed. The video was reportedly widely played on MTV during the December holiday seasons throughout the 1980s (per the 2013 book "Armageddon Films FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Zombies, Contagions, Aliens, and the End of the World as We Know It!").

But after the devastating toll of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001, the United States was stunned by the deaths of nearly 3,000 people (via Britannica). As the nation was reeling and grieving from the unexpected attack on civilians, the area became known as "Ground Zero."

The end of 'Christmas at Ground Zero'

According to Genius, even before the national tragedy of September 11, 2001, some radio stations were lukewarm about the tune. A few stations refused to play the song, which "Weird Al" credits to people not wanting to think about nuclear annihilation as they shop for presents and prep for the holidays.

AV Club reports that Yankovic realized that he couldn't play the song during live shows anymore; too many people associated "Ground Zero" with the 2001 New York attack site. He cleared up any confusion over the events he was referencing, saying, "It's not a reference to 9/11, obviously. It was written in 1987 when the context of "ground zero" just meant the epicenter of a nuclear attack." 

The song is reportedly still a cult favorite with his die-hard fans. But at least for now, that's one song "Weird Al" won't be playing for American audiences any time soon.