I will admit to this up front. When I find songs that I like and have certain qualities, I listen to them repeatedly. As in I will play them back and forth over and over until I get to a point where most people would start screaming for it to stop. One individual made a joke tape that was, and was titled, literally Ninety Minutes Of Non-Stop Laughter. As in for ninety minutes, the tape was a collection of sampled laughter. I think there were eight distinct samples, each set to their own rhythm, but who else but me could listen to that for ninety minutes?
And there are times when I crave a certain sensation of annoyance. As in I want some form of entertainment that annoys the shit out of me. So in that spirit, I would like to share with you a grouping of songs that are as irritating as all hell, but I keep listening to them over and over precisely because of how annoying I find them.
Ladies and slackers, may I humbly present the American stoner-pop act known as Ween.
Ween basically consisted of two men, both performing under pseudonyms. Mickey Melchiondo, or Dean Ween, and Aaron Freeman, or Gene Ween. Between them, they would play guitars, do vocals, and play whatever other instruments they needed and could not get a session player for. In 1992, they released an album entitled Pure Guava, and the single that brought them to the attention of the mainstream, Push Th’ Little Daisies. The latter of which is the subject of this article.
I am not sure exactly when in the year it was that I first heard this single, but I do remember spending a lot of that year in an adolescent psychiatric facility, often up to my eyeballs in medications that were totally inappropriate. There is a punchline to this statement. Several of them, in fact.
One of the other residents of the facility, a lass who was a tad older than me, had a Very Hazy System tape full of music videos. One of which was the video for Push Th’ Little Daisies. Now, folks who are not old enough to remember when the sell recordings side of the music industry was actually profitable for anyone are going to laugh at this, but every week at a certain time, shows would play promotional videos for what were supposedly the forty or fifty best-selling singles that week.
I say supposedly because an article published in a supplement for one of the papers but a year or two later exposed how record labels essentially fudged sales figures in order to rig these charts. The logic being that the time and resources spent rigging the chosen singles to the top would be made up for plus a little extra by the sales to people who buy the damned record because they believe it is “cooooool”. Thank Odin you do not live in those times, children born after 1990.
The first thing you get an eyeful of in Push Th’ Little Daisies is a very long, wide field where little appears to be growing, with two small figures and a very large skyline. In classes I took concerning the art of filmmaking, I was told very clearly more than once that every shot in a filmed work is meant to communicate something to the audience. This rule used to be followed somewhat in music videos, too. Either the shots were a visualisation of what the lyrics coming out of the vocalist’s mouth were describing, or they were telling a little story. Push Th’ Little Daisies‘ story appears to be taking place in the middle of nowhere.
Only it is not just any old middle of nowhere. This place has a big old farmhouse in it, and if you follow the impression set by the music, the inhabitants really have a long and storied career in doing… well, nothing. (Subsequent shots of a plastic Halloween skeleton dangling by the neck from a tree or a zoom-in on fruit sitting in a bowl on a table only reinforce this impression.)
And this is our first viewing of the man who will be vocalising throughout the record. Gene Ween begins by telling us “when you lie… kiss your baby bye-bye-bye”. Only he sounds like the demon of eternal wedgies has taken his soul and thinned his vocal cords to snapping point before singing it through his nose.
As Gene Ween is singing about kissing your “baby” bye-bye-bye, a woman I estimate to be in her mid-twenties appears, moving her head in a certain corner-to-corner dance motion that is in time with the music. That is, it is at just the right speed that you are not really sure on first viewing whether she is doing it to the music or stoned out of her gourd. Given the theme of the song, either is possible.
A few technical observations here: Whilst this act was still very “indie” at the time, the Elektra label and whomever they hired to direct this video obviously took the video very seriously. Although they allowed the Ween “brothers” to stick with their whole pop-stoner theme, every shot and framing in this video was calculated to the nth degree.
This is hardly surprising. It costs money to shoot a music video, even today with all the cheap equipment available. In 1995, I was told that the estimated cost to make a music video was fifteen thousand dollars for each minute the video stretches for. But there are music videos and there are music videos, if you get my meaning. Whomever directed this one really knew what he was doing.
During the thirty-five (so far) seconds of the video, we have also seen occasional odd-shots of the gentleman in the background. This is Dean Ween, the other guitarist and vocalist in the band. He may have also played bass on this track. Who knows? He is seen out of costume in some of the “story” shots, but this is the first time he is seen in the costume that will define him throughout. His attire is nothing out of the ordinary, but that cloth skullcap sets him apart in a way that first-time viewers of this video find hard to forget.
Now, the song itself, which you can find on YouChoob, is generally agreed upon by theorists as being about one thing. A man, who is taking the first-person narrative metaphor position, is bored with his girlfriend and takes matters into his own hands. So to speak.
A little while later into the song, he sings “if you think… that I’m a loser”. This was commented upon by the eMpTyV characters Beavis and Butthead. I am not sure which of them said it, but the quote was “you are a loser”. Big words coming from a man who cannot do an MST3K style commentary for a three-minute music video, but I think we can all agree that if a man has a girlfriend who looks like the woman shown in this video and finds he would rather stroke it himself, he pretty much is a loser.
Look at the above capture from a shot in which the lass makes a distasteful face and eats a mushroom. Tell me I am wrong.
One conclusion I have reached about the Ween “brothers” whilst watching this video is that if they can look this much alike without being related, I think all that crap about the integrity of the world’s gene pool is bunk.
This is the first close-up we see of Dean Ween in his cloth skull-cap. It is also the first shot in which he really does his whole act of pulling a face that suggests that either someone at the craft table felt him in a way he is not entirely comfortable with, or he is about to do about fifty miles worth of crapping in his pants. Neither possibility would surprise me.
“Of your love… I can’t get enough”, Gene sings at this point. All sorts of weird questions come to mind at this point. If you are in a bed with a woman who looks like this, why are you devouring a plateful of what appears to be donuts whilst she is reading a copy of Helter Skelter?
So at about a minute and a few seconds, we get our first burst of a chorus part. In a voice that prompts the eighteen year olds in the audience to say “yeah, I have been that drunk before”, Gene sings the title of the song, Push Th’ Little Daisies with the suffix “to make them come up” about a dozen times.
In the video, he and Dean make like they are desperately trying to not shit their pants whilst they have eaten about three tons of Ex-Lax and are watching subliminal adverts for a new Jane Fonda exercise video. Or something. Oh, and lots of animated images of daisies spinning in full colour against sparkly backgrounds. Cannot forget those.
Both Ween “brothers” sort of make an effort to see who can do the most embarrassing dance moves in shots like this. But this one is the most fascinating simply because it shows the poor lass who represents the subject of the narrative looking into the camera with a sort of flat look on her face that does not really say anything at all. I guess I cannot really blame her about this. What look would you have on your face if your significant other sang and danced like this?
Okay, I am getting pretty tired of this video, and the ideas for comment are running out. The rest of the video pretty much goes along these lines for another minute, anyway. There are some curious shots in it, such as this one:
Dean, given that you have spent (almost) this entire video making faces like you have been constipated for two years, I think you are in no position to look reproachful at the audience.
This shot, I admit, made me laugh. But then, these days you can find all sorts of places with beaches nearby (or at least within an hour’s drive) that are barren and sandy.
I am unsure how many times I rewound and rewatched this video on VHS tape, but it would easily number in the dozens. What makes it funny is that, as I stated, I was doped up to the eyeballs in an adolescent-specialising psychiatric facility. Over and over I would watch this video of a song that annoyed the shit out of me, focusing on the imagery and trying to understand what the hell was going on. I do not believe I could have been more fukking obvious if I had tattooed “I am autistic” into my forehead. Yet I am the one who has been chronically unemployed the majority of his adult life. Go figure.
So where are all of these people now? Hell if I know. Ween, the band, disbanded in May of 2012 after Gene expressed a desire to give up the stoner lifestyle and remain sober. Well, more power to him, I suppose.
As to what happened to the vaguely Asiatic-looking woman who posed with the band during this video, well, that is a bit of a mystery, too. Would have been nice if she had a long and fruitful acting career, but life rarely works out that way.
Anyway, here is the video in all of its glory for those who want to sit through it and discover I am not kidding about how bad Push Th’ Little Daisies is:
Do not say I did not warn you.
Edited to add, August 24, 2013: As commenter Jason pointed out to me recently, apparently I got confused as to which of the Ween “brothers” was which. Apparently Gene is the one who sings and Dean is the one who pulls the funny faces for the camera. Unfortunately, this happens when you have next to no familiarity with the artist and are only commenting on what is apparently a tiny fragment of their body of work.
Further: I looked at the IMDB profile of one Ween brother (Dean, I think), trying to further confirm for myself which is which. Apparently, Dean and I have something in common. In one quote, he speaks of the effort he and Gene (and thus, the rest of Ween) go to in order to get their recordings sounding what he calls good. And then he goes into his disgust when he sees iPods and people with “those little fucking ear buds stuck in their head”. Although I do have an iPod myself, this illustrates a fundamental thing about about recorded music. Music can only sound as good as the media it is recorded to and what it is being played through. So Dean, please rest assured that whilst I have an iPod classic that I am difficult to separate from, every note on it is in a lossless compression format, and the headphones I listen to them through are the best I can afford (Skullcandy ones, for those who are curious). So I agree with every word you have said, even if it looks as if I do not.