Yakety Yak!
by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller


The yak in Narwhal Plays the Nyckelharpa got me thinking about the old rock 'n' roll song Yakety Yak. What if the beleaguered teenager actually was a yak, and his parents were a couple of 1950s American suburbanites, only yaks. He could have an electric guitar and a motor-scooter, and a group of friends, also yaks, who play in a band (and maybe a moose on electric piano)...

I went for a recognisably late-1950s palette; lots of bright pastel pinks and turquoises, apart from Yak's guitar (as with Bob's Holiday, I borrowed Thomas's distinctive bright blue and green Telecaster) and his despised coat and hat, which are just meant to be embarrassing! And of course Moose's fantastic custom hot-rod. I also borrowed the Eames armchair and footstool from Bob. I think we all pretty much agree that goldfish don't need furniture.

The musical instruments were all drawn entirely by hand and eye (unlike Narwhal Plays the Nyckelharpa where I mostly hand-traced them from photos). I tried to make them as authentic as possible, especially the double bass and the 1950s Wurlitzer electric piano. I also like to re-use elements from my previous books. The acoustic guitar in the music store window is the one played by the Owl in The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, and the drum kit was last seen being played by a dozen glam-rockers in The Twelve Days of Christmas!

There are lots of "YAK"-branded items, from the fridge to the washing powder poster and the amplifier in the music store window. I think "Yak" is a funny word.

There are also a few parodies - the Dave Bruyak record, "Cool Jazz for Hip Yaks" is a hand-drawn replica of Dave Brubeck's famous "Time Out" album; the 5-dollar bill (based on a pre-1963 design) features a yak version of President Abraham Lincoln, and of course there is the Superyak comic book...

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©2013 Alphabeck