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You Won’t Get With Me Tonight

This song is part of Songs From The Black Hole, a collection of songs that the band never finished. In the wake of The Blue Album‘s commercial breakout, Rivers Cuomo was disappointed to find that the mainstream had largely misunderstood the record, shocked to find the band had been misconstrued as a novelty act with a catchy sense of humor. Of course, this impression came from the singles: in the case of “Buddy Holly,” it’s understandable, considering the song’s goofy synth flourishes, happy-go-lucky melody, white-boy-gangsta lyrics and Happy Days-themed music video (replete with Fonz appearance!); in the case of “Undone — The Sweater Song,” the references to Superman underwear and the spoken-word Gen X slacker conversations that break up the verses blur the line as well. For the most part, it’s easy to see how the press and radio fans might have seen the Weezers as a gang of alt-rock jesters.

Cuomo was dismayed; he had poured his heart into songs like “In The Garage” and “Only In Dreams,” and even “Undone” and “Buddy Holly” were meant to betaken straight. Cuomo would soon have to get used to his catalog being misunderstood (as much his fault as anyone’s, in most cases), but at this point the misinterpretation stung. Cuomo endeavored to create a follow-up so ambitious as to obliterate any chance of being taken lightly, and the first draft he came up with was Black Hole. The idea was to create a rock opera in which Cuomo’s character leads a year-long space mission (ostensibly to save the planet Nomus from being swallowed by its sun), during which he squabbles with his crewmates, gets romantically involved with the two women of the mission, and winds up having a daughter. It was meant to serve as an allegory for Weezer’s trajectory toward (and ultimate realization of) fame and fortune. The songs were to be “transed together,” creating a seamless flow from track to track, a la the ending suite of Abbey Road or Dark Side of the Moon.

The planned story-tracklist had vocal parts written for protagonist Jonas (Cuomo), crewmates Wuan and Dondo (guitarist Brian Bell and bassist Matt Sharp, respectively), Laurel (Rachel Haden of the band That Dog), the mother of Jonas’ daughter, Maria (Joan Wasser of the Dambuilders, who at the time did not know Cuomo had written a part for her), and the mechanoid M-1 (Karl Koch, Weezer’s archivist). However, these songs were not recorded in any form other than Cuomo’s personal eight-track demos, so the recordings that have surfaced from the collection confusingly have Cuomo singing every character’s part.

By the time Cuomo enrolled at Harvard in 1995, he was beginning to have a change of heart about the concept. Some also credit then-bassist Matt Sharp with Cuomo’s loss of interest in the project, after Sharp heard the demos’ synth-heavy sound and swiped it for his sideproject’s debut album,  Return of the Rentals (this being in the early ’90s, when the analog synth was an out-of-vogue instrument in the grunge rock climate). Either way, the concept changed, and we wound up with Pinkerton in 1996.

It begs the quesion: would SFTBH been a better album than Pinkerton? It would have likely been even less commercial, and I don’t hear any songs from the batch we have that rival the quality of “Falling For You,”Across the Sea.” “Butterfly,” or even “El Scorcho,” all songs we would not have gotten without the Pinkerton concept (except for “Longtime Sunshine,” which likely would have made SFTBH). That said, it’s unfair to judge a completed album against a collection of unfiinished demos. Pinkerton or no Pinkerton, it’s a shame these songs never got the full-studio, full-arrangement treatment they deserved, as many of them represent some of Cuomo’s most adventurous songwriting.

Finally: there are two demo tracklists for SFTBH, and “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight” is on both of them. It is a conversation between Jonas (Cuomo) and Maria (Cuomo; meant to be Wasser), which according to the album’s Wikipedia entry goes just so:

Maria really wants to hook up with Jonas but he only wants to be her friend, not her lover. He knows that she will use him for sex, not love. Jonas affirms his friendship with Maria though by telling her that he will protect her from Wuan and Dondó, making sure they won’t bother her any more

On Track List 2, the song is essentially split up into two new tracks, “Who You Callin’ Bitch?” and “Please Remember” – their titles are both derived from this song and they have similar lyrics. The full “You Won’t Get with Me Tonight” wasn’t completely dropped from the track lists though, instead being placed near the end. It’s unknown whether the Track List 2 version of “You Won’t Get with Me Tonight” would have had any lyrical changes to accommodate its new track placement at the end rather than at the beginning of the album/story.

The version we have is apparently from the first tracklist. According to the Recording History, it was either recorded around Christmas of 1994, or in Hamburg, Germany during the February of 1995. It was officially released on the Buddyhead compilation Gimme Skelter, which until the much later release of Alone III: The Pinkerton Demos would remain the only legal way to hear it. Per that compilation, “Get With Me” was the first song from the SFTBH demos to see official release of any kind.

It’s a winning little shot of pop rock that has harmonizing guitars and synthesizers on the solo, and a lyrical reference to “Getchoo,” which was eventually released on Pinkerton and first considered for SFTBH tracklist #1 (then spelled “Gitchoo”). As it is, it’s a fine jolt of lo-fi rock that doesn’t make much sense to casual ears (Cuomo singing both roles gets confusing) — but imagining the awesomeness this song would’ve brought with full-band, full-studio, full-Wasser treatment makes for a real shame.

It is alleged that Cuomo eventually abandoned the song after he realized the lead vocal melody bore some resemblance to the introductory guitar riff of “I Shot the Sheriff” — which makes zero sense at all, considering he has happily released songs that bear far more than a passing resemblance to George Benson’s “Breezin'” (cough), Billy Joel’s “Leningrad” (hmph), the diarrhea theme song of playground yore (ick), and the fucking Bagel Bites jingle (jeez), of all things.

Evidently, this song was played multiple times at soundchecks during Weezer’s 1995 tour with Teenage Fanclub. It has, however, never been performed live for an actual audience.