May 10, 2014, marks the 20th anniversary of Weezer’s self-titled debut, affectionately known the world over as the Blue Album, for reasons which are pretty self-explanatory. Since its release two decades ago, Weezer has go on to sell more than three million copies in the U.S. alone, given rock radio three monster hits (“Buddy Holly,” “Undone – The Sweater Song” and “Say It Ain’t So”) and helped influence thousands of musicians to try and figure out how to write the perfect pop song—something Rivers Cuomo & Co. mastered on their first release. Since Weezer superfans are in a class all their own (and you’re looking at one of them right here), here is a cheat sheet of little-known facts about the Blue Album to help you get your cred up if you’re a latecomer to one of the best albums in the history of rock music.
1. The first song written for the Blue Album was “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here.”
This melancholy number about Cuomo’s self-described “jealous-obsessive asshole in me” wondering why a girl left him was the first song written for Weezer, in 1991, before Weezer technically even formed—but it wasn’t the very first song Cuomo ever wrote, as he played in a variety of bands in the late ’80s and early ’90s (including Avant Garde, Zoom and 60 Wrong Sausages) before finally assembling Weezer’s first lineup.
2. The last song written for the Blue Album was “In The Garage.”
Weezer eventually earned a recording contract with DGC Records, a subsidiary of Geffen, in June 1993, and the band—at that time Cuomo, guitarist Jason Cropper, bassist Matt Sharp and drummer Pat Wilson—were slated to go to New York City and record their debut album with the Cars’ Ric Ocasek behind the boards that August. Cuomo continued writing at a feverish pace that summer, knocking out three more songs that would make the Blue Album (“Holiday,” “Buddy Holly” and “In The Garage”) as well as a handful of now-legendary rarities (“Getting Up And Leaving” and “Longtime Sunshine”).
3. “No One Else” is the only song on the Blue Album in standard tuning.
Nine out of Blue’s 10 tracks are in modified tuning (Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb), but the band kept “No One Else” in standard tuning (E A D G B E). The band continued to use the modified, half-step-down tuning for 1996’s Pinkerton, making “No One Else” the only released Weezer song in standard tuning for nearly a decade.
4. Rivers Cuomo wasn’t Weezer’s only songwriter. For the bulk of Weezer’s career, Cuomo has been solely responsible for Weezer’s songwriting, but in the band’s early days, it was a bit more collaborative, with drummer Pat Wilson earning co-writing credits on three of Blue’s 10 tracks—“My Name Is Jonas,” “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here” and “Surf Wax America.” Additionally, original Weezer guitarist Jason Cropper also has a co-writing credit on “My Name Is Jonas” as he wrote the fingerpicked intro, but he’s not heard on the recorded version, because…
5. Jason Cropper was kicked out of Weezer during the Blue Album recording sessions. The story is still shrouded in a bit of mystery, but apparently tensions between Cropper and the other three band members had been running a bit high due to some unspecified erratic behavior, and matters were complicated by the guitarist and his then-girlfriend expecting their first child. While Cropper did lay down rhythm guitar and backing vocal tracks on the album, those were wiped after he was dismissed from the band—with only two days until mixing was scheduled to start. A call was immediately placed to Brian Bell, then-bassist of LA funk-rock band Carnival Art, who was asked if he was interested in joining. A quick demo-tape submission later, and he was in—although with the project running out of time and going over budget, a strange decision was made…
6. Brian Bell doesn’t actually play a note of guitar on the Blue Album. Despite being credited as guitarist in the Blue Album’s liner notes, Bell’s only real contributions to the album were his re-recorded versions of Jason Cropper’s backing vocals. It was decided there wasn’t enough time for Bell to lay down guitar tracks, so as the legend goes, Cuomo flawlessly laid down all of Cropper’s parts in one all-day marathon session. Bell’s recorded debut with Weezer came on the single to “Undone” the following summer, as he played guitar on fan-favorite B-sides “Susanne” and “Mykel & Carli.”
7. “Mykel & Carli” is about Mykel and Carli (duh).
Mykel and Carli Allan played a huge role in the early years of Weezer, founding and running the Weezer Fan Club until their tragic deaths in July 1997 as they traveled between Weezer shows in Colorado and Utah. Cuomo wrote the song “Mykel & Carli” back in September 1992 under a completely different title, “Please Pick Up The Phone.” As the song developed into its current form, Cuomo would repeatedly call the sisters, asking them short questions like, “Where did you go to high school?” or “What street did you live on?” before abruptly hanging up. The result was this loving tribute to their loyal early fans.
8. “Jamie” and “Susanne” were about real people, too.
These two songs, while not on the Blue Album proper, are from the same era as TBA material and were both included on the album’s deluxe edition in 2004. “Jamie,” written in March 1993, is about the band’s lawyer, Jamie Young, who helped them navigate the murky waters of the music industry as they prepared to sign their first record deal. “Susanne,” written in January 1994, was in honor of their A&R man Todd Sullivan’s assistant, Susanne, who became a huge supporter of the band in the time period between the Blue Album’s completion and release.
9. “Buddy Holly” wasn’t about Buddy Holly.
This one’s kind of a no-brainer, as the song’s lyrics don’t address Buddy Holly outside of the chorus hook: “Oo-wee-oo, I look just like Buddy Holly/Oh, oh, and you’re Mary Tyler Moore.” But the original lyric to this chorus was actually, “Oo-wee-oo, you look just like Ginger Rogers/Oh, oh, I move just like Fred Astaire.”
10. “Surf Wax America” featured a secret shoutout to Rivers Cuomo’s hair-metal past.
Before Cuomo started Weezer, he was an unabashed metalhead, doing his best to make it in the Sunset Strip hair-metal scene. He even snuck in a quick reference to “Round And Round” rockers Ratt, in the second half of the first verse of “Surf Wax America.” (“I’m bailing out because I hate the race/Of Ratts that run Round And Round in the maze.”) Of course, because there were no lyrics included with the Blue Album, most people didn’t pick up on the subtle reference until weezer.com published the official lyrics around the new millennium.