The 27 story began back in the early nineties, long after Al had been well established as the Prince Of Parody. A new Weird Al newsletter/fanzine called "The Midnight Star" [which had Al's approval and support] had been started by two Houston women [Pam Ritchie and Carlotta Barnes] on January 1993. [The fanzine however has since ceased publication since late 1998.]
On April 22, 1993, Carlotta and fellow Midnight Star staff worker Carol "Mac" McGuire attended an Al concert at the Joe Freeman Coliseum Fairgrounds in San Antonio, TX. While there, they got the opportunity to see Al's drummer Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz and ask him several questions about Al and the band for the newsletter.
One seemingly innocuous question at the time was "Any significance to the numbers '27' (in 'Like a Surgeon') and '28' ('This Is The Life')?" [For those not aware, in both the LAS and the TITL videos, the number 27 can be clearly seen in a "Now Serving" electronic queueing system -- you know, those "Take a number" ticket things you see in a crowded store? "Number 32? Number 32?" -- though in LAS, the numbers change from 26 to 27, and in TITL, they change from 25 to 26 to 27, but *NOT* to 28!!!] Bermuda's response was also seemingly innocuous: "There's no significance to those numbers. I asked Al, who evidently hadn't even noticed before. He hesitated, and said '27 is a funny number'."
The above question and answer, along with several others, were published in the July 1993 [Volume 1, Issue 3] edition of the Midnight Star on page 6. Query made, response given. One would have expected nothing more about the whole "27" issue than just that.
But then something fortuitous happened. Just over three months after being asked about that "funny number", Al performed on July 24, 1993 at a concert at the Jackson County Fair in Central Point, OR [near Eugene, OR]. As had been done for some other performers at the County Fair there, the venue had given Al and the band a portable trailer for use as a temporary dressing room. Oddly enough, there on the window of that trailer was a large sign that read simply ... "27". A coincidence of course, as all the numbers of the trailers were random -- but in light of the recent LAS and TITL video revelations, it was all the stranger for Al and the band to have seen the number there. Al and the band apparently got a big kick out of it. Bermuda took a picture of Al pointing to the sign and sent it to Carlotta and the Midnight Star editors. The picture was published on the cover of the next issue of the MS [October 1993 -- Volume 1, Number 4]. History was thus made -- the first "27" sighting had been accomplished ... and by none other than AL himself.
Shortly thereafter, now having been made aware to look for the number, fans retrospectively noticed "27"'s in other works of Al:
Finding so many of these "funny numbers" only fanned the flames of those fans looking for evidence of a "27 Conspiracy". With Al's sly acknowledgement of the number via the Jackson County Fair concert trailer photo, the 27 phenomenon was off and running.
Soon, readers of the Midnight Star soon began submitting 27 sightings from all manner of sources -- everything from a chart position of an album or song of Al's ... to the page number of a particular article mentioning Al by name ... or to the "27" hidden in an ISDN number of a published work by Al. By the April 1994 issue of the Midnight Star [Volume 2, Number 2], editor Pam Ritchie wrote a column on page 16, discussing the regularity of such sightings of 27's. She ends the column with: "Even the Grand Master himself was unaware of this oddity until we brought it to his attention. One can only wonder where this sinister set of numbers will rear their ugly heads next. Any numerologists out there? Your comments would be welcome!"
"Where", indeed. By 1995, "27 Mania" was in full force. 27 sightings were being reported from every conceivable source. For instance, on May 3 and 6, 1994, Al played "Wheel Of Fortune" for charity -- the first day he won $27,800, and the second day $2700! Some of the sightings were admittedly a bit goofy [Key in the number "27" in a calculator, hold a mirror against the calculator's top edge, and note the reflection reads "SJ" -- short for "Steve Jay", Al's long time bassist]; some were rather convoluted [If you use the numbers on a telephone that correspond with the letters in WEIRD AL and perform these operations, you get 9 + 3 + 4 + 7 - 3 + 2 + 5 = 27]; and some were, well, almost creepy in their coincidence [The abbreviation for the chemical element aluminum is "AL", and its atomic weight is ... 27].
On the [at that time in 1995] limited online community on Prodigy and Compuserve, multiple sightings were also submitted, but the sheer volume and variety of suggestions quickly became immense. Soon thereafter in mid-1995, Al superfan Dave "Elvis" Rossi took it upon himself to compile an on-line continually updated list of 27 sightings called -- appropriately enough -- "The 27 List". And now, Elvis continues to maintain and update the list to this day; the latest version can be found at his website: http://weirdal.0catch.com/txt/27.list.html
As a result of all this fuss by the fans, Al makes a point of including a 27 or two [or more!] in nearly all of his work since 1994. For example:
And if you'd like further affirmation regarding the development of the whole "27 Phenomenon", look no further than Chuck Miller's excellent article [ http://members.aol.com/boardwalk7/Yankovic.pdf ] in Goldmine magazine [Issue #514 from 2000], where Al himself comments on the issue: "I suppose I used the number 27 originally because I just thought it was a funny number or maybe it was the right number of syllables. Maybe there's a deeper meaning to it than that, but at the time I just thought that that number just seemed to work best for different situations. But some fans brought that up to me, and some fans started to think maybe there was some kind of deeper significance to the number, and there became this kind of whole cult based around the number 27, and people looking for the number 27 as it would occur in my work. And I was aware this was going on, so I would kind of feed the flames a little bit, and from that point on, started putting the number in more consciously."
Special thanks to Jim Heneghan for compiling this wonderful history of 27.