Exactly 15 years ago today Weezer released their supremely goofy debut single “Undone – The Sweater Song,” off their self-titled disc fans call the Blue Album. Produced by Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, the tune got loads of MTV airplay with a bizarre Spike Jones-directed video featuring the band playing the song in slow motion while a pack of dogs run amok. Along with Green Day (whose major-label debut Dookie came out three months earlier), Weezer would become one of the biggest bands of 1994. Later in the year Rolling Stone caught up with the quartet for a piece in which Rivers Cuomo says, “I don’t think what I do is original at all.”
But first, feast your eyes on the most amazing gallery of rockers in sweaters you’ve ever seen:
New Faces: Weezer
“Everybody in this band is sick all the time,” says Weezer bassist Matt Sharp as he, drummer Pat Wilson and guitarist Brian Bell sit in a Hell’s Kitchen macrobiotic restaurant. It’s the day of their New York gig opening for Lush, and the band’s enfant terrible — singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo — is nowhere to be found. According to their manager, he’s sick. “We’re going to rip Rivers in this interview,” Sharp says cheerfully, stabbing a vegetable bundle with a chopstick.
If Beck is the slacker-sound god of the moment, then Weezer are the genre refined. On their debut album (produced by Ric Ocasek) the band shouts and rumbles through songs like “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly” with the irreverent energy of the Beach Boys on mescaline.
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Sharp, Wilson and Bell revel in the chance to air their delicate misery. “Rivers is the guy, and we do what he says,” says Sharp, not unkindly. “I’m so happy, “I’m going to quit today,” says Wilson.
The trio expresses mock horror at the music biz, too — like the very idea of shooting an expensive video. But with the help of director Spike Jonze, the clip for “Undone – the Sweater Song” featuring an out-of-control herd of dogs, has become an MTV staple. “The dogs cost 10 grand,” says Sharp with eerie satisfaction. “We made a video like Whitesnake would make a video.”
Cuomo comes to the surface a week later, calling from a Howard Johnson’s and apologizing for his absence. “I was losing my mind that day,’ he says, “so I jogged for three hours around New York. That night we played — and it went great.” An upbeat statement, considering that Cuomo’s persona and lyrics are more sad than goofy. Weezer tread the dangerous line between gimmick and straightforward rock & roll: Anguished love songs like “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” butt heads with half-assed Cuomo asides: “I look like Buddy Holly … and you’re Mary Tyler Moore.”
The son of massage therapists, the 23-year-old Cuomo left his native Connecticut in 1990 and went to Los Angeles to be a rock star. “I failed, totally,” he says. The subsequent success of Weezer seems lost on Cuomo. Looking five years down the line, he imagines grad school rather than alterna-rock sainthood. “I don’t think what I do is original at all,” Cuomo says wistfully. “It’s more out of faithfulness to my adolescent dreams that I’m still doing this.”