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Private Message

“Private Message” is a song from the band’s aborted Early Album 5 sessions, which transpired during the spring and summer of 2002 (both predating and following the release of Maladroit). It’s a love song  with some pretty mystifying couplets, especially when heard in succession:

I want you so badly
Too bad that you slammed me
And when you are reading the words I write
You think that I’m just some dumb horny guy
I’m trying to show you
A hint of my coolness
But I can’t give up on the secret deed [deep?]
‘Cause love is so empty when you can cheat

The first version we have is from 4/21, featuring a great falsetto introduction from Brian Bell, some melodic transitional guitar leads, and solid (if plain) backup vocals. There’s also a wanking guitar solo that’s alright, and a passable outro that reprises the falsetto of the introduction, as if to say, “That was the beginning of the song; this is the end.” It’s by the numbers, but it’s pretty good.

By the time the band revisited the song on 7/02, Cuomo had decided he wanted to be classic, and with that came the addition of (pointless) piano. Two weeks later, on 7/16, Cuomo had canned it: the performance more or less echoes the 4/21 take, minus the falsetto introduction. Cuomo tries to do it in the end, but it’s worse than Bell’s. The recording is definitely crunchier and crisper, for all that’s worth.

Regardless, the acoustic version we have is best. It’s a more natural setting for the song. The origin of the recording is up to debate: band historian Karl Koch claims it is from the 11/03/02 acoustic show at “the Hotel Cafe” in Los Angeles, but there’s a suspect lack of room noise on the MP3 (as with the other song claimed to be from the show, “Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone”). Koch says that both of these songs are referenced in writing to have been home-recorded on 10/22/02 but “don’t seem to exist,” conjecturing that they are mis-dated references to the two Hotel Cafe MP3s; it is my opinion that it’s the other way around, and what we have are in fact the “lost” 10/22/02 recordings, while nothing from the Hotel Cafe show has yet surfaced (very unfortunate: it would be great to hear an early version of “Peace” and a clutch of songs we don’t have in any form at all).

Also noteworthy about the acoustic version: it served as the springboard for Brian Bell’s own interpretation of the song, which he did with his side project the Relationship and posted briefly on his Myspace. I have yet to hear it, but he later took the verse chord progression and reworked it in his own song, “It’s Easy,” which was recorded for Make Believe without making the cut; the band’s acoustic demo of the song would later be released as an iTunes bonus track for The Red Album.

49 Comments

  1. s.o.s. wrote:

    You don’t want to hear The Relationship’s version. Trust me. As for the Weezer version, it’s one of my favorite out of the Album 5 demos. I’ll take the falsetto intro, please.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  2. Adroit wrote:

    Soyrev – This songblog officially has The Special Goodness.

    Also, can you elaborate on what a “wanking but decent guitar solo” is? Thats a bit of a contradiction in terms here in the UK…

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Soyrev wrote:

    The Special Goodness? I’ll take that as a compliment, and not a reference to Pat’s sideproject…(?)

    As for “wanking” — it just means it’s a bit masturbatory. Flashy, but doesn’t really say anything. It fits the song well enough though, so eh, I guess it’s decent.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Running Monk wrote:

    Private Message was reworked into “Hand To Hold” by The Relationship. er, what are you saying the song went Private Message>Hand To Hold>It’s Easy>? if so, i didn’t know what.

    Saturday, August 9, 2008 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  5. Low wrote:

    you guys think rivers re-used the riff for troublemaker on purpose? it was kinda a last-minute song, so maybe he just went through some demos and picked up this one as the most catchy… and that’s how troublemaker was born. or maybe not.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 1:49 am | Permalink
  6. GumbyTom wrote:

    Like Running Monk said, I think ‘It’s Easy’ and ‘Hand to Hold’ are two different songs. It’s Easy is actually good.

    It’s unfortunate that PM was never ‘officially’ released by the band, because it’s one of those songs that gets a great reaction whenever I play it for people who aren’t as into Weezer as I am.

    For lyrics, the acoustic version is the best, but I like listening to the April ’02 version of this song (ven if I could never figure out what that “I can’t give up on the secret …” lyric actually means).

    The April ’02 sessions where they did this, 367, The Victor and a few others definitely is a high point for the band in a time when everything else was Maladroit flavored. It was definitely a promising time.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 7:09 am | Permalink
  7. Soyrev wrote:

    I never said that they were the same song. But the intro riffs to both are practically identical (albeit in different keys), and considering how much Bell clearly loved that song during this era, I feel comfortable conjecturing that that’s likely where he got the starting point for “It’s Easy.” Perhaps it was completely coincidental, perhaps “subconscious theft” as Kurt Cobain would call it, perhaps an acknowledged “hey Rivers, I was playing around with that riff and came up with…” In any event, we’ll probably never know.

    I like the song, but I don’t feel like it’s any great crime that Weezer never honed this one down and released it. Although I do guess it would’ve been a better MB track than some of the stuff that got on there…

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  8. John wrote:

    Whats with the hate for ‘hand to hold’, other than Brian’s flamboyant vocals i thinks its catchy and sweet song and is at least on a par with ‘Private Message’.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 9:59 am | Permalink
  9. Art Vandelay wrote:

    It’s a generic, I-IV, 2 chord vamp. ‘It’s Easy’ has nothing to do with this song, nor does ‘Troublemaker’. Sorry dudes.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink
  10. CountChocula wrote:

    I disagree with the hate for “Hand to Hold.” That is one of my favorite Relationship demos, and I really dig that tune. I’ve actually always liked it more than I’ve liked Private Message. Don’t get me wrong, I love both songs, but there’s something amazing in most of those Relationship demos. I’m really looking forward to that CD’s eventual release.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  11. Soyrev wrote:

    I never said anything about “Troublemaker”…

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 6:46 pm | Permalink
  12. Art Vandelay wrote:

    Low did.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  13. Soyrev wrote:

    Fair enough, but I stand by my conjecture about the intro riffs of the acoustic early A5 “Private Message” and “It’s Easy.” Listen to them back to back. I realize that it’s a “generic 2 chord vamp,” and normally I wouldn’t suggest there was something going on there, but considering this is A) the same band, B) the same era and most importantly, C) Brian, who loved “Private Message” enough to try to to turn it into his own song, and then there’s “It’s Easy.” These stars align too well to completely rule out a feasible connection there (again, be it conscious or unintentional).

    Also, the connections between songs in a band’s discography will always interest me, and I’m going to point them out where I see them — even if they’re a bit of a stretch. Do you think Cuomo was personally trying to connect “Death and Destruction” and “The Other Way” when he repeated a line from the former in the latter 3 years later? Probably not…but the connection still remains.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Permalink
  14. Alberto wrote:

    This song was written to Ann Poonkasem, right?

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 3:41 am | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    I just looked her up — a TV personality? Did Rivers ever date/meet her or is this just him creepin’ from afar? : P

    Also, how do we know it’s about her?

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 7:19 am | Permalink
  16. Alberto wrote:

    I’m just guessing, but I remember something from the myspace blogs about her, and he covered one of her songs, Invincible,also Annie’s Song and Tomorrow from the Annie musical.

    At least the song fits into the crush he had on her.

    btw, you should do an entry on Invincible… xD

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  17. Soyrev wrote:

    All Weez and Weez-related songs will be covered on this page — including the myspace covers. 🙂

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 8:30 am | Permalink
  18. King Tom wrote:

    I don’t think this one had anything to do with Anne P. The MySpace covers weren’t recorded until spring of ’04, more than two years after Rivers first wrote Private Message.

    In one of the interviews (Guitar World), Rivers spoke of how he’d have relationships with people through AIM…and that was how this song came about. It was never spelled out that that was Anne P. If I had to guess, I’d say that was a later thing.

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    Yeah, I always wondered if “Private Message” wasn’t a reference to messageboard PMs. Considering he also wrote a song called “Message Board” around then, doesn’t seem unlikely…

    Monday, August 11, 2008 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  20. tapegun wrote:

    i remember hearing that this song was about some on-line crush he had with a .com boardie and not the anne p. chick.

    private message is a great example of ‘new’ weezer for me…it was instantly catchy and i liked it (a lot in this case) but unlike older weezer, after a few months i didn’t really miss it. sure, when it pops up randomly on my winamp player, i listen and think it’s nice, but it’s not a song i “crave” for like most of old school weezer.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  21. Soyrev wrote:

    That definitely makes sense about the boardie, Tapegun. And yeah, this is pretty indicative of the Mala-era Weez for me, too…Usually nice enough when it comes up, but nothing I’ll personally seek out.

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  22. zxcvb wrote:

    Yeah, as you guys have mentioned, Rivers increasing contact with fans should be mentioned, IMO.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    Something I didn’t know about the song (but a theory I’ve maintained about the title for a while), but there will be more than a few more opportunities to discuss this in future entries.

    Thursday, August 14, 2008 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  24. PKMN Trainer Red wrote:

    I am really, really not a fan of this song. I think most of the early A5 demos were pretty worthless anyway, but I’d take quite a few of them over “Private Message”. It just seems like a standard Weezer pop song, but a little worse. Like “Keep Fishin'” lite, or maybe a more beefed up “I Don’t Want Your Lovin'”. I think as far as early A5 pop songs go, “367” beats it in pretty much every category.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  25. Soyrev wrote:

    BTW, “Hand To Hold” is, in fact, pretty fuckin’ awful.

    Wednesday, September 17, 2008 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  26. brado8 wrote:

    The first version of this song is great! I just wish the guitar solo was half as long(the first half, please). This is a pretty sweet song, IMO.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  27. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    I’m going through all the Early A5 demos right now. I think Private Message should make the Grand Playlist cut.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink
  28. ThomYorke wrote:

    The 4/21 Private Message is an excellent song, and I think it deserves more credit than you’ve given it your original write up, Soy. First of all, there’s absolutely nothing “wanker” about that solo – it fits right in to what you’d normally describe as a successful weezer solo.

    It’s melodic, concise, and memorable. I love it, and I can’t understand how you’d think it takes away from the song, or adds nothing to it.

    The “whoohoo” backup vocals laid on top of Rivers “doo doo doo” is classic weezer harmony, and it works really well in this song with that great little guitro riff intro.

    Maybe best of all, the lyrics actually make sense, and they’re delivered with some what appears to be genuine conviction.

    When I play this song in front of other people, it almost always turns heads as people tap their foot along.

    I really love this song, and it’s hands down one of my favorite 2000 era Weezer songs. Period. I’d place both this Prodigy Lover up there as some of their best work. I just think it works. It’s not revolutionizing rock music, but it’s one hell of a great little tune.

    Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink
  29. Soyrev wrote:

    I’ll relisten and reevaluate soon. In the meantime, if anyone else wants to voice his/her opinion…

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 2:39 am | Permalink
  30. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I really wouldn’t put this in the grand playlist. I think maybe people are confused because the chords sound “Jamie”-esque, which also sort of happened with the chorus of “Sweeney” (which I really like).

    But this one just doesn’t do much for me – verse melodies are extremely limited and unremarkable, insanely repetitive pre-chorus, lame lyrics with nothing clever or well-written about them, the solo apes the “Dope Nose” solo in a lot of ways, etc.

    The “hold my hand” section is nice, but nothing amazing, and it’s really the only thing saving this song from being completely mediocre. I saw the word “melodic” appear above, and that’s the last word I’d use to describe this song other than the part I just mentioned.

    I very much prefer Brian’s version of this, but even the version I prefer still isn’t all that memorable.

    NO THANKXSALFKSAOKF.

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 3:36 am | Permalink
  31. ThomYorke wrote:

    If I can hum the entire song from memory, it’s melodic. The guitars aren’t the only thing that can carry a melody, in this case, it’s in the vocals the majority of the time until the occasional guitar riff.

    Lame lyrics?

    ////
    And when you Are reading The words I Write You think that I’m just some Dumb horny guy

    I’m trying To show you A hint of My coolness But i can’t Give up on The secret deed

    This love is So empty When you can’t cheat. Hold my hand. Tell me that you love me for, who I am.
    //////

    These lyrics could have could come right off the pages of Pinkerton. Seriously. It even would have fit the subject matter on that album. Let go of post 90’s weezer and Make Believe hate for 10 seconds, step back, and read those lyrics again.

    The lyrics are incredibly traditional Weezer, and I mean that in the best possible way. Plus, how can you ignore the Rivers actually sounding like he means what he’s singing about!

    Also, just because both this and the Dope Nose solo use 16th note runs doesn’t make them the same solo. It’s also gets right to the point and moves on helping to make all 3 minutes of this song enjoyable, including the subtle outro.

    The fact that so many people hate the entire Make Believe era has helped bury how good this song is. I think it’s a victim of its timing of release.

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 8:28 am | Permalink
  32. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Yeah, I agree with Thom on this one. I think those lyrics are some of the better to come from this era and some of the best from the Early A5 batch. I’ve always really liked the chorus, too. The solo I’m more or less indifferent about, I can definitely see where the “wanking” criticism can apply, but overall, I think Private Message makes the Grand Playlist cut (if only the lower end of the GP).

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:23 am | Permalink
  33. Soyrev wrote:

    Runners: You can’t tell me Brian’s Relationship version of this song is the best and not admit that you don’t grade his shit on a curve. That version is TERRIBLE, especially with that embarrassing “gay” line.

    And Runners, you need to stop saying that people are “confused” for liking a song. If the chorus of “Miss Sweeney” or the chords of this song really sounded distractingly like another Weezer song, in a bad way, then people wouldn’t like them. ‘Confusion’ is a non-issue.

    Thom: I thought it was “Love is so empty when you CAN cheat,” not “can’t.” If it’s “can’t,” then the lyrics don’t even make sense. And let’s not put the lyrics on the caliber of Pinkerton — they lack eloquence, and aren’t very well expressed.

    I’ll relisten myself later today!

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  34. ThomYorke wrote:

    It is “CAN” cheat – that was merely a typo on my part (albeit a big one). My apologies for the confusion.

    I’ll concede that Pinkerton is more eloquent, but the line of lyrics above wouldn’t be out of place in the Pinkerton context. You’re right, their execution isn’t Pinkerton level, but they’re still done pretty well here.

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 12:42 pm | Permalink
  35. danup wrote:

    The only problem I have with this song is the Maladroit-y opening guitar riff. The melodic part that feeds into the verse and everything after it, especially those chorus harmonies, is the best the A5 demos have to offer. (This is faint praise, admittedly, but I’d think at least one or two of the tracks is worth Grand Playlist status. It beats Fall Together, at least.)

    Monday, November 16, 2009 at 7:25 pm | Permalink
  36. Burgess wrote:

    I would put “Fall Together” over this because “Fall Together” is probably at or near the apex of Weezer’s sludgey metal experiments, whereas “Private Message” is just another of many middle of the road, midtempo Weezer pop songs, a genre in which they’ve done much MUCH MUUUCH better work.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink
  37. justbluemyself wrote:

    the 4/21 version has to be one of my top 5 post-pink songs. love those falsettos. the guitars sound great. lyrics sound vulnerable yet the song comes off as really hopeful and happy to me. I just really love the vibes I get from this song.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink
  38. ThomYorke wrote:

    Any new thoughts, Soy?

    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  39. Stupidsuck wrote:

    I’ve followed this band from the very beginning and I can without a doubt say this song is one of my absolute favorites.

    I love the simple guitar riff and those introductory falsettos are fantastic… After the introduction, the next guitar run is something that many fans long for in today’s weezer. The lyrics are quirky but personal, and yet they are very relatable.

    and that guitar solo…man that is something I’d kill for now.

    Just a friggin enjoyable song.

    GRAND PLAYLIST IT!

    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink
  40. ThomYorke wrote:

    Woohoo! Another fan!

    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  41. CrippyBoy wrote:

    It’s aight.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 8:32 pm | Permalink
  42. Brownerton wrote:

    Whenever I hear this song (all three times or whatever) the first line reminds me of You Won’t Get With Me Tonight and I go listen to that instead.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 12:53 am | Permalink
  43. Soyrev wrote:

    Based on the strength of the acoustic and 4/21 versions, I’ve got to admit this one does deserve Grand Playlist inclusion. Amended!

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  44. ThomYorke wrote:

    Victory! I’m glad you’ve come your senses 🙂

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm | Permalink
  45. Soyrev wrote:

    Great melodies, more-than-passable lyrics, that nice “Hold my hand” bridge surprise…This is definitely a solid tune. Considering those two versions of the song have 4 stars in my iTunes, I’m not sure why I didn’t give it GP the first time around. Oh well!

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
  46. runnersdialzero wrote:

    I grade Brian’s stuff on a curve? Or are you saying that I must if I prefer his version?

    Again, I simply prefer his version – it’s still nothing special. The “gay” line has a lote more character and is a lot more memorable than any of Rivers’ lines in the song.

    I do think there’s some confusion concerning a song like this. There are some familiar chord progressions going on in this song, this song is closer sonically to an older Weezer track (especially among the other A5 demos and after Maladroit), but quality wise it could not be further from it.

    I simply don’t hear these “great melodies” anywhere in this song. The “hold my hand” section is good, but otherwise I’m just not hearing any solid melodies in this song. Very, very simple melodies, simple chords, simple/stupid lyrics – all to the songs detriment.

    Another A6er described the song as “banal and amateurish” and I don’t think there’s a more fitting description. The song is alright, but I certainly wouldn’t put it in the “grand file” or anything of the sort.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink
  47. Soyrev wrote:

    I’m sorry, but I find Brian Bell’s version simply abysmal. I can’t comprehend how anyone could sincerely prefer it to the EA5 acoustic demo, or even the 4/21 electric, out of anything other than just to go against the grain.

    A little clarification regarding the Grand Playlist: my hope is that once I am done with this blog, the GP will represent a great selection of all the “worthwhile” songs in Weezer’s career. It does not have to be of great or even really good quality, just good (and interesting) enough to warrant being a part of the band’s legacy when all is said and done. I think songs like “Private Message” and “Fall Together,” despite their shortcomings, are entirely worthy of being remembered. Stuff like “She Who Is Militant” and “December” — while okay, and even a bit interesting — don’t deserve that much. At least not in my estimation.

    When the GP is done, I’m gonna throw all those songs on a playlist and that’s going to be my Weezer playlist. Throw that shit on random and you’re guaranteed to have a great listen. 😀

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  48. noobcakesmcgee wrote:

    Agreed on the GP thoughts, soy. Something like Private Message, while not comparable to Weezer’s best by any means, is a nice little reminder of Early A5 sessions and shows where the band’s head was at during that time. Just as you said, they’re worthy of remembering.

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  49. Ludicrosity wrote:

    This song was definitely meant to be heard acousticly, imo. That performance of the song sounds very warm and it sounds like the band is having fun playing it. Really, as good as the electric demos are, they make the song sound a bit generic and sterile in comparison. More and more I am starting to wish Weezer had put out that acoustic album because I think it could’ve been a real delight to listen to.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

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