I’ve always thought that the cover for Weezer (The Blue Album) was one of rock’s greatest album covers. It’s so simplistic with the four band members standing against a blue background. It’s an iconic shot that conjures up the feeling of the mid-90′s. I remember looking at the cover as a 13-year old, seeing Rivers Cuomo with his bowl cut and thinking he looked just like me. All the other rock stars at the time looked like…well rock stars. The cover of The Blue Album made Weezer seem approachable and relatable.
Songs like “The Sweater Song (“Undone)”, “Buddy Holly” and “Say It Ain’t So” were all over rock radio the fall of 94 and spring of 95. With their witty lyrics, massive hooks and crunchy guitars it’s easy to see why they became such a mainstay of the Alt-Rock scene.
But it was the video for “Buddy Holly” that captivated my attention. In contrast to all the other Alt-Rock videos, this one was bright and fun – much like the song itself. I didn’t get the “Happy Days” reference at first. My older brother had to explain it to me and stated, “Happy Days was the most American of all TV shows.” It was a direct arrow through the heart of angry young man pseudo-grunge. When Rivers Cuomo sang, “I don’t care what they say about us anyway, I don’t care about that,” a new admiration for him sunk in. To me, that line was more that just being in a relationship as the song suggests, but more of a personal manifesto: be yourself and don’t care what others think. And with his horned-rimmed glasses, the dude did kind of resemble Buddy Holly.
You could argue that the video for “Buddy Holly” and Weezer’s emergence on the rock-scene was a watershed moment for Geek Culture. They looked and acted nerdy, but somehow were able to be accepted by the mainstream. No one looked or acted like them at the time. It’s part of the reason why their first two albums are so beloved by their fans.
After seeing the video I begged my mother to let me buy the album but she quickly shot me down. To be fair, she probably had other things on her mind. My mother and I were getting ready to travel to England to visit my sister who was living there at the time and about to give my parents their first grand-child. My mother, herself from England was no doubt excited to come home. I was too young to really appreciate or understand the significance of what was taking place.
I however, I was more concerned with what music I was going to bring on this trip. Six weeks is a long time to be gone, and I couldn’t bring just anything. As the date for our departure grew closer, Weezer was blowing up the airwaves. I had no idea if they were popular in England or not, but I had the feeling I was going to missing out if I didn’t have the album. My luck came through when a friend copied it onto a cassette for me the day before I was supposed to leave. I finally felt like I was ready for the trip across the Pond.
The morning after we arrived, my mother awoke me with a violet shake. “We have to go! Your sister has to go to the hospital.” Eh, what? I thought this wasn’t supposed to happen for another few weeks. I was going to be an Uncle! That thought truly hadn’t sunken in until that moment.
Since there was only one car, my mother and I had to go as well. When we arrived at the hospital, my mother went to be with my sister and her husband leaving me all alone in a darkened corridor of a maternity ward. I felt like I was in the inside of a 1950′s Insane Asylum and was half expecting to hear electric shock patient scream from the rooms nearby.
I reached for my Walkman and put on The Blue Album to pass the time. I must have rewound “Buddy Holly” a dozen times while I waited. Replaying the video in my head as the song blasted through my headphones made me miss the U.S. I had only been in England less than two days and I already missed home.
About two hours passed. Clearly, my mother wasn’t coming back any time soon. Wanting to conserve the batteries for my Walkman, I decided to take a walk around the hall. I noticed a dozen children’s drawings hanging on the wall. A sign said, “Tell us why ‘Breast is Best!’” Curious, I took a closer look and noticed that the grade-schooler’s drawings had drawn rudimentary pictures of stick-figure mothers breast-feeding their children. One caption read, “My brother likes breast milk because it tastes good!” When I drew pictures as a little kid, it certainly wasn’t of mothers breast-feeding their kids.
Somewhat confused and shocked, I walked back to the spot where I was earlier. A few moments later, my mom finally arrived. Thank God! I can finally get out of here! She gave an update and said it was going to be a lot longer and she had to go back in a few minutes. She paused for a second and looked at my Walkman. Then came a bombshell: she asked if my sister could borrow my Walkman to help calm her down. I knew I had no choice and gave up my Walkman.
When she left, I was truly alone. The Walkman had been my one solace. And now I didn’t even have that. Even to this day, I have never been so fucking bored in my life. I attempted to sing the words to “Buddy Holly” but I botched them because I couldn’t remember all the words.
I looked around for something to read. Anything. I assumed there would be trashy magazines like the ones hospitals and dentist’s office provided back home. No such luck. The only thing available was a pile of pre-natal and birth books. Augh….
I tried to sleep but couldn’t. Finally, succumbing to sheer boredom, I flipped open What to Expect When You’re Expecting to save myself from what seemed like insanity. I didn’t care what I was reading at this point; I just needed to pass the time. Having only a basic knowledge of pregnancy at birth at this point (hey, I was 13), the details inside were a bit of shock: they were a lot more explicit than anything I had learned in my Sex-Ed books. Wait, what?…that actually happens? And that too? I was learning a lot more about pregnancy and birth than I wanted to know.
A nurse came by and seeing what book I was reading, looked at me rather bizarrely. Yes, I know it’s weird, but I’m fucking bored. But it wasn’t as weird as what came next: she asked how prepared I was to be a father at such a young age. My jaw dropped as I tried to find the words. ”Uhhhh…no. I’m just waiting on my sister.” Her face softened with a bit of relief. “Well, if you have any questions about anything please let us know. You’re American right? They really do have a backwards attitude towards breastfeeding.” How I wished for my Walkman so I could just tune her out.
After what seemed like hours, my mother finally arrived to rescue me. I must have flipped through almost the entire book by then. By this point, it was late into the evening. I had hoped she was going to tell me that my niece had arrived and we could finally leave. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We were leaving, but we’d have to come back the next morning since it looked like delivery was still a long way off.
That night as I tried to sleep, “Buddy Holly” was playing constantly in my head. I tried to erase all the stuff from What to Expect to Expecting from my teenage brain. But it was stuck. And it also latched onto “Buddy Holly” and has never let go: whenever I hear the song now, I’m brought back to the maternity ward.
When my niece finally arrived the next day, I felt relieved. And not just because I no longer had to wait. After all the reading I had done, I was relieved for my sister. As much as I tried to block all the stuff out of my head, I gained a whole new appreciation for what she had just gone through.
About a year ago when one of my best friends and his wife were expecting their first child, my friend’s wife mentioned some of the crazier aspects of pregnancy. I chimed in about a detail and everyone looked at me with curiosity. “Yeah, so let me tell you why I know this stuff…”