The Meaning of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”
“Buddy Holly” is an undisputed favorite among Weezer fans, and among fans of 90s rock in general. Released as the second single from the band’s 1994 debut, Weezer (The Blue Album), “Buddy Holly” was an early hit for the group on an album that many today consider to be a classic. The song was released on September 7th, 1994, on the day that would have been Buddy Holly’s 58th birthday.
The story goes that when Weezer were in the studio working on The Blue Album with producer Ric Ocasek (of The Cars), frontman Rivers Cuomo initially did not want to include “Buddy Holly” on the album. Ric persuaded him to at least try recording the song, and then convinced him to use it as a single.
“Ric said we’d be stupid to leave it off the album,” bassist Matt Sharp said in a 2008 interview with Blender. “We’d come into the studio in the morning and find little pieces of paper with doodles on them: WE WANT BUDDY HOLLY.”
They rest, as they say, is history. “Buddy Holly” is an earworm that you can’t help but bounce along to, and the lyrics are so quirky that they cross through the realm of cringe into the land of genius. With themes about defending a friend or lover whom may be an unlikely pair, Cuomo uses self-deprecating humor to give himself a false macho persona, that he then proceeds to shatter with imagery in the verses.
It starts with the intro, when Cuomo makes reference to hip-hop culture from behind his dark-rimmed glasses:
What’s with these homies dissin’ my girl?Intro to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
Why do they gotta front?
What did we ever do to these guys
That made them so violent?
Apparently, there are some guys who are talking trash about his girlfriend, and he doesn’t understand why they want to start a problem with him. The irony of it is that Cuomo is the whitest guy anybody has ever met, but he’s using tough-guy speak that was common in the predominantly black hip-hop culture of the time. In reality, Cuomo is the one putting on a front here, as everybody knows he’s not going to win in a fight against anybody.
Next up, we have the buildup to the first chorus, which has Cuomo expressing his lifelong devotion to this person:
Woo-hoo, but you know I’m yoursPre-chorus to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
Woo-hoo, and I know you’re mine
Woo-hoo, and that’s for all of time
While it’s easy to assume that Rivers was singing about a lover here, he has stated in the past that the song was about a platonic friendship with an asian woman back in high school. He recalls how people would make fun of them for being friends, and he would often have to defend their friendship.
This leads into the chorus, which is all about remaining friends regardless of what people say about them:
Ooh wee ooh, I look just like Buddy HollyChorus to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
Oh oh, and you’re Mary Tyler Moore
I don’t care what they say about us anyway
I don’t care ’bout that
The bit about Rivers Cuomo looking like Buddy Holly is true — at the time Cuomo really did resemble Buddy Holly.
As for Mary Tyler Moore, there is no record of a romantic connection between Buddy Holly and the actress, nor that the two actually even knew one another. Since many people assume that “Buddy Holly” is about romantic love, the song did cause people to assume that Buddy Holly and Mary Tyler Moore had some sort of relationship, that may not be true.
The closest evidence I can find of a connection between the pair comes in the fact that Buddy Holly’s band The Cricketts wrote the theme song to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. However, Buddy Holly famously died in a plane crash in 1959 and the television series did not make its debut until 1961.
Perhaps the reason that Cuomo used Mary Tyler Moore in the lyrics was simply because it fit with the melody of the song, and it didn’t really need to make sense.
In the second verse, Rivers reiterates that he’s always got this person’s back:
Don’t you ever fear, I’m always nearSecond verse to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
I know that you need help
Your tongue is twisted, your eyes are slit
You need a guardian
Cuomo also makes a reference to the ethnicity of his friend here, in a way that some would consider to be a little bit racist. When he sings “your eyes are slit,” he is referring to the fact that she is asian, and apparently the “homies” that were “dissin'” her are causing her trouble, and he needs to defend her.
We then get another hit of the pre-chorus and chorus before the bridge reveals the climax:
Bang, bang, knocking on the doorBridge to “Buddy Holly” by Weezer.
Another big bang, get down on the floor
Oh no, what do we do?
Don’t look now, but I lost my shoe
I can’t run and I can’t kick
What’s a matter, babe, are you feelin’ sick?
What’s a matter, what’s a matter, what’s a matter you?
What’s a matter, babe, are you feelin’ blue? Oh-oh
The lyrics here play out a fight scene between Rivers and the “homies” from earlier in the song, who have showed up at his door. They knock him over and his shoe falls off, and we are given a humorous image of the macho man Rivers Cuomo getting his ass kicked while trying to protect a friend whom he perceived was in need of his help.
Finally, Cuomo rips a guitar solo before closing out the song with one final pre-chorus / chorus combo.
Watch the iconic Spike Jonze-directed music video for “Buddy Holly” below, featuring the cast of Happy Days. Read on below that for the backstory on the video.
“Buddy Holly” Music Video
The music video for “Buddy Holly” was kind of a big deal. It was directed by Spike Jonze, who was early in his career at the time but had already made a name for himself directing popular skate films, including the highly influential Video Days (1991).
The crew spent a day at Charlie Chaplin Studios in Hollywood, on the set of Arnold’s Drive-In from the popular 1970s show Happy Days, and shot a video that depicts them performing the song at the restaurant, with cast members even making appearances.
Cast member Al Molinaro was prominently featured in the video, introducing the band as “Kenosha, Wisconsin’s own Weezer.” Weezer, of course were not from Kenosha but rather Los Angeles, though Molinaro himself was from Kenosha.
This was likely Molinaro’s way of giving a shoutout to his hometown, which is about 30 miles south of Milwaukee, where Happy Days is set.
The “Buddy Holly” video was a massive success, receiving heavy rotation on MTV and taking home several awards at the 1995 MTV video awards, including Best Alternative Video, Breakthrough Video, Best Directing, and Best Editing, plus a nomination for Video of the Year.
In addition to the success on MTV, the video was also included on the install CD for every copy of Windows 95. This was part of a marketing campaign by Microsoft to help familiarize their operating system with the masses, and Weezer benefited from it massively.
Drummer Pat Wilson spoke on this with Magnet in 2014:
I was furious because at the time I was like, ‘How are they allowed to do this without permission?’ Turns out it was one of the greatest things that could have happened to us. Can you imagine that happening today? It’s like, there’s one video on YouTube, and it’s your video.Pat Wilson on “Buddy Holly” and Windows 95.
Spike Jonze also directed the video for Weezer’s first music video, “Undone – The Sweater Song”, also off The Blue Album.
Watch Weezer performing “Buddy Holly” live in 2010 below.