Weezer in ’97-’98: Indecision and Abandoning the Past

I originally wrote the following for the All Things Weezer blog a year and a half ago. However, ATW recently went through a redesign and the blog is no longer available. So I’m reposting it here, in one part (it was originally broken up into three on ATW). This was written before Death to False Metal, Mikey’s Facebook posts and the release of the Pinkerton Diaries. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

“…and tomorrow we go to LA to make our new record”

Rivers Cuomo spoke these words to a Boston audience on January 14, 1998. With Pat Wilson manning the drums, Weezer’s fans, both those in attendance and those who would later hear the show through tapes and MP3s had reason to be optimistic. Sure, Pinkerton wasn’t a commercial success, but for the band’s fanbase, it was the perfect album. There was some discord among the band during the post-release promotion and tour schedule, but here, in Boston, half of the band was on the same stage, playing together once again. And while Rivers slowly began to distance himself from the Pinkerton material, fans were pleased with these new songs.

Indeed, Weezer was off to Los Angeles to make a new record. But Weezer’s third record wouldn’t hit stores for another three years, during which time the band lost and gained a bassist, the fanbase would swell thanks to filesharing and Rivers Cuomo and his music would each undergo dramatic changes.

This is not the story of the third album, 2001’s Weezer (The Green Album). Rather, this is the story of Rivers’ final months in Boston through the time the band ceased recording in the fall of 1998. Just as information from this time period is sparse, so is the musical output. As Karl Koch put it, the band “refused to let their management even hear what they were doing for the most part, and shared only a small fraction of the music then or since.” Pat calls the time period “one of indecision and abandoning the past.” This is an attempt to explore the time period using the little available news from the era, along with the words of the band and their friends, and to shed some light on one of the most fascinating (if only because little is known about it) periods in Weezer history.

In August 1997, Weezer returned to the United States after supporting No Doubt and headlining their own shows overseas. The band had been through a heavy period of emotional turmoil; dealing with the reaction to Pinkerton, members wanting to focus on their side bands and the deaths of fanclub founders (and some of the band’s earliest supporters), sisters Mykel and Carli Allan and their sister Trysta.

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The Pinkerton Diaries Finally Arrives

For a while (a few years now), Weezer fans have been waiting for the third installment of Rivers Cuomo’s Alone series, containing not only a CD full of home demos, but also a 200+ page book, the Pinkerton Diaries, focused on the years surrounding Weezer’s second album.

The book and CD, which were self-published by Cuomo, were shipped this week. And I got mine today.

I haven’t been able to read or listen to everything, but so far, it’s incredible. The songs on the CD (only a few of which actually ended up on Pinkerton) are a lot rougher than on the other Alone discs. The book is detailed, with content from the day The Blue Album was released through the fall of 1997. There’s a lot of insight, whether it’s on the development of Songs from the Black Hole, his Harvard essays or plans for music after Pinkerton.

As an added bonus, the small run of books was individually numbered, and the first 500 ordered received signed posters. I ordered within ten minutes of the Twitter announcement last month. Somehow, my poster is numbered 34 and my book is numbered 387.

It’s clear that Rivers and crew put a lot of work into this. The book/CD cost $75, which, from my knowledge of the printing industry, is worth it. It’s a small-run self-published project and I wouldn’t be surprised if this doesn’t make money for Rivers.

Of course, I’d like it to- I’d really like future editions, particularly one covering 1997-2000. And I haven’t even finished this one yet.

 

 

It’s Time to Watch the Movie

It was a rainy day and The Civee and I had to do something with Hope this afternoon. We decided to take her to a movie.

We went to see The Muppets. It was age appropriate for her, The Civee and I wouldn’t be totally bored and Hope is familiar with the Muppets from Weezer’s Keep Fishin’ video (Weezer has a surprising number of kid-friendly videos).

We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to last the whole movie. Hope gets vocal and likes to move around a lot, but we were willing to try.

The theater wasn’t that crowded, so we got seats near the aisle. There were a number of trailers and a Toy Story short before the movie started. Hope seemed to get the idea of watching what was going on on the big screen, although she often stood on her seat and talked (asking for more popcorn, mostly).

We did have to take her for a walk a few times and she got real antsy towards the end (damn those previews and the short feature!). But overall, she enjoyed the experience. The Civee and I liked the movie. And I’m glad to know what happened to the world’s supply of New Coke.

Also, when we were on our way into the theater, I saw a poster for the next movie I’m taking Hope to see:

Rivers Cuomo Solo in Boston

With the impending release of the third volume in Rivers Cuomo’s Alone series, I’ve been listening to a lot of his solo stuff lately.

Rivers has written hundreds of songs, many of which have been released on Weezer’s nine-plus albums. Others have been released on solo CDs, or given directly to fans through the magic of filesharing. But there’s also a handful of songs that we don’t have official versions of, having been bootlegged from a small number of solo shows during late 1997 and early 1998.

In the fall of 1997, Rivers lived in Boston, intending to resume his studies at Harvard. However, he didn’t go back to school and returned to Los Angeles in early 1998, to focus on Weezer. While in Boston, he played five shows with a group of local musicians under the name of Homie. The setlists were made up of potential Weezer songs (Rosemary, Baby, The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World, Little Sister, 1,000 Years, American Girls) and older material he would label as “goofy” and “country.”

Of the second group, the material ranged from songs written right after the release of the Blue Album (I’ll Think About You) to songs written in the midst of Pinkerton (Sheila Can Do It). The songs were received well, both by the audience during the shows (despite the one drunken woman crowing “I wanna hear the sweater song”) and by fans who heard the songs via tapes (remember those?) and later MP3s.

I actually heard these early on, as the fan who bootlegged them sent me a copy in January ’98 after the final Boston show. Even though the recording quality wasn’t great, I listened to the tape enough to wear it down. Other Weezer fans also hold these songs in high regard. Two members of the allthingsweezer fan community recorded a killer cover version of ten of the songs (despite not having access to the official lyrics or music), if you want to check it out, they (still) have a MySpace page.

Anyway, as I mentioned in the intro, I was listening to some of these songs today, and realized the MP3 tag said the show was held on November 21, 1997. Fourteen years later, and we still don’t have official versions of most of these songs. But at least we have the bootlegged versions. If you want to give it a listen, download the show on Mediafire at http://www.mediafire.com/?tnb6o35652vx365.

Here’s the show info, according to Weezerpedia:

Homie show #2, 11/21/97 at TT & the Bear’s, Boston, MA

The following is the second “Homie Tryout” show, which took place on November 211997. In addition to Rivers, Kevin Stevenson of the Shods plays guitar. A bootleg tape exists.

  1. Autumn Jane
  2. Hey M’Darlin’
  3. Sheila Can Do (It)
  4. Think About (AKA’ sesame street’)
  5. The Good Life
  6. Stay There
  7. Wanda
  8. Sunshine O
  9. Fun Time
  10. American Girls
  11. Hot Tub — Encore
  12. No One Else

Rest in Peace, Mikey Welsh

Earlier today, former Weezer bassist Mikey Welsh died.

Mikey was with Weezer from 1998-2001. He replaced Matt Sharp during a time of uncertainty and inaction for the band. Within a few years and after a few false starts, Weezer (with Mikey in the fold) released the Green Album in 2001, bringing the band new success after a time when people thought the band had called it quits. He left the band in the summer of 2001, weeks after performing on shows like the Video Music Awards and Saturday Night Live.

After leaving Weezer, Mikey took up painting and started a family. He made a few appearances at some of the band’s live shows and recently joined Facebook, where he shared stories of his early years with the band.

I’ve written before about Mikey’s first year with the band, when Weezer struggled to rediscover themselves after the commercial failure of Pinkerton.  One thing I didn’t write about in that series (and something that wasn’t apparent until later) was how Mikey’s personality brought a new dimension to the band.  He was great with the bass, and his personality was refreshing, bringing out the best in drummer Pat Wilson.  In addition, he was a force to be reckoned with on stage.

My first time seeing him was my first Weezer show in Cleveland in August of 2000. He towered over lead singer Rivers Cuomo and was extremely animated (but without the histrionics of his predecessor).

I don’t know what else to say other than he’ll be missed. One of my favorite Weezer moments (music-related or not) is an interview he and Pat did with Rolling Stone in the fall of 2000. He looked like he was having fun.

Answering the Skipper Dan Question

So I was checking out my Sitemeter log and noticed a lot of activity early Sunday morning (and by that I mean around midnight).

Pretty much all of the visitors arrived after Googling something to the effect of “skipper dan parody of.” They arrived at this page, an entry I wrote a few years ago about Weird Al Yankovic’s song Skipper Dan. But I don’t think I ever mentioned the song Al was paying homage to in the original post. To answer the question, Skipper Dan is a style parody* of Weezer’s song Pork and Beans.

I apologize for my poor blogging in the past and hope whoever was staying up late Saturday night win their trivia contest.

*More like Frank’s 2000″ TV : Anything by REM than Eat It : Beat It

Weezer’s No One Else: And if You See Her, Tell Her It’s O-hey-hey-hey-hey

I first got Weezer’s The Blue Album sometime in December of 1994. I was already a fan, having heard and enjoyed both Undone and Buddy Holly earlier that fall.  But listening to the CD was an eye (or ear) opening experience.  Opener My Name Is Jonas was a solid melodic rocker. The second song on the album was even better.

No One Else sounded like the perfect rock song. At first listen, I knew an album with songs like this, Buddy Holly and Undone was special. And I was right- the rest of the album was great. All these years later, No One Else is still electrifying.

The reason I’m writing about this today is that 19 years ago today, Weezer first played No One Else during a show at the Coconut Teaszer in LA. As Karl Koch explains in the Weezer Recording History:

Unfortunately no recording has turned up for this show, which was in my opinion , a turning point for the band. They played tighter than ever before, had a better sound, and (after internal debate) debuted “No One Else”, a song that started to steer the band in a previously invisible direction.

A few years back, I e-mailed Karl to ask what he meant about the debate and new direction. Karl replied; “Rather than sticking with a heavy Pixies-influenced sound, “No One Else” was one of the first songs to have the band wondering whether they were going in a “‘pop’, [or] too ‘commericial’ sounding” direction.

It is easy to see a slight Pixies influence (and a much heavier one in the band’s earliest demos) in Weezer’s material. But while that influence is still there, Weezer is much more melodic and pop-friendly than the Pixies.

(I always got a kick out of that unofficial video)

No One Else was played regularly by the band through 2002.  My favorite live version of it comes from the summer of 2000, where for a few shows, they began the song with an extended intro. I was lucky enough to be at one of those performances and later get a recording. Even though the quality is suspect, you still get an idea of the intro in from this recording of the Cleveland ’00 show.

No One Else was eventually shuffled out of the band’s playlists in favor of singles and more current songs (although it has enjoyed a bit of a comeback during the Memories Tour). Even though it’s no longer in the band’s current repertoire, it’s nice to know they made the right choice all those years ago on September 15 at the Teaszer.

Hope has Excellent Taste in Music

Even though most of our music is on our computer, The Civee and I still have a shelf of CDs in our dining room. The other day, Hope and I were playing when she went over to the CD case. I told her to pick one out, so she took CD and started waving it around to no one in particular.

For those who can’t tell what it is:

This proves a hunch I’ve had for a long time: Hope’s a Troublemaker.

And to those (namely, Hope’s mom) who would say this picture is staged, don’t you think I would have gotten a better shot of her face?

Either way, I’m very proud of her choice. I have a feeling The Civee is not.

Longtime Sunshine: Weezer Fans are Satisfied in the Simple Things

I’ve written before about how Weezer has been busting out some old b-sides as part of their Memories tour (here and here).

Well, last night, they did something even more awesome than play an old b-side.  At a show in Austin, they played an unreleased (well, on the original album version) Pinkerton song, Longtime Sunshine.

The song was originally intended as the closer of Weezer’s abandoned rock opera, Songs from the Black Hole.  For a short time, Longtime Sunshine was going to be the final track on Pinkerton, but it got shelved in favor of Butterfly. In 2002,  Rivers Cuomo distributed an MP3 of his original demo to fans, and the track was later included on Cuomo’s first Alone album.  A different, experimental full band arrangement was featured on the Deluxe reissue of Pinkerton, and while the track has been a fan favorite since the days of the MP3, no one expected to ever hear a live version of the song.

Now, I have a feeling if the band doesn’t play this at a show, fans will riot.  And I wouldn’t blame them.  The performance is much different from the stripped-down acoustic versions we’ve heard.  Watch for yourself.

That dueling guitar solo just kills. And the fans singing along toward the end is great to hear.

I’ve been to a few Weezer shows (well, actually 11), and the setlist for last night’s show could be one of the best I’ve ever seen (the exclusion of Undone or Buddy Holly makes it a tough call):

Memories
The Greatest Man that Ever Lived
Perfect Situation
Dope Nose
Hash Pipe
You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
Susanne
Longtime Sunshine
Jamie
Only in Dreams

All of Pinkerton

No Beverly Hills or Island in the Sun, but Longtime Sunshine, Jamie, Susanne and Only in Dreams?  I need to invent a time machine and travel back in time to see this show.

Blue at 17

It’s kind of hard to believe, but DGC records released Weezer’s first album 17 years ago today.

Although I didn’t hear it till about seven months after it’s release, it’s easily the one record/tape/CD I’ve listened to more than any other. And while Weezer has released a ton of great (and yes, a few not-so-great) songs since, the Blue Album has always been my favorite because of a combination of the songs, the way the album sounds and some other factors.

I’m not sure where I heard it, but I’ve heard musicians say that the music of their youth is the most important music to them personally (Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo even wrote one of those not-so-great songs about the music he grew up listening to and what those songs mean to him).  And I can see why.  I first heard Blue near the beginning of my senior year of high school and it’s been in my CD player (even though I don’t use that particular device on a daily basis) ever since.

Sure I know every word, but the songs still sound as fresh as the first time I heard them.  To me, Blue still rocks and is fun to listen to.  What more can you ask for out of an album?

One of the things that catapulted Weezer to music fame was their use of music videos for Undone and Buddy Holly.  Weezer has had some great official videos.  But they’ve also had some really creative fan-made videos, like this one for the most underrated song on Blue, No One Else:

May 10 is an important day for Weezer for reasons other than Blue’s release.  Their fifth album, Make Believe (which I also greatly enjoy) was released on this day in 2005. And on May 10, 2126, the crew of Betsy II will Blast Off for Nomis to save the planet from being swallowed by its sun.