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Mr. Taxman

Interestingly, this Maladroit outtake was actually written in late 2000, somewhere inbetween Rivers Cuomo’s shift from Green Album writing to what was coming next: the last song before it that we have on the COR is Green sugar cookie “Knock-Down Drag-Out” and eventual Maladroit single “Keep Fishin’.” It was attempted a couple of times during demo stages for the former album, but neither of those takes has surfaced; the first of the three versions we have was done in December of ’01, already somewhat deep into Maladroit proceedings and a total seachange away from where Cuomo and the band were when he first wrote the song just a little over a year prior. The band had a new bassist, renewed stardom, and an increasingly impersonalized sonic aesthetic that would soon make the anti-personal Green sound almost confessional.

For its part, “Mr. Taxman” in its earliest version — the aforementioned 12/01 take — sounds like a blend between Green and Maladroit sounds. There are the heavily layered guitars and poptastic “doo doo doo”-style backups of the former, but also the lyrical nonsense and incoherency of the latter: the song’s nadir is probably the segment that goes, “Mr. Taxman, can you hear me? / ‘Cause I know that you got one, too / Tell your jockstrap, ‘Don’t you talk back’ / But it’s still got a hold on you.” Just what kind of taxman is this guy, Cuolmes?

Still, in this early form it’s decently likable. If you’ve ever subjected yourself to marathon Maladroit session listenings, this one’s probably stuck out as a sort of diamond in the rough (albeit a scraped one). The solo’s pretty nice. It definitely has the ’50s-songwriting-via-’90s-aesthetic thing that Cuomo was going for with much of his 2000 writing, an attempt at being both classic and modern that doesn’t nearly reach its theoretical potential (especially coming from this guy!) but still makes for an agreeable listen. A couple takes from the following month (early 2002, up in here) don’t fare quite as well, as the band regrettably Maladroits up the thing even further — where’d those fun backups go?

The melody’s quite fine any way you slice it though, which raises the question of where it might be from. As Cuomo was getting into his Maladroit phase he was becoming more and more shameless in pilfering the annals of rock history: Maladroit is Weezer’s plagiarism album just as much as it is their “rawk” album. Personally, I think Cuomo nicked some serious melodic inspiration (and a good deal of the hook itself) from the chorus of Tommy Roe’s 1963 hit “Everybody.” There’s an obvious connection between that song’s beginning lyric, “Everybody, everybody” and Cuomo’s initiating “Everybody, love your body” that goes beyond the obvious lyrical overlaps…The potential theft certainly isn’t the most egregious or problematic of the era, not by a longshot, but I’m pretty certain it’s there nonetheless. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cuomo encountered this song during his late ’90s/early ’00s pop studies in his pursuit of the perfect single, or as a Beach Boys superfan: the Brian Wilson pet project American Spring, which features him backing and producing (in the most traditional of senses: “here’s the songs, girls, you just sing ’em!”) his wife Marilyn and her sister, whose self-titled album has a rather nice version of the Roe hit as well.


  1. Soyrev wrote:

    Also, just thought I’d mention that I found out the other day that the American Spring album I referenced is actually more like “5% Brian,” the rest propped up by other producers/writers/musicians. Oh well; good album regardless!

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 8:23 pm | Permalink
  2. Running Monk wrote:

    Mr. Tax Man (originally i guess it wasn’t Taxman) WAS demoed for TGA.

    # “November Demos” Continued demos made at Rivers’s home studio.
    These demos are culled from numerous DA-88 8-Track master tapes, and represent the best version recorded at the time. Multiple alternate, unused and abandoned takes of each of the below songs exist.

    # Christmas Celebration (11/10)(done for the Geffen Promo single-add’l work done at Cello Studios)
    # The Christmas Song (add’l work done at Cello Studios for the mix on the Geffen Promo single)
    # O Girlfriend (11/11)
    # Starlight (11/11)
    # Homely(11/11)
    # Castles In The Sand (11/12)
    # O Lisa (11/12)
    # New Joint (AKA “Hammer Time”) (11/12)
    # Gimmie Some Love (later “Simple Pages”) (11/13)
    # I Hear Bells (11/13)
    # Sister-Brother (11/20)
    # Childhood Ties (11/20)
    # The Badger (11/20)
    # Burning Sun (11/21)
    # Knock Down Drag Out (11/21)
    # Break Up (11/27)
    # Mr. Tax Man (11/27)
    # Drink In The Water (11/27)
    # Castles In The Sand (11/27)
    # Break Up (11/28)
    # Tough Guy Hat (11/28)
    # Mad Kow (11/28) “December Demos” More continued demos made at Rivers’s home studio.
    These demos are culled from numerous DA-88 8-Track master tapes, and represent the best version recorded at the time. Most of these songs are new attempts at songs demo’d in October and November, with the notable exception of “Island In The Sun”, seeing tape for the first time since Rivers’s first demo of it in 1999.

    # Break Up (instrumental) (12/3)
    # Gimmie Some Love (instrumental) (12/3)
    # Knock Down Drag Out (instrumental) (12/3)
    # Starlight (instrumental) (12/3)
    # Island In The Sun (12/3)
    # Ayleen (12/3)
    # Childhood Ties (12/3)
    # Break Up (12/6)
    # Gimmie Some Love (12/7)
    # Drink In The Water (12/7)
    # Mr. Tax Man (12/7)
    # Homely (12/7)
    # Don’t Let Go (12/7)
    # Knock Down Drag Out (12/7)
    # Starlight (12/7)
    # If You Want It (12/7)
    # Inside A Smile(12/7)
    # Crab (12/7)

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Soyrev wrote:

    Ah! It evaded my search for “Taxman” by then being “Tax Man!” Good save though, I’ll correct the entry now.

    In which case, you know, I wouldn’t mind hearing the Green era version of it.

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  4. Melack wrote:

    I can’t even remember this song. And I’ve lost it in a computer crash. So off to the media gallery I am and I will be back with some song comments later!

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink
  5. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’ve always kinda dug Tax man, especially the “weezery” backup vocals they toss in there. It is a pretty pleasant melody too. Yet another under-cooked type of song that sits pretty well as is but perhaps could have been something really good had they worked on it more.

    Also, reading through that recording history, I couldn’t help but notice Burning Sun. Oh Burning Sun, how I love thee. I hope one day to get the complete song – one of my favorite Green era tunes by far, and we don’t even have the whole thing! Then again, considering it’s era, the rest probably sounds just like the chunk we have, but I want it anyway!

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  6. ThomYorke wrote:

    One more thing – the lyrics may seem like “nonsense” to you, Soy, but I’ve always had an appreciation for just how strange the Mala era’s lyrics can be.

    I’ll take strange lyrics like this I can apply my own meaning to over Raditude’s slap you in the face blunt force plain-ness anyday.

    Monday, November 2, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink
  7. Running Monk wrote:

    yeah, i’d really like to hear TGA era version as well. one that’s not so “MALASHITE-FACE”d. *wink* *wink*

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 3:37 am | Permalink
  8. Melack wrote:

    Listened to it and realised why I didn’t remember it, it’s quite unmemorable. Not a horrible listen but not an especially fun either. The solo stood out as a highlight of the song. Not one of Rivers stronger Green era penned melodies that’s for sure.

    It’s not a song I would want on “Odds and Ends”. At least not if it’s taking another song’s place.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 5:37 am | Permalink
  9. clonus wrote:

    I looked this up on songmeanings, and” wzr107″ explained that..
    “this song is about being whipped because you have a penis. “in your jock strap, don’t you talk back, cuz she’s still got ahold of you”. the mr. taxman is just an example, saying that every guy has that problem.”
    Shades of Pinkerton! (not really)

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  10. Soyrev wrote:

    Is that really what he’s singing? I guess that sort of makes sense?

    Thom: It’s not that I dismiss the “free association” lyrical strategy out of hand; Guided By Voices, which is Weezer’s only real competition for having the honor of being my 2nd favorite band, has some of the most obtuse, strange, and sometimes entirely bullshitted lyrics. And yet, their best songs are often great examples of when that “nonsense” adds up to something far greater than the sum of its parts. For all of Cuomo’s “experiments” with that lyrical approach in this era, I don’t think one song comes close to achieving that status…The occasional couplet can be pretty cool, though.

    My point, distilled: there’s abstract art, and then there’s bullshit. I think most of Cuomo’s songs from this period are lyrically some bullshit.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  11. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Nice comparison w/ GBV. I’d have to agree, some of Cuomo’s weirder stuff is lyrical bullshit. However, I’d have to agree with Thom and say I’ll take weird bullshit over generic pop lyric bullshit.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
  12. Soyrev wrote:

    I don’t know, I think the lyrics of something like “Possibilities” are far worse than, say, “The Girl Got Hot.” Not just lyrically — but man, at least the latter’s actually about something, and coherently so.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
  13. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Okay, you’ve got me there, soy. Possibilities’ lyrics are pretty damn terrible.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 8:37 am | Permalink
  14. ThomYorke wrote:

    I’ll still take the vast majority of the “free association” style lyrics over generic shit.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    “Debt / on my head” is a lot better than “WE’RE EATING ICECREAM,” I’ll give you that.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Permalink
  16. danup wrote:

    “Put Me Back Together” is far and away the most embarrassing song on Raditude. Girl Got Hot has some coherent ideas—I think the fact that this girl apparently is dressed like Cyndi Lauper is relevant in a song that basically resurrects the Huey Lewis/J. Geils Band bar-glam-rock-single monster—and, more importantly, is not delivered in such a maudlin way. It’s a totally solid take on a pretty essential rock and roll idea.

    What makes most of the Maladroit free association lyrics so bearable is that he sings them in such an indifferent way. Acapulco sounds downright noirish. Meanwhile, Put Me Back Together puts a major emphasis on lines like “and my blue jeans need a patch” in a way that makes me think of the worst parts of Make Believe.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 11:40 pm | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    There’s one version of “Acapulco” that I like very much, lyrics and all.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 12:00 am | Permalink
  18. danup wrote:

    Do you know which one it is? Whichever one I have is pretty good, but the guitar solo is terrible so I often find myself paging forward halfway through.

    When a Maladroit/A5-style word soup lyric work in tandem with the song it’s pretty satisfying. I think “My Weakness” achieves a similar effect, and “Booby Trap” works too.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 1:14 am | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    As with most songs from this period, the earliest version is best: Maladroit sessions, 1/09/2002. The second attempt a few days later is worse, and the Early A5 take is absolutely awful.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 1:21 am | Permalink
  20. ThomYorke wrote:

    Has anyone else noticed all the Tweeting by Rivers & Pat lately? Rivers seems to be on the defensive already about Raditude.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  21. Soyrev wrote:

    Very much so. It’s kind of pathetic…and I’m glad Pat isn’t afraid to speak his mind. I’ve always imagined the band just silently wishing they could be doing ’90s-style stuff again.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink
  22. clonus wrote:

    I can’t believe I’m talking more about Mr. Taxman, but do you think the whole “borrowing melodies” from the green/maladroit era was more of the Oasis influence? Noel Gallagher was always more than happy to point out when he stole something (that “shakermaker” song was basically him asking to be sued.)
    And Rivers twitter is getting more and more disturbing as the week goes by. Heck, he should start posting on this songblog (michael stipe posted on that r.e.m. songblog!)

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    Perhaps so — somebody must have convinced him it was okay to “borrow,” ’cause if in 1995 the vocal melody of “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight” having had a SLIGHT resemblance to a guitar in certain versions of “I Shot The Sheriff” was enough for Rivers to bury it, it doesn’t quite make sense that he’s off writing “I Do” and “Burndt Jamb” a few years later…

    And it’d be awesome to get anyone from the band to acknowledge this blog in any way (let alone comment on it!), but I’m pretty sure this is just the kind of in-depth analysis that Rivers is scared of these days. For the most part, he’s making music (at least for the moment) that is largely simple-minded, roll-the-windows-down, let’s-have-a-good-time music (and there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of that), the total opposite of being really thoughtful and analytical about things. That was much more his mode in the early ’00s, with the whole Encyclopedia of Pop and the “search for the perfect song” trip, etc. That’s why he was interested in what fans had to say in ’01 and ’02.

    Frankly, I’d be fascinated (and ecstatic) if he just checked out this page once every month or so.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  24. charlie wrote:

    Brian has been responding to my emails these days, I’ll send him a link.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink
  25. Robin wrote:

    Danup, I have to respectfully disagree about “Put Me Back Together” being one of the worst songs. Considering the albums goals, I think it’s one of the most successful. Lyrical shittiness aside, it’s still extremely catchy. This is one of the songs he wrote with the guys from the All American Rejects, so it’d be interesting to pinpoint where their influence comes into play.

    I would argue that the worst song on the album is most definitely “Love Is The Answer.” It wasn’t good when Sugar Ray performed it (although maybe if Rivers simply sang that version, there would be at least some reason to consider it), and now somehow they made it even more unlistenable. Literally, I just do not want to listen to it. Perhaps I could mildly enjoy it if it weren’t so embellished with completely gratuitous superfluity.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 10:36 pm | Permalink
  26. Soyrev wrote:

    Charlie: Has he been saying anything of note to you? Totally understand if you don’t feel comfortable disclosing any information. But thanks for the help! 😀

    Robin: I’ll agree, I enjoy “Put Me Back Together.” As for where AAR came into play, Tyson’s apparently had that chorus in his back pocket for years, and never used it for whatever reason. He showed it to Rivers, and the second he heard Rivers sing it, he knew why he had kept it on reserve for so long.

    So, AAR basically wrote the chorus to “Put Me Back Together.” Where else they might come into play, I’m not sure.

    And I really like the new “Love Is The Answer.” Kind of repulsed me at first, but I came to dig it after the 2nd listen, and have ever since. I’d still love to hear the Make Believe version though, and most importantly, Rivers’ home demo — Karl said a long time ago that that’s far and away the best version of the song.

    Thursday, November 5, 2009 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  27. Burgess wrote:

    Man, I can’t stand “Put Me Back Together.” I think it’s mostly the vocal performance.

    I have nothing to say about Mr. Taxman.

    Friday, November 6, 2009 at 6:59 am | Permalink

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