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The Weight

“The Weight” was written and recorded by The Band in 1968. It served as a modest debut hit, peaking at #63 on the US charts, but saw incremental success when covered by other artists. Jackie DeShannon took it to #55 that same year, Diana Ross & The Supremes collaborated with The Temptations to hit #46 with the song the next year, and Aretha Franklin leveled the field with a #19 cover in 1969. (At the time, covers worked well as fast-lane commercial vehicles. Herman’s Hermits even charted a #3 hit with their version of The Kinks’ “Dandy” before the Kinks had released it themselves.)

While it was only a minor hit in its time, “The Weight” has recently enjoyed a renaissance, and it now stands as one of the most beloved and remembered tunes of the late ’60s pop era. It continues to proliferate in commercials, movie soundtracks, and in presumed perpetuity on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time lists. A recent spate of renditions by big names in modern music can be added to that list, including those by Hanson, O.A.R., Travis, the Black Crowes, and of course, Weezer, who released theirs as a bonus track on the UK edition of 2008’s The Red Album.

Weezer’s apparent reasons for doing a cover of this song are two-fold. As Brian Bell explained in a recent interview, one of the three locations Weezer recorded their third self-titled album was the very same where The Band recorded the original (forty years prior), and it seemed like an obvious thing to do. Moreover, the original is a very vocally arranged song, with plenty of harmonies and alternating lead vocals between drummer Levon Helm and bassist Rick Danko, and Weezer’s version comes from a period during which Rivers Cuomo was not only allowing his bandmates to write and sing lead occasionally, but, for the first time, also putting those songs on an album. It’s not uncommon for a band to cover a song whose merits they are attempting to emulate (as evidenced by Weezer’s two secret shows in the late ’90s under the Goat Punishment moniker, tributes to Nirvana and Oasis), and considering that “The Weight” truly is a classic, it seemed like a tasteful choice for this newly (if briefly) reconfigured band.

Although most of the covers from the Red era were great ideas pitifully botched (for example, the previously discussed “Life’s What You Make It”), “The Weight” turned out pretty nice — certainly the best of the lot. Perhaps that’s in large part because it’s the only one that was clearly worked on as a band and in a professional studio (does Scott or Pat laying down some tracks in a home studio for a quick-fix b-side really qualify as “Weezer?”), but in any case, it’s a crisp, faithful take on the original. Scott Shriner shines brightest with the greatest vocal performance of his career, providing the loose-lipped southern drawl the song all but begs. Bell channels his Tennessee roots in his backing vocals, and Cuomo’s penultimate verse — the only time somebody takes baton from Shriner — comes as a breathy and well-placed change of pace. The only real artistic license the band takes is to add some (exceedingly) predictable guitar crunch on the chorus, but it works well enough. A solid take on a great song.

32 Comments

  1. Hup_Y wrote:

    And I don’t think I can add anything to the above -’nuff said.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  2. HowCoolIsThat wrote:

    Yeah, this is the one cover from the red album era that I actually like. Coincidentally, its also one of the few vocal performances from Scott that I enjoy. That being said, RC’s verse is still the best one.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
  3. s.o.s. wrote:

    I’ve always loved the part when Rivers comes in. I enjoy the cover as a whole, but I sometimes find myself skipping the first minute or 2 in order to get to the Rivers verse quicker.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  4. sandwiches wrote:

    Don’t forget the Cingular Network commercial that ran for like 2 years with The Band’s version.

    Great harmonies (especially on the last verse), Scotts voice is very suiting for this cover, also, i did semi eye-roll at the cliche weezer guitar crunch on the chorus, but as you said, overall it works well enough.

    While Velouria is their ultimate cover song IMO, this one is pretty good too.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  5. Soyrev wrote:

    I think there’s one cover they do that is on par with “Velouria” (or very nearly), but yeah, that bad boy can’t be beat. Unreal vocals, unreal production, unreal performance…I gave it The Very Best for a damn reason! 😀

    (Also, rare Hup appearance! Everyone rejoice.)

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Permalink
  6. brado8 wrote:

    This is a pretty straight forward, faithful version of a great tune. I do enjoy Scott’s singing, more so than Rivers’ on this song even. I can barely hear the distorted guitar in the chorus, so that doesn’t really bug me.

    Soyrev, what’s the one cover you think they do that’s on par with ‘Velouria’?

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 7:11 pm | Permalink
  7. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    Do tell, inquiring minds want to know!

    And on topic, this is a pretty good cover, but nothing to distract me from true Weezer songs (like Velouria can).

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  8. Soyrev wrote:

    I’ll admit I was a liiiittle torn on “The Weight” at first (“what was the point?”), but I knew I liked it when I drove around all summer playing “The Angel and The One.” At this point I had “The Weight” tacked onto the end of the MP3 sequence, just like on the UK version of the record, and after forgetting my iPod was still on for a bit it would come on. I’d usually reach to switch songs, but by the time I started scrolling around, I decided to let “The Weight” play out. It’s just really pleasant (and good for hot summer cruisin’).

    As for which cover I also put on that vaunted shelf…You’ll just have to wait and see! : P (It may take some folks by surprise)

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink
  9. brado8 wrote:

    You tease you!

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  10. sandwiches wrote:

    I think their live “are friends electric” is pretty great too. out of Red Album era that and the Weight are the only covers i like (and i guess the only full band covers, really). Although it was disappointing when it ended up being a better soundboard version that we already had two years earlier. Discussion for another time though.

    Soyrev, agreed on the summer cruisin potential. Not being the TRA fan most others seem to be, it was one of the few songs I felt okay with having play with the windows down when around other people.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:14 pm | Permalink
  11. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    The Weight is amazing. I cannot get enough of it. Scott is perfect on it, and Rivers’ verse has this awesome spunk to it that I can’t even describe.

    I put this as number 5 out of 16 on my “so after 5 months, how do you rank TRA” list.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  12. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    Yeah, you basically said it all. This and sometimes Meri Kuri are the only Red b-sides that are any kind of good. I hated that they put Are Friends Electric on as a b-side and not I Don’t Know How to Love Her – that cover was great!

    And as for Soyrev’s other cover, I have a pretty good feeling I might know what it is…

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  13. MurphDirt wrote:

    As for which cover I also put on that vaunted shelf…You’ll just have to wait and see! : P (It may take some folks by surprise)

    It’s Green Day’s Worry Rock right?

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  14. brado8 wrote:

    Mynameisjason, I feel like Rivers’ verse has too much ‘spunk’ in it. If he’d turn down the spunk a bit, I’d enjoy it more. Just me, though.

    I’ll stick with The Band’s version.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  15. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    The spunk is like a breath of fresh air after listening to TGA, Maladroit, MB, and TRA.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  16. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I quote myself –

    “The SPUNK is like a breath of fresh air…”

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  17. clore wrote:

    “Velouria” is definitely the best cover song performed by Weezer, followed by “Worry Rock.” I really like how they make both of those songs their own (moreso than other covers I’ve heard from them anyway).

    As for “The Weight,” it definitely grew on me. I think it has an enjoyable aura behind it since it sounds like an extremely collaborative effort. I wasn’t really enthusiastic about this song when I first heard it, and I think I had a hard time forcing myself to admit that I actually enjoyed Scott’s vocals. I was frustrated Rivers wrote “King” and let Scott sing it. “King” definitely grew on me though; I just always imagine what it could have been (I guess there are a lot of these thoughts with Weezer’s more recent songs, haha).

    After seeing Weezer live this year, I thought Scott did a great job on all of his songs with the exception of his annoying take on “Perfect Situation,” and I grew more appreciation for his lead vocals.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 11:43 pm | Permalink
  18. tsarczar wrote:

    It’s gotta be Dukes of Hazzard, right Soy? lol

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 7:08 am | Permalink
  19. brado8 wrote:

    “The spunk is like a breath of fresh air after listening to TGA, Maladroit, MB, and TRA.”

    I hear that! I dunno, with Scott singing, I can convince myself that this isn’t even a Weezer song, just a solid cover of a great tune.

    In the verse that Rivers sings, there are three things that get to me: the way he sings the word ‘fog’, ‘man’, and his little ‘yeah’ at the end(in other songs, something like that has made way more sense).

    I know this is total nit-picking(is that how you spell it?) but I have very little else to say about the tune. In fact, I think I’m done with this one!

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 9:53 am | Permalink
  20. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I’d never heard the original song before hearing Weezers, and i really like it and, as you said, it’s extremely listenable. I think i prefer it to the Bands version as it sounds cleaner and fresher. Also I would of liked it if each member sand a verse, that would have been cool.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  21. Art Vandelay wrote:

    Too much Scott, do not like.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  22. Melack wrote:

    The only song where Scott’s lead vocals haven’t bothered me. Too bad though that this cover got my hopes up for all the others, talk about dissapointments.

    I listened to this song alot around the time of TRA. Can’t say I’ve revisited it that much since then though.

    I’m a big The Band fan and if I want to hear this song I probably just put “The Last Waltz” into my DVD 🙂

    The original song is a 5/5 for me and Weezer does a solid cover and gets a 4/5 from me for that.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  23. Will wrote:

    =w=’s the weight is a snooze-fest as far as i’m concerned. they might as well have just bought the license to the Band’s version and put that on their CD.

    if they want to cover it live, that’s cool. but they’re going to go to the trouble to record a song, they could at least come up with a new arrangement for it.

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Permalink
  24. Soyrev wrote:

    Clore: I think Scott singing “Dope Nose” works better than Rivers. The rest…not so much. Knowing he did “In The Garage” back in ’05 makes me a little sick.

    Tsar: Shit, getting warm…: P

    Brado: Yeah, the way Rivers sings “fog” has always struck me as a little jarring. It’s not enough to really detract, though, as you say.

    waitingandwaiting: That’s what I thought. Would’ve been a small way of putting their own spin on it, too.

    Melack’s assessment sounds fair to me, but I will agree with Will that the decision to play the straight cover is pretty amateurish (I would’ve preferred this to any Oasis or Pink Floyd covers to be honest, even Nirvana; plus, the new vocal arrangement for MNIJ proves that Pat can handle the kit and lead vox at the same time, so why not…). It’s still nice to hear, though, and hey, the beloved “Velouria” cover is relatively faithful to the original, too (the first time Cuomo sounds like he’s purposefully channeling Black Francis since, what, “Paperface”!?).

    Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  25. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    Have you ever heard Scott singing “Fall Together”, Soyrev? It’s WAY better than Rivers’ version.

    Friday, November 14, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink
  26. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    I love the “fog” and “yeah.”

    Friday, November 14, 2008 at 12:26 am | Permalink
  27. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    Side question: Will you be incorporating tracks from Alone II in the randomizer when it comes out?

    Friday, November 14, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  28. GumbyTom wrote:

    Would have liked more trading off on the verses, but I like it.

    Didn’t know about that interview with Brian- thanks for that info.

    Friday, November 14, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  29. justbluemyself wrote:

    I have a feeling that the cover you guys have been trying to guess is actually “Better Off Alone”. Just a feeling.

    As for this one, it’s okay. I think I agree with Will the most.

    Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  30. brado8 wrote:

    *prepares for next tune*

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  31. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    Soyrev: Unfortunately, no. I saw it live once and really enjoyed it, and later downloaded a show with him singing it and still enjoyed it. I have since moved computers, though, and no longer have said bootleg. Try Lollapalooza and Champaign, IL from 2005. I know I at least had both of those, maybe I’m thinking of one of them.

    JustBlueMyself: That’s my guess.

    Saturday, November 22, 2008 at 11:11 pm | Permalink
  32. Mr. Sweeney wrote:

    The Weight is one of those songs that anyone can sing and sound fantastic (Hell, Panic at the Disco does a cover that sounds brilliant.) That said, Rivers and Co. do a good cover. Be a cool encore for the Memories Tour.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

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