I hesitate to call any one lost Weezer song “the one that got away,” because there are so many: Green era demos like “No Way” and “Burning Sun,” the Make Believe version of “Love is the Answer” (later desecrated by Raditude trendchasing and Sugar Ray’s Sugar Rayness) and other tantalizing outtakes of ’05 like “Last Chance” and “You’re the One,” pretty much the entirety of Rivers Cuomo’s Homie project and various ’97/’98 compositions, and on. All of these have been heard in some fragmentary form or another, and yet the promising full picture to which they allude remains unreleased, uncirculated, just out of reach. One of the biggest reasons so many die-hard Weezer fans remain is because the band’s vault of lost gems looms so large.
“Superfriend” has long been such an artifact, and in some ways it’s one that’s simply unrecoverable. It was first mentioned to fans as a part of the incompleted rock opera Songs from the Black Hole, Cuomo’s original vision for Weezer’s second album and something of a very rough first draft for what became Pinkerton. Though the details of the song lean heavily on contextual detail from that scrapped project’s storyline, it was essentially written as a duet between two of the main characters, Jonas (Cuomo) and Laurel (to be voiced by Rachel Haden of the band called “that dog.”). Jonas is in something of a sexual relationship with Laurel, but he denies her love as she is little more to him than a “superfriend” — or”friend with benefits,” in high school parlance.
Die-hards began pining for “Superfriend” as soon as its origins were revealed, on the basis of it being a key piece of what some fans irrationally believed was a young Cuomo’s answer to Brian Wilson’s unfinished SMiLE opus (the main difference being that Wilson had almost completed recording SMiLE by the time he abandoned it in 1967, whereas Cuomo hadn’t even passed the writing/demoing phase when he ditched Black Hole). Audible details of the song first surfaced in 2004 on Weezer’s Video Capture Device DVD, which included spotty and patchy footage of the band recording a rough take during Pinkerton studio sessions — as well as a brief clip of Cuomo playing a classical arrangement of the vocal melody on an acoustic guitar.
The inconclusive footage gave glimpse enough for fans to conclude that “Superfriend” was indeed a lost classic worthy of its vaunted era, but it wasn’t until the 2007 release of Rivers’ Alone home demos compilation that fans could get a closer look. The juvenile charm of this embryonic version is indeed something of a treasure, but it still left most wanting more: Cuomo’s drumming is particularly sloppy, his falsetto background vocals (meant to represent the female lead vocal) sound like sour milk, and it lacked the dramatic key change climax heard in the VCD clip. It was clear that this take was a dashed-off demo that the Cuomo of ’95 would’ve never imagined being officially released, and did little to sate fans’ desire for the full band picture.
With the deluxe edition re-release of Pinkerton less than a month away, it’s now clear that such a thing no longer exists — if it ever did. In gleaning the archives for outtakes, band historian Karl Koch discovered that the ’96 full band recording seems to have been erased long ago. And even if it were to be uncovered in some unlikely place, it’s a very rough and incomplete rehearsal run-through, far from the glory of a finished and fully produced Cuomo-Haden duet.
That leaves us with the unfortunately shambolic demo — which, despite the shortcomings, gives a plenty fine sense of what the song was meant to be. It’s a disarmingly personal and juvenile song, perhaps even uncomfortably so (opening lines: “What the hell am I doing, thinking with my willy? / Knowing I don’t love her / I tell her no / Then kiss her toes…”), something that the Black Hole opera’s character construct couldn’t hide even if it were in place. The melody’s absolutely wonderful, though, and the chorus’ teen angst appropriation of the “rain, rain go away” nursery rhyme (“pain, pain go away” — of course) actually works, against all odds. The counterpoint in the second verse is absolutely botched by Cuomo’s lazy falsetto attempt, but it hints at what might’ve been a very nice touch.
If anything, that’s the way “Superfriend” might well be “the one that got away.” While songs like “You’re the One” or “Rosemary” were completed in some form and will likely surface someday, the best that can be said for “Superfriend” is that it’s a good sketch of what was to be a great song.