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Mrs. Young

When Rivers Cuomo opened up Weezer’s songwriting (and lead microphone) to his three bandmates on 2008’s Red Album, it struck both critics and fans as a surprising move from such a typically autocratic frontman. But the gesture was not nearly as unprecedented as Cuomo’s even more recent enthusiasm for collaborating on Weezer songs with outside songwriters, friends, and people of all walks of life — a la Raditude and Hurley. History has shown that Cuomo has been at least somewhat sympathetic to the idea of his bandmates stepping into the =W= limelight: scattered glimpses into the band’s demo troves from the early aughts show that guitarist Brian Bell was pitching material for 2005’s Make Believe (the lovely “It’s Easy,” the otherwise “Rat Race”), and Weezer even played live a song or two each by Bell and drummer Pat Wilson during their adventurous 2002 tour behind Maladroit. And though they remain unheard like virtually all material of the era, four Bell tunes were regularly rehearsed by Weezer at practices in 1998, though Cuomo (whose writer’s block had spurred Bell to bring forth the songs) balked at the suggestion of recording them as a demo for the band. And though Cuomo handled much of the writing and sings lead on the songs, three of The Blue Album‘s songs feature backing tracks largely composed by Wilson.

But before any of that, Cuomo collaborated with original Weezer bassist Matt Sharp on a song called “Mrs. Young.” Likely inspired by Cuomo’s recent composition “Jamie” (indeed, an early version of Sharps’s song is listed in the Recording History as “Jamie II”), it was written as an ode to Jamie Young, the band’s lawyer at the time of their signing to major label Geffen Records. Sharp approached Cuomo with a mostly-finished draft of the song in May of ’93 for help with a couple sections and vocal harmonies, which Cuomo provided — his voice can be heard on the demo, if not perhaps his playing too. However, it was mostly Sharp’s tune, and one for which he sang lead — and seeing how there were at one point serious plans to release it as a b-side for an indie “Jamie” single (scrapped when the band finalized their thoroughly restrictive contract with Geffen), “Mrs. Young” would have been the first officially released Weezer song for which Cuomo took the back seat as early as 1994.

Looking back, it’s a dang shame that didn’t happen. “Mrs. Young” is a great song — perhaps Sharp’s all-time best — and one that is, against considerable odds, actually worthy of the “classic Weezer” period from which it hails. Sharp’s warm and melodic voice has never sounded better, in my opinion, and there’s a charming magic to when that first Cuomo-harmonized, softly strummed chorus swells into an instrumental breeze of harmonicas and guitars. Things get a little predictable when the trademark Weez crunch amp comes in at the two-minute mark — though to be fair, they’d probably just discovered the sound back then — and it sounds great, making room for a fantastic little solo and the song’s heartfelt final stretch. It’s no “Jamie,” but it comes surprisingly close.

Like “Jamie,” though, there’s no way this song could’ve fit on Blue, let alone Pinkerton — but had Cuomo at least been open to the idea of letting other band members write for Weezer on a b-side basis (or, as we see with Wilson’s case on Blue, as co-writers), perhaps things would’ve turned out a little differently. I can imagine Sharp perhaps not starting his own Rentals project, or at least being satisfied enough with his creative role in Weezer as not to leave it (or be discontented enough to act so troublesome that the band had little choice but to give him the boot — whatever was the case). Bell’s knack for songwriting is hard to deny, and with Cuomo’s help (especially one as focused and clear-headed as was his mid-’90s self), I think some great songs could have come from the partnership. And Wilson’s contributions to songs like “My Name Is Jonas” and “Surf Wax America” (hell, even an old scrap like “Lemonade”) have shown that his collaborations with Cuomo can be immensely fruitful. And while Bell’s best work has been his own (Cuomo’s never collaborated with him, ridiculously — Bell’s abortive rewrite of “Private Message” doesn’t count!), I don’t think Sharp’s ever done better than this one on his own, and with the exception of 2008’s solid “Automatic,” Wilson’s solo contributions to the Weezer name have been forgettable at best (2002’s “Reason to Worry” and “The Story Is Wrong,” last year’s “In The Mall”). Had the band seriously explored the possibility of collaboration earlier (at least during the Pinkerton fallout), I think we’d be looking at a different — and perhaps likely — kind of Weezer today.

In any event, the post-1993 life of “Mrs. Young” has been pretty interesting. Once it became apparent that Cuomo was content to leave the song behind, Sharp erased his bandmate’s contributions and rewrote it as “Please Let That Be You” — changing it from a lo-fi, autumnal reminiscence to a nightlit electro-pop ballad (the chorus lyrics left virtually unaltered). It’s a bit of a downgrade, for sure — I feel like Sharp’s sad robot routine in the verses feel a bit forced — but it’s still pretty damn catchy, and one of the highlights of his solo project’s debut album Return of the Rentals. From there “Mrs. Young” seemed largely forgotten, however, eventually turning up on the Rentals’ 2001 fan club-only collection, Excellent Stocking Stuffer — which might well have been the first time the original Sharp and Cuomo demo surfaced to the public, now that I think about it.

But thankfully, the story doesn’t quite end there. Instead, at a now-legendary Matt Sharp solo acoustic show in February of 2005 at Cal State Fullerton, during which he was joined for a few concluding songs with Cuomo — marking the first time the two had performed together since Sharp’s last gig with Weezer in 1997. In order, they played an appropriately heavy-hearted take on “Mrs. Young” (Sharp changing the opening lyric, “Since you called yesterday, I have felt so swell,” to “like hell”), a new mostly-Matt song they had recently collaborated on called “Time Song,” and the Blue staples “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” The performance of “Mrs. Young” is a little sloppy, from both Cuomo’s apparent lack of preparation (reading from sheet music) and Sharp being in sentimental singer-songwriter mode, but it’s quite moving nevertheless — especially in its lovely bridge (“stand by my side, always be true”). The two Blue songs sounded great (Sharp’s improvised 2pac quotation at the beginning of “Undone” is classic), and “Time Song” shows the outlines of a song better than at least 90% of anything each of them had have released with their own projects since ’97. It all made Sharp’s little aside about how they had been working on new material for a record genuinely exciting — but any hope for that was soon quelled when Weezer’s Make Believe came out and proved to be something entirely different than what most fans had wanted, and any news of a Cuomo and Sharp collaboration subsequently withered and blew away. The two have unfortunately never played together again, the last place they were seen together at all being Cuomo’s wedding in 2006.


36 Comments

  1. skiz65 wrote:

    Good review. I love how Rivers voice comes in on the second chorus and just takes over. Also, in the nitpicking department, Pat contributed a number of contributions to the 1998 sessions, but as far as i know they were never recorded and later turned into SG songs.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Dlh1231 wrote:

    This is a great song. Around a year ago, I was looking up unreleased Weezer songs on YouTube (I was still fairly new to Weezer), and I remember really liking Mrs. Young, but I never re-listened to it. A few months ago, I decided to buy The Return of the Rentals. When I heard “Please Let That Be You”, I felt like I had heard that song before, but I never did make the connection. I like that song, but the original is much better.

    And I always “You are the best lawyer in town” was a weird/funny line. Never knew it was literal.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink
  3. Madcap wrote:

    Huzzah! Finally!

    This is that one song for me. Songs like Only In Dreams and Butterfly are some of the saddest and most emotionally resonant songs I know, but when I hear this song, just that simple melody and the background acoustic plucking something inside me gets heavy and I wanna shout along to every word. It’s that good, and you’re right, Matt’s never topped it.

    God, forgot how good Time Song is too. That record would’ve kicked all sorts of ass.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  4. Art Vandelay wrote:

    feels good man

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink
  5. nonnymouse wrote:

    where can I hear Sharp & Cuomo playing Undone at their ‘reunion’ online?

    Saturday, August 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  6. Soyrev wrote:

    Skiz: Ah, interesting. Wonder what songs they were. I’ve never delved into the SG, but I know some fans consider a few of the best tracks from Pat’s albums to be classic Weezer quality…

    DLH: Yep! Kinda weird, both “Jamie” and “Mrs. Young” are hardly professional tributes, let alone platonic. Must’ve been a looker, knowing Rivers and Matt…

    Madcap: Thanks for the great song selection!

    nonnymouse: Looks like it’s not on youtube anymore, unfortunately. ATW’s media gallery has a copy of it though, I’m sure…

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 7:24 am | Permalink
  7. arfentul wrote:

    “Matt and Rivers, the way it should be!”

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  8. ThomYorke wrote:

    Shame on you for calling the distorted guitar “predictable” considering it’s freaking awesome-ness in this tune. I know you walked that comment back a little, but it had no business being there in the first place.

    Critique of the critic comments aside, this song is phenomenal, and thank you for reminding me of its existence. I haven’t listened to this in years, and I can’t believe I forgot about it. This song is so good, it deserves more of a descriptive review from you Soy that’s less on history and more on the music.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  9. OOS wrote:

    I was just thinking of this one today. Fantastic track, and I didn’t know about the plans for a Jamie single. Would’ve worked really well, in my opinion, it’s a great track that seems to resonate with people. And the comment about it being released as an independant got me thinking about what would have happened had Weezer had been an indie band. Things would’ve been incredibly different.

    Time Song is also completely brilliant. If Rivers and Matt put down any demos in that era, i’d love to hear what they came up with.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink
  10. nonnymouse wrote:

    soyrev: well craps, I don’t have an account there. Oh well. At least I have this site and Weezerpedia.

    Though I would like to check out ATW’s media gallery.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink
  11. nonnymouse wrote:

    Man, I hit submit way too early, so sorry about this double post.

    Back to the topic, I really enjoy Mrs. Young as well, but a part of me wonders what would have been had the lead vocal duties been switched between Matt & Rivers. Besides that, it’s great that the harmonica is there, as it’s something that hasn’t been heard on Weezer’s records in quite some time. The beginning acoustics are great, but I agree with soyrev about the predictability of the “let’s ramp up the acoustic, and smash it in with the electric!!”, just like Island in the Sun.

    There’s just something about ‘Jamie’ that is so celebratory that I can’t help grin whenever I hear it, and while I do like Mrs. Young, it’s pretty much a whole different “genre” than Jamie.

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:01 am | Permalink
  12. ThomYorke wrote:

    How can it be predictable when this was written in the early 90’s? If anything, their later works would deserve the criticism, not this song.

    Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  13. Thrillhouse wrote:

    Soy, good write up if a lil history heavy. Glad to see you’ve updated with an oldie. Question – are the Rivers 05 performance and the ’93 demo the ONLY versions we have? I have both, but i have another one, it’s 3:41 in length and it’s heavy all through. Is it just a fan cover i was tricked into believing was another Young demo? I also have Lifetakers 4:34 length cover.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  14. knightboat wrote:

    The 3:41 is the other version on The Rentals’ “Excellent Stocking Stuffer” release… It’s a transitional version between the demo and the album version of Please Let That Be You.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 6:54 pm | Permalink
  15. Soyrev wrote:

    Never heard it! Somebody please post.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm | Permalink
  16. runnersdialzero wrote:

    Just wrote a long winded rant about how this version was over romanticized to death etc. but in the end I like the song, so whatever. It’s good – really good, but not great. I will say I think Sharp’s vocal is possibly his worst here, and he’d go on to write much better songs.

    As far as the predictable 90s sound, I agree in some ways – there’s this nasty Friend soundtrack/Counting Crows vibe with some aspects of the song.

    But again, I like it, I don’t want to go on because there’s no need to endlessly fault something I like.

    As far as this Jamie Young being quite the looker, I recall a picture of her was posted on Weezernation that I believe I saved. No idea if it’s real, though.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  17. runnersdialzero wrote:

    P.S. A Google image search turns up nothing except stalker like feelings in myself.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink
  18. runnersdialzero wrote:

    P.Fucking.P.S. Soy, the transitional version is also on the Excellent Stocking Stuffer bootleg, if you have it.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink
  19. Soyrev wrote:

    I don’t! Can someone up the whole boot for me plz?

    And what Sharp songs would you say are better than this one here? I also can’t really see how someone would call this his worst vocal performance ever (I’d say it might be his best), but whatever.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink
  20. Thrillhouse wrote:

    okay good i thought i’d been fooled into believing that a fan cover was another demo. I have the one Soy writes about as the That’s Incredible! demo, and the mysterious new one as the Ex. Stocking version…..is that backwords? I have 10 “incredible” demos.

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  21. Thrillhouse wrote:

    Overlee > Mrs Young

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  22. AF wrote:

    Lot of cool Rentals stuff here: http://overlee.000space.com/rentals/index.html

    The direct “Excellent Stocking Stuffer” link here (FLAC): http://www.megaupload.com/?d=TTW6S2A0

    Friday, August 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink
  23. Soyrev wrote:

    Thanks…but FLAC always overwhelms me. 😛

    Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
  24. knightboat wrote:

    Here’s a copy: http://www.sendspace.com/file/l1wjf9

    On the subject of the song itself, I only recently re-discovered it and I’m very glad I did. I love the production touches, with the second guitar, harmonics, harmonica… It’s a very fleshed-out demo. I love the “classic weezer” feel.

    Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  25. Soyrev wrote:

    Ahh — this Stocking Stuffer demo is a weird one. Caught between the sensibilities of the Rivers demo and the final “Please Let That Be You.” I’d rather hear either of those over this demo any day.

    Thanks for filling me in though, Knightboat!

    Monday, August 23, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink
  26. OOS wrote:

    It saddens me that this only has 25 comments. Absolutely great track.

    Also, Death To False Metal is confirmed to have Trampoline and Everyone, and that makes me a very happy Weezer fan indeed.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  27. Soyrev wrote:

    Seriously great news!

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 8:15 pm | Permalink
  28. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Bad news though: Apparently it’s only going to have 10 tracks? That seems a bit silly… Unbreak My Heart from the Make Believe sessions is on it too which should be… interesting. If it’s only 10 tracks though, there are a few other songs I’d much rather have.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8:47 am | Permalink
  29. Burgess wrote:

    10 tracks + bonus tracks on different editions, + if it does well and there’s ever a follow up…. even without all that, it’s still 10 tracks more than we have now!

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  30. Ludicrosity wrote:

    I suppose so, I think I was just spoiled by Pearl Jam’s rarities compilation, Lost Dogs — it was a jam-packed 2CD set.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Permalink
  31. Melack wrote:

    I actually think Rivers is aiming for DTFM to be a great album and not just a random put together comp.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink
  32. OOS wrote:

    Seems like it. In fact, he apparently went back and re-wrote some of the verses and added bridges and such to some of the songs. This could be a very very bad thing.

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  33. Ludicrosity wrote:

    Wow, I didn’t realize he was that involved with the record: I thought it was just the record company trying to cash-in on what they could since Weezer didn’t re-sign with them after Raditude. Is it Weezer putting this out or Geffen with the band’s involvement? Just curious who would own those unreleased recordings.

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  34. Soyrev wrote:

    Geffen paid, Geffen owns. The only way this’ll come out on any other label is if Interscope passes on it (which they won’t).

    Yeah, it’s a 10-track album, and Rivers himself appears very pleased with how it works as an album (take that how you will). But Karl says there’ll be tons of exclusive bonus tracks spread around all over the place, and that they’re all worth tracking down because they’re going to be very good. Cool!

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  35. Thrillhouse wrote:

    yea, i can see DTFM ending up at around 15 tracks, when it’s all said and done.

    Friday, September 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
  36. Mr. Sweeney wrote:

    Great review. I do have one question though. Why wouldn’t “Jamie” have worked on “Blue”

    Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

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