Rivers Cuomo and Elliott Smith have dated the same woman, Jennifer Chiba. I became aware of this when Cuomo said he wrote ‘The other way’ (a track of the album ‘Make believe’) for Chiba because he wanted to comfort her after Elliott’s death, but he didn’t want old feelings to rise again.
Cuomo explained, ‘I wanted to console her, but I was confused and skeptical about my own motives for wanting to do so, so I wrote that song about that.’
Many Weezer fans will tell you that, in fact, many songs written by Cuomo are about her. According to several sources, ‘I’ll Think About You’, ‘No Other One’, ‘Walt Disney’, and ‘Hot Tub’ were inspired by his relationship with her.
Regarding this last song, ‘Hot Tub’, which seems to be about getting stoned and making sex in a hot tub, fans even quote a 2002 post from Rivers himself:
‘Quasi-interesting fact: the girl character in the song is based on the girl about whom I wrote the song hot tub. Hence the substance lyrics’…. Some lyrics!
‘I wanna get in your hot tub, baby. (hot tub)/I wanna get in you now. (hot tub)/So get in your car and pick me up. (oh)/Or I’m gonna put you down.’
Alone II (2008), Cuomo’s home recordings which includes ‘Walt Disney’, and ‘I’ll think about you’, has also some liner notes explaining their relationship:
‘Since late ’92, through many of the difficult days of playing the clubs in LA with Weezer, Jennifer Chiba had been my kind-of-girlfriend. I had benefited greatly from her care and yet I had always kept my heart hard to her, believing that if Weezer did make it, I would want to be free for the many superior options I imagined would be available to me. Now in the summer of ’94, as Weezer was indeed starting to make it, Chiba said she would resist me because of my refusal to commit. But whenever Weezer came through town I called her up looking for a place to stay (because I was no longer renting an apartment) and she gave in, letting me into her heart and home. In mid-July, when Weezer came to LA to record some B-sides, I stayed with her. We had an argument. She wanted more commitment and I wanted freedom. At the end of the work period, I flew back to my mom’s house in Connecticut and on July 14 wrote a song called “I’ll Think About You” that I hope captured the pain and conflict of my situation with Chiba.’
It goes further: ‘Songs from the black hole’ the unreleased Weezer album, a sort of rock opera, includes a character named Maria, based on Chiba, with Joan Wasser from the Dambuilders in mind to sing the part. The songs are about the relationship between Jonas and Maria who wants to hook up with him, whereas he only wants to be her friend.
Songs are just songs, and it is impossible to know how autobiographical this is. But from what I have read, Weezer fans will tell you that the actual storyline appears to be based on their relationship.
Rivers Cuomo walks a little bit on the eccentric side, and he has always been very open with his fans: he did post many blogs about his personal life on myspace or livejournal, and used to post on the Weezer board as ‘Ace’. There was a time when he abstained from eating after midday, sexual activity and luxurious beds among other things. He used to live in an apartment with the walls painted in black and was (still is) really into meditation.
But this openness is for real and when you read his lyrics you cannot help but wonder what is true or not true.
You cannot help to wonder about some lyrics, like those of ‘No other one’ which starts with: ‘My girl’s a liar/But I’ll stand beside her/She’s all I’ve got and I don’t want to be alone/My girl don’t see me/When she’s with my friends/She’s all I’ve got and I don’t want to be alone’.
Although not completely surprising, it may seem a bizarre coincidence at first that two successful songwriters/musicians ended up dating J. Chiba a few years apart. According to Cuomo’s songs she wanted him to commit, but he didn’t. The same story was repeated with Elliott Smith, she wanted to be in relationship with him for quite some time and it finally happened at the end of 2002. She said Elliott had asked her to marry her just a few days before he died, but we may never know if it was true.
Originally published on Rock NYC (June 15 2010)