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Don’t Worry Baby

We could stay up all night counting the Beach Boys references in Rivers Cuomo’s work. And depending on how things go, we might even conclude that Weezer’s Blue debut can be interpreted as, at least in one sense, a sort of alt-rock/Gen X homage to the golden California boys who, by the time Cuomo discovered the band at the onset of his 20s, had grayed and frayed into a fragmented, retirement-home shadow of their former selves. There’s the lazied up, early-’90s slacker take on the Boys’ immaculate harmonies that grace nearly every track (the Matt Sharp falsetto of “Say It Ain’t So” being my personal favorite), which, when set against Cuomo’s late-’80s guitar metal affections, feel like something of a dark and wonderful perversion of the perfect world and innocent youth Brian Wilson sang and wrote about in the mid-’60s. (Hell, “Undone — The Sweater Song” might capture the kind of lunacy Wilson descended into better than any of his own work did! …SMiLE notwithstanding.)

If you’re looking to get specific, “Only In Dreams” features a lyrical reference to “Then I Kissed Her,” and “Holiday” contains at least three very intentional references to Wilson and the Beach Boys (gold star to the first to identify all three in the comments!). Cuomo even wrote his own surfing song in “Surf Wax America” — though references to kegs and I’ma-do-the-things-that-I-wanna-do defiance modernize it as a slacker anthem in its own right (irony and all…perhaps early claims that Weezer was a cleaned up, radio-friendly Pavement weren’t completely offbase). There’s also the matter of how Pinkerton centerpiece “Across The Sea” has an intro that melodically mirrors that of the Beach Boys’ brilliant “You Still Believe In Me,” which is worth a quick comparison if you haven’t made the connection yet. And as Cuomo notes in the Alone II booklet, Wilson’s use of syncopated and non-syncopated beats in the vocal melody were a big inspiration — one most notably apparent in the fantastic “No One Else.”

The Beach Boys song that taught Cuomo that technique is “Don’t Worry Baby” — and you can hear him practicing it in this April ’93 home demo cover, which finally saw release this past November on Alone II. It’s a pretty serviceable, predictably crunchy Weezer update of the old classic — Cuomo brings the big drums and fuzzed-up amps, but does it in a way that’s tasteful and just restrained enough. His lead vocal is a fine tribute, but the most intersting thing going on vocally is the choir of backing vocals he recorded to fill out the Boys’ five-part harmonies. Cuomo made theoretical homework out of dissecting and notating each one of their melodies, and even sped up his 8-track tape, chipmunks style, to hit notes his voice couldn’t otherwise manage — which may account for why some of it sounds a little off-key. (We ought to give the young man a break, though; he never imagined his older self would be releasing this someday.) Cuomo also adds his own little touch with the injection of a brief guitar solo, nicely breaking up the pace of the song before quickly disappearing.

All in all, it’s a fun and catchy little glimpse into a gifted young musician’s creative process, and one that I’m glad we fans got to here. Of course, this makes one wonder whatever happened to that cover of “Surfer Girl” Cuomo recorded two summers later, or that clutch of Beatles covers he churned out around the same time…

31 Comments

  1. Xavier wrote:

    I know one of them is the line, “Let’s go away for a while” but i’m fresh out for the others.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 2:50 am | Permalink
  2. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Is one ‘On a holiday’ from smile?

    Anyway a great, if a little rough, cover. The best bit is the lyric change to “see makes me come alive and makes me want to cry’. I also like the emphasis he puts on the words ‘you’ at the end.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 3:17 am | Permalink
  3. brado8 wrote:

    ‘I know one of them is the line, “Let’s go away for a while” but i’m fresh out for the others.’ The repeated use of the phrase ‘heart beat’? I dunno.

    I like Don’t Worry Baby, but wouldn’t say it’s among my favorite on Alone 2.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 7:11 am | Permalink
  4. ThomYorke wrote:

    “Don’t Worry Baby” is absolutely a highlight off of Alone II, but all it makes me do is question even more why Rivers chose not to utilize this kind of production throughout his career.

    There’s such a “Weezery” sound to this entire song, and it hits you from the very first note. His sound was just so identifiable at one point, and that uniqueness is what sets great songwriters apart from average songwriters. This skill gave him the chance to take a cover, barely alter it, and it still sounds completely his own.

    People wonder why there’s so much more humanity and identifiable sound in some of the demos and older work, and it has everything to do with his organic approach to recording vs. the robotic pro-tools “perfection” that seeps in to the final album cuts of today.

    The “sound” treatment given to this really lets the melodies soar, and Rivers voice is both convincing and pleasant to listen to. It’s truly one of Alone II’s best moments.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 9:10 am | Permalink
  5. Melack wrote:

    This cover is a highlight on Alone 2, that’s for sure.

    And the biggest highlight in the song itself is the solo and the last verse that follows.

    The solo is short, but man it does sure hit hard and the verse that follows is the most intense of them all. Rivers might have seen this as good song to cover for practise, but it doesn’t mean he does it without soul.

    Yeah the vocals might not be perfect in key, but the emotion that Rivers pours into his vocal performance really weighs that up and gives the cover it’s own shining personality.

    No one else but the early 90’s Rivers could probably ever have made this song sound like it does, that’s what makes it so unique and enjoyable to me.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink
  6. blinkoboy13 wrote:

    This cover was one of the songs I was most excited about listening to during the hyping for Alone II. I waited years to hear this one. I loved it from the first listen. Plus, that guitar solo is excellent.

    I was really excited when I saw this was up on the songblog! Good job. Finally nice to see an Alone II song on here.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    You’re telling me, Blinko. I thought the day would never come.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  8. justbluemyself wrote:

    I’m surprised you didn’t rave about the solo more. I think it’s the best moment on Alone II.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  9. ThomYorke wrote:

    The solo is pretty damn sweet.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  10. OhWeezer96 wrote:

    Yea, glad this song is gettin the love it deserves. And to think, i thought i was alone about this being the highlight of Alone II. I love the song and even the Stereogum sessions re-do of it. LOVE IT! And i’m DYING to hear Surfer Girl, here’s to hoping he puts this on Alone III, or hell, includes a cover song from any era on the Alone series.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink
  11. Melack wrote:

    I agree with JustBlueMyself

    The solo is the single best moment on Alone II for me.

    There are several songs I rank higher but as far as moments, that solo is so damn powerful, knocks me off my feet everytime.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 7:46 am | Permalink
  12. sandwiches wrote:

    great write up soy. my favorite beach boys song growing up. I had been looking forward to one day hearing this and/or surfer girl (second fav beach boys song) since they were put up on the recording history a few years back. Great distortion thats seldom heard/used these days. Great solo, great vocal delivery. very impressive track, especially for a demo, and a multi-layered solo effort at that. I’d recommend it make at least the Ultimate Playlist.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 10:00 am | Permalink
  13. sandwiches wrote:

    oh it did. cool. i didnt catch that on my first read through.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  14. NoobcakesMcGee wrote:

    Maybe A7 should just be Beach Boys and Pixies covers redone with Weezery sound. They can’t screw that up, right? Right?

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    I have changed the name of “The Ultimate Playlist” to “The Grand Playlist,” in reference to Rivers Cuomo’s “Grand Schedule” excel spreadsheet (which absorbed the Catalogue of Riffs circa 2005). Just a heads-up.

    Also, guys, I dig this cover and the solo, but really…the best moment on Alone II? Don’t know about that. And I mean, it’s a pretty good solo, I think it’s a very nice touch, but I guess I’m not as all-about it as some of you guys are.

    Noobcakes: I wouldn’t place any bets.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink
  16. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    Was it just my computer was the site down for a a while?

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    No. It’s been on and off for the past couple days. I’ll definitely be complaining to my hosts about this crap…Never use DreamHost!

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  18. Art Vandelay wrote:

    I think the Stereogum performance also deserves mention. It was good to see Rivers still interested in some of the good music that has influenced him… We’re so used to him praising the dregs at the bottom of the disposable pop/hip-hop barrel; Seeing him perform and seem to enjoy a great brian wilson tune was a nice treat.

    Good entry yo!

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
  19. justbluemyself wrote:

    Like Melack said, there are some songs on Alone II that are better (POW, Walt Disney, etc.), but the solo really stands out as the single best moment for me. My mind was blown on the first listen. It’s just such a perfect touch. Rivers was a genius.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  20. Soyrev wrote:

    Yes, my regrets about not mentioning the Stereogum performance. You’re right, it’s very nice to see Rivers tearing into a song by a great artist.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  21. Melack wrote:

    I always like gettin’ little hints of your thoughts about other Weezer songs that have yet to show up on this blog.

    This post for example made me very curious and excited for how your post on “Surf Wax America” will turn out.

    Many like to think of it as a weak spot on TBA, but I just love that song and it’s a fucking great live song to, that should always be on the bands setlist in my opinion.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  22. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    This slice of nirvana come beach boys excellence needs more comments!

    Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  23. clore wrote:

    I really have nothing to add, except for the fact that I’m usually impressed when I hear Weezer/Rivers covering a song. Maybe in the span of this blog, we’ll run across some not-so-pleasant covers? (I know I don’t have all of them)

    Great song, and great post!

    Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  24. Soyrev wrote:

    waitingandwaiting: all the comment counts have been a little low lately. 35 for “Longtime Sunshine!” Anyone know what’s going on?

    :’ (

    Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Permalink
  25. ThomYorke wrote:

    Hate to break it to ya Soy, but Longtime Sunshine isn’t going to bring the house down even though it’s a great song because it’s just not a tune enough people care about.

    You want more comment love? Try tackling more songs off the big 2 albums, or just write something incredibly scathing regarding a song most fans agree is good that you happen to disagree with.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  26. OOS wrote:

    I’m interested to see what happens when Smile comes up. For a song that really shouldn’t matter that much (it’s a non-single contained in the second half of the rather bland Green album), it certainly stirs up a lot of discussion on the boards.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 11:17 pm | Permalink
  27. waitingandwaiting wrote:

    I’m still wondering what those three references are in Holiday.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink
  28. MyNameIsJason wrote:

    Don’t Worry Baby is fucking spectacular. On my first listen to Alone II, it was my favorite. But you can’t really pick a favorite off Alone II, now, can you?

    Ohjonas described Rivers’ vocals in the last verse as “throaty” and “awesome” and I think there’s no better way to say it. He gets so into it, but he doesn’t screech or anything like he does on the Kitchen Tapes. Pure Weezer sex.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at 9:39 pm | Permalink
  29. Soyrev wrote:

    OOS: Good call. I too am looking forward to tackling “Smile.”

    Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink
  30. Oldmancane wrote:

    By the way, Rivers put up a really lovely cover of God Only Knows on his facebook page.

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  31. yim_yecker wrote:

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=786343005151&oid=6509484471&comments

    Yeah it is very nice. I hope he starts playing the piano more frequently for albums and shows. He’s sounding pretty good here!

    Friday, December 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

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