The next 25 are in the books. Or on the Twitter.
Shortly after my last post, I started a new project on Twitter – #RiversDemoFlood. Each day I’ll post at least one ‘review’ of a random song from one of Rivers’ bundles, to give some context to the song and explain why I rated it the way I did.
I started this project on the fly and have some rules:
- I have the rated songs in an Excel file. I use a random number generator to determine which song gets tweeted about.
- If a song is a sketch and I have the time, I’ll do a second entry sometime that day.
- I’m going to try and do all the files. So there will eventually be more than 40 takes on Rules of Life. I hope I have interesting things to say after 20 or so.
- If possible, I’ll include images or videos relating to the song. While there are some of these demos on YouTube, Rivers asked that we not do that when he started bundling them (although he didn’t make that request when he sold the first batch individually), so I’ll link to other, sometimes full-band takes of final songs.
- Sentimentality, nostalgia and potential have no place in the ratings. I’m evaluating each of these files as if they’re their own songs. How would they sound on a mixtape? Or on the radio? How these sound as songs is one thing. What types of songs they could be, that’s another story.
- Above all, I’m trying to have fun with this. Which I am.
The songs so far:
Eighteen years ago, I met Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo during a post-show meet and greet. I was on a message board with Rivers and he invited some of us from the board to hang out with him and the band after shows on the 2002 Enlightenment Tour.
Near the end of the meet and greet, a small group of us talked with Rivers for a while. One thing I remember to this day was him saying that he wanted to share all the songs he ever wrote and recorded with all of us. Rivers had already shared a few demos with the board and other fans. And in the years after that, Rivers released three Alone CDs featuring his home demos. Rivers liked interacting with fans (on his terms) and writing/sharing music with them. And while I was a huge fan of all three Alone CDs, I didn’t expect much more.
Last year, Rivers launched (or re-launched) his personal website, RiversCuomo.com. Rivers took a coding class (because that’s what rock stars do) and started the site with a chatroom, adding other functions over the summer.
And then in October, he started putting together the building blocks of his final project- an online store to sell a bunch of old demos. After going back and forth on what to sell and how, Rivers settled on bundles, based on time periods in his life. Buy a bundle and you get access to a dropbox folder. And inside those bundles was a lot of music, but not everything. Music with co-writers or co-performers was out. Rivers set songs and ideas intended for future projects. And some songs/files he just couldn’t find.
Since launching the store right before Thanksgiving, Rivers added three additional bundles, two with co-writers and a greatest hits sampler. And he’s also added a number of files that he’s found. Currently, the bundles include more than 100 hours of files.
I’ll be the first to say that the files are a mixed bag. There are some files that are Rivers with a guitar and handheld recorder. Or Rivers humming/beatboxing ideas for tunes. Or 30-second long sketches for songs. Or songs where you can tell something is there, but the quality is questionable. Or songs with upwards of 40 versions. But there are a bunch of good, quality, full band (or one-man band) songs. And some of these songs are right up there with Weezer’s greatest songs.
There are enough songs to make alternate albums. Or earlier ideas for Weezer albums. Or Weezer albums that we never got. I’ve been listening to these song and I’m not even close to being all the way through.
Having these songs has gotten me back into music. A specific kind of music, granted, but still. And it’s given me ideas of things to write. It might be fun to write something about the evolution of Make Believe. And I would love to update one of my most favorite articles I’ve ever written. But I’m not doing either just yet because there are still more songs out there that might be added.
And there’s something else that’s happened with all of this. Rivers hangs out in the chatroom regularly and has asked for fan help for a few different things, like cataloging these files. Considering how daunting the concept of 100 hours of files is, some of us suggested putting together a Greatest Hits style bundle. Another site visitor (or neighbor) had been working on compiling the best songs from each bundle (at least when they were first released) and I had been working on that with him. But as we were talking about this with Rivers, he was receptive to the idea. I don’t remember exactly what spurred it, but he asked if I wanted to rate the songs on the spreadsheet. Of course I said yes.
A week or two later, Rivers started selling the Greatest Hits bundle, a combination of the other neighbor’s compilation and the songs that I rated at five stars. Gotta admit that was pretty cool.
So I’ve been keeping busy listening to a lot of these songs. On top of everything else I’m up to these days. I had an idea for something Twitter-related I may try, which will get the writing juices flowing.
After all these years, it’s great to have new (old) songs to get into all over again. And that’s not counting the Weezer album out (maybe) later this month. Or the other one coming out later this year. Or any of the other projects Rivers has planned.
1997 was not exactly a fun time to be a Weezer fan.
The band’s second album was a critical and commercial bomb. Despite the creativity and rock found on Pinkerton, people instead were listening to the Wallflowers and the Verve Pipe. The founding members of the Weezer fan club died in a car accident and the band was taking some time off due to creative tension, with rumors that one member was about to leave for good.
But near the end of the year, some rumors started popping up on fan-run news sites. Lead singer Rivers Cuomo, who was in Boston attending Harvard, had formed a side band backed by local musicians and had been playing shows at local venues. The songs played at these shows were both songs never intended for Weezer and possible future Weezer songs. The final one of these shows took place 20 years ago today. Joining Rivers and local musicians was drummer Pat Wilson, out from LA in an effort to find some common ground with Rivers. Bassist Matt Sharp was also supposed to appear, but was not able to make the trip.
The eight-song set was a tight show, featuring three new songs (Rosemary, Baby, The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World) and five Weezer entries (Getchoo, No One Else, Say it Ain’t So, Undone and Only in Dreams). Rivers and Pat would find their common ground, and would end up (as Rivers said at the start of the show) going out to LA to make a new record. But a whole set of challenges would meet them when they reached the West Coast, including the loss of Matt, recruiting a new bassist and Rivers being unsatisfied with any creative direction developed despite his prodigious musical output (A few years back, I wrote a rather lengthy article on that, check it out here). By the time Weezer released their third album, it was a new century and the band was going in a totally different direction.
As I mentioned earlier, news of this and the previous Boston shows hit Weezer fan sites pretty much right away. Back in January of ’98, I had just started the second semester of my third year of college. I e-mailed one of the attendees, who said he would do a 2-for-1 swap for a recording of the show (in other words, if I sent him two blank tapes, he would send me one tape back with a recording of the show). I sent off the tapes and days later, I received one back. The guy (I don’t remember his name) had written up an essay about the tape- he attended three of Rivers’ shows and recorded all three. The essay was heartfelt about his time as a fan of the band.
I listened to the tape and fell in love with the songs- both the ones intended for future Weezer use as well as the “goofball, country” songs Rivers penned. The sound quality was a little rough and in the years since a few of the songs have had official releases (in either full-band or demo form), but two of the more intriguing ones, Baby and Rosemary, only exist in the recording from this show.
Still, these songs and this show will hold a special place for me, because in a time when everyone was singing along to Tubthumping or MmmBop, I had hope that Weezer would be back. It would just take a while.
Seventeen years ago I was a sophomore in college. On this day back in 1996, I walked a few miles between classes to the one record store near Seton Hall University to pick up a CD that was coming out that day, Weezer’s Pinkerton.
Once I purchased the only copy of the CD in the store, I walked/ran back to my dorm room, but was only able to listen to the first three songs before my next class began. All I remember about the class was not being able to wait to hear the rest of the album. Pinkerton was so different from the Blue Album (which was by then, my favorite thing to listen to), but not in a bad way.
The sound of Pinkerton was more raw and the lyrics more emotional, which were a bad news/good news thing for the album’s fortunes. The rawness and emotion, combined with the public’s changing musical tastes meant the album didn’t do well commercially. In the year after Pinkerton’s release I was incredulous as songs like One Headlight and The Freshmen were played constantly on the radio, while Pinkerton‘s songs were ignored.
At the same time, fans loved this approach and the public rediscovered the album a few years later after word-of-mouth and file sharing attracted more listeners, leading to the band’s resurgence in 2000.
But by then, it was too late for Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, who abandoned the approach that made Pinkerton what it was and sought out a more generic way of crafting the perfect pop rock song (this approach, which led to the Green Album, also was responsible band’s fascinating, yet vague (and too minimal) output in 1998). The band has also embraced (or re-embraced) the album, even releasing Pinkerton Deluxe Edition three years ago. The highlight of this special edition was Tragic Girl, a song originally demoed at the last minute then promptly forgotten.
After my class, I rushed back to my room and listened to the whole of Pinkerton. I realized it was no Blue Album, but that was not a bad thing. It was an amazing, personal, rocking album. And it’s still amazing all these years later.
I found out something important last week. If concert tickets say ‘Rain or Shine,’ that means the concert will take place outside.
Also, that means there will be rain.
Last Friday, I saw my 12th Weezer concert outside the casino in Cincinnati (the outdoor concert was across the street from the county jail). The Civee graciously accompanied me despite the rain, which started as the opening band (Cincinnati’s Daap Girls) got their set underway. The Daap Girls weren’t the worst Weezer opening band I saw, nor were they the least memorable, so that’s a bonus. Although, the most entertaining part of the Daap Girls set was the dancing of the world’s biggest Daap Girls fan who was standing next to me. The rain let up for a bit before Weezer got started, but ramped back up to torrential levels about four songs in.
Even with the rain, I enjoyed the show. The set list was along the lines of the greatest hits set they’ve been playing lately (don’t they have a new album they should be working on?) with the addition of No One Else, which was great to hear. They sounded good, and changed up arrangements on some of the songs, including (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To. Plus, they played No One Else.
Something different about this show- the crowd felt older. A lot of the people around us were talking about their kids. There was a family right in front of us, with two kids who looked to be about eight or nine. Seeing that made me think that I may be able to bring Hope to the next show, although I may not be able to get as close as I did Friday night.
Even though we was soaked by the end of the show (more accurately, soaked after standing there for 10 minutes), it was a fun show. The outdoor area of a casino across the street from a county jail made the location interesting. And while I could have done without the rain, it was certainly a memorable show.
With apologies to Homer Simpson, everyone knows Rock Music attained perfection in 1994.
I rest my case.
Maybe I’ll listen to some Make Believe too.
Weezer’s first album came out 18 years ago last month. Since then, they’ve released eight (or nine, depending on who you talk to) more, along with a plethora of b-sides and other songs that never even made it to an album.
I’ve written before about the large amount of material the band has produced but never released. But there’s a whole other category of Weezer song I’ve never really written about before: those songs that never made it to an official release (album, compilation, b-side or official digital companion) that somehow ended up in the hands of the fans.
Ten years ago, while working on their fourth album, Maladroit, Weezer put multiple versions of each album contender up on their Website for the fans to download. But they didn’t stop there- they also uploaded early versions of their fifth album demos (which never made it to an official release) and lead singer Rivers Cuomo shared many of his home demos with fans.
The reaction to the songs being shared was mixed. Fans debated the quality of the material, but most appreciated the chance to hear the songs throughout their development. To those who became fans after the Maladroit era, many of these (and other unreleased material) remains a surprise. And that’s the point of this list, to look at a number of Weezer songs that haven’t been “officially” released but are readily available.
In addition to the list above, I’m not counting Rivers’ solo demos or songs from his Boston shows (that’s what the Alone series is for). Nor am I counting early versions of songs that ended up on an album (if I were, the “doo-doo-doo-doo” Burndt Jamb and If You Want It would be on the list). Most of these songs were recorded between 2001 and 2002. That era is so heavily represented because that’s the source of most of the unreleased songs. Also, I’m relying on YouTube here, and the only available versions of these songs are from concerts, so I apologize in advance for the quality.
Here we go: Ten Awesome Weezer Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard (unless you’re a die-hard crazy fan):
Put up on Weezer.com sometime in April of 2002, after the Maladroit sessions, but before the album was released. It featured what seemed to be a more personal theme than anything on Maladroit and some great instrumentation. The band would revisit this song later that year, but this is the best version.
9) Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone
From an acoustic session in the fall of 2002, released along with a version of Private Message (keep reading). The lyrics (seemingly involving choking) are a bit…different.
8) Saturday Night
Recorded with a slew of other songs in the summer of 2001 in Washington, DC, with Mikey on bass. Not sure what the song is about exactly, but it sounds like they’re having fun here. Weezer later attempted this during the Maladroit sessions, but it sounded differently.
7) My Brain is Working Overtime
Yes, a demo version of this song was available on Alone II. But this version is from the summer of 2000. This was one of the first new songs played by the band after coming back from their 1998-2000 hiatus. A poor version of this was available immediately after that first show (which took forever to download back in the days of dialup). Thankfully, better versions still surfaced.
6) The Victor
I can’t find a version of the best take of this song -released along with 367, the song features the same instrumentation and real point of view. Additionally, the April ’02 version started off with a near-minute long instrumental jam. This take, from later on in the year, isn’t as good, but is still pretty decent.
5) Sandwiches Time
Weezer recorded three different versions of this oddly-named tune, in the fall and winter of 2001. One version featured Rivers singing in his normal voice. The other two, well, you can hear for yourself. I also have to mention this is Hope’s favorite Weezer song title.
4) So Low
This goes without saying for all of the songs on this list, but I really think Weezer missed out by not putting So Low on an album. I first heard it at the Detroit show in September ’01 and got chills listening to it. The band played this a bunch of times in the fall of 2001 and then forgot about it. It resurfaced in the summer of ’02, but was changed to Mansion of Cardboard, a song about homelessness, and the magic was gone.
3) O Girl
Another one of the Summer 2000 Songs, or the first batch of Post-Pinkerton new songs. The song is energetic with a crazy (in a good way) chorus. There’s probably a better-sounding version of this out there, but it’s great to see this one being played.
2) Private Message
This is from the same acoustic session as Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone. This is actually the fourth version of this song we have (but I couldn’t find a video of my favorite, the original from April ’02). Personal lyrics and a great sound here, with the electric version featuring an energy that was only touched upon in the songs that made up Maladroit.
Some would say I’m cheating here. This song is from a show Rivers performed in Boston in January of 1998. However, bandmate Pat Wilson played the drums at this show. Additionally, the band would attempt this song in the spring of ’98 as they tried to get their third album off the ground. This was one of those songs Rivers wrote as a reaction to Pinkerton, a quasi-romantic repetitive song with lyrics that were poetic, but not personal. I’m not sure what this song is about (some interpretations of the lyrics are downright creepy), but I love it.
As I mentioned, most of these were released around 2002 and were recorded during an era where the band shared everything. Even with what we have, there are a number of good songs that didn’t make the list. While they don’t share as much anymore, they have opened up the vaults slightly. Other bands are using digital distribution streams to make money off their unreleased songs. If Weezer ever does the same, I might as well just send them my paychecks directly.