A deep dive into Weezer’s Buddy Holly music video

Unpacking Weezer’s iconic Happy Days-themed video for Buddy Holly.

A deep dive into Weezer’s Buddy Holly music video

A standout track even on an all-banger record like Weezer’s Blue Album, Buddy Holly is a stone-cold classic. A heartfelt ode to a platonic friendship, as well as an admission of guilt at letting a friend down, tied up in the catchiest song on the album, it also has what is hands-down one of the greatest music videos ever made.

There’s a lot to say about this one, so let’s pull on our yellowest cardigans and jump on in.

The 'wa-ooh's you can hear are not part of the song. Like a great deal of footage in this video, they come from the sitcom Happy Days. Happy Days ran from 1974 to 1984 and was a massive success, starting out as a wistfully nostalgic look at the more innocent days of the 1950s and changing over the years into a more broad comedy. Creator Garry Marshall also created Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy (both of which spun off from Happy Days), and directed Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries.

Spike Jonze was still a relatively new director when he made this, so it was probably a bit of a power move putting his name in the video itself. This remains one of his best-known music videos, along with the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet and Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, but he’s done so much more. He made skate videos and co-created and occasionally appeared in Jackass, he’s made documentaries, he’s acted in films like Wolf Of Wall Street and Moneyball, and he’s a really successful filmmaker. He directed Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where The Wild Things Are and Her, writing the latter two and getting an Oscar for Her.

You Wanted To See It is a fictionalised version of the real show You Asked For It, featuring the real show’s host Smilin’ Jack Smith. This clip comes from episode 43 of Happy Days, Fearless Fonzarelli, in which Fonzie (of which more later) jumps over 14 garbage cans on his motorcycle. Don’t worry, we aren't going to do this with every clip.

A magnificent cameo from Al Molinaro, reprising his Happy Days role as diner owner Al Delvecchio. After Happy Days, Al turned down a lot of potentially lucrative movie work as he didn’t want to appear in films that had swearing in. He died in 2015.

Weezer are not really from Kenosha, Wisconsin. They formed in Los Angeles.

Half of this audience are probably dead now. You see what’s going on, though, right? Old footage from the show and new footage of the band seamlessly edited together. Drummer Pat Wilson told Rational Alternative Digital (no, us neither) in 1995: “We rebuilt the inside of Arnold's, and we dressed up and we would film a scene. We bought some film footage of Happy Days and put it all together. When they filmed us they processed it and made it look a little grainy so it matched the quality of the old footage of Happy Days. For the most part it looked really good. I think the thing that makes it really come off is the fact that Al is in it also.”

The song only actually begins after 36 seconds of farting about, possibly due to the track itself’s brief run-time of just 2:36.

Things could have been very different. Rivers Cuomo wasn’t sure about the song for a long time, and didn’t think it should be on the album. Producer Ric Ocasek (of Cars fame) had to persuade him to put it on there, even resorting to leaving little notes around the studio. It went through a few iterations in the writing process. Originally the chorus was 'Oo-ee-oo, you look just like Ginger Rogers / Oh oh, I move just like Fred Astaire'. The first version Rivers recorded is way sludgier than the finished article.

This is Anson Williams, who played Potsie on Happy Days, one of the best friends of the main character Richie. Anson wasn’t happy about his inclusion in the video, or a few other ways his likeness was used – he was part of a massive lawsuit demanding royalties for likeness use that eventually ended in a settlement. He supposedly was talked out of suing after this video was released after label head David Geffen sent him a letter. Anson has since become a TV director, working on shows like Baywatch, Xena: Warrior Princess and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Bassist Matt Sharp left Weezer after Pinkerton, being replaced first by Mikey Welsh (who left following a nervous breakdown and mental health issues, and tragically died in 2011) and then by Scott Shriner. Matt’s falsetto vocals are a big part of the first two records, and he was a lot more prone to jumping-about theatrical performances than Rivers – there is a substantial chunk of Weezer fans who claim the band has never been the same since his departure, something SNL decided to examine last year in a sketch starring Matt Damon. Scott Shriner is badass, though.

The chap in the black v-neck is Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), the main character of Happy Days for most of its run (Ron left after the seventh season). Ron Howard is now one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, making films like Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and Solo: A Star Wars Story. He won an Oscar for 2001’s A Beautiful Mind.

So, Buddy Holly (1936 – 1959) was one of the most important figures in what became rock’n’roll, achieving a huge amount before his tragic early death at just 22. His songs included That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday and Love Me, and he has been cited as an influence by everyone from The Beatles to Elton John. The line 'the day the music died' in the song American Pie refers to when the plane carrying Buddy and fellow musicians Richie Valens and The Big Bopper crashed in Iowa.

Visually, Buddy was known for his trademark thick-framed glasses, which continue to be referred to as ‘Buddy Holly glasses’ to this day. Also known for wearing them? Rivers Cuomo, who decided not to do so in this video for some reason.

Incidentally, this song came out on September 27, 1994, which would have been Buddy’s 58th birthday.

Mary Tyler Moore was an incredibly famous sitcom actress, starring in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-’77), both of which, beyond being massive hits, were pretty pioneering in their depictions of modern women. Oscar-nominated for her role in Ordinary People, she was a comedy legend, animal rights campaigner and feminist icon, and died in 2017.

That’s Happy Days stars Tom Bosley and Marion Ross, who played Richie’s parents. Tom is one of only two cast members to appear in all 255 episodes (the other being Henry Winkler) – Marion was in 252.

The Nip-It pinball machine came out in 1972, while the sitcom was ostensibly set in the 1950s and later ’60s, so there’s a big ol’ anachronism there. Happy Days wasn’t known for being particularly historically accurate – by the later seasons everyone was sporting feathery ’70s hairdos and bell-bottoms that simply didn’t exist in the period they were meant to be portraying.

A lovely bit of flirting from guitarist Brian Bell there.

Ohhhhh shit, it’s the Fonz! Arthur Fonzarelli, aka The Fonz or Fonzie, started off as a peripheral character on Happy Days but proved so popular that he eventually became the co-lead, and every time he appeared would be accompanied by a full minute or so of whooping from the audience. The phrase ‘jumping the shark’, referring to something that was once good becoming rubbish, stems from an episode in which the Fonz goes water-skiing (in a leather jacket) and, yep, jumps over a shark. These days actor Henry Winkler is better known for his Emmy-winning role as acting coach Gene Cousineau in HBO’s awesome dark comedy Barry, plus many more brilliant roles.

That is Ron Howard’s voice.

Terrific bit of business from Pat Wilson and Fonzie.

Wossamotta University, or “Wossamotta U”, is the fictional alma mater of cartoon moose Bullwinkle.

Erin Moran, who played Richie’s little sister Joanie, became one of the leads after Ron Howard’s departure from the show, and starred in a spin-off, Joanie Loves Chachi, with Scott Baio, who played the Fonz’s cousin. There was an urban myth for years that Joanie Loves Chachi was the highest-rated show ever in Korea due to ‘chachi’ being Korean for ‘penis’. That story is not true. Erin died in 2017.

The fella on the right is Donny Most, aka ‘Ralph Malph’, Richie’s other best friend. Donny later appeared in Ron Howard’s film EdTV.

These stand-ins, seen from behind, do not look like the men we just saw from the front, but it’s the illusion of cinema, innit.

The Fonz’s dance was originally performed in the episode to the Hebrew folk song Hava Nagila, traditionally sung at Jewish weddings and celebrations. Check out the original clip. Henry had taught himself the dance as a child, and even performed it again, at the age of 73, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

When seen from behind, Fonzie is doubled by costume designer Casey Storm. Casey worked with Spike Jonze several more times, including on Where The Wild Things Are and Her. He is now a director in his own right and has made ads for McDonald’s, Tinder and Apple.

If by any chance you find yourself wondering what this video would look like reenacted live on stage by Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard, wonder no longer – such an occurrence took place on the TV show Lip Sync Battle. Finn has worked with Weezer themselves – his band Calpurnia starred in the video for their A-Ha cover Take On Me from the Teal Album.

Weezer have had a mixed relationship with this video, with Rivers remarking in interviews that while he likes it a lot, he doesn’t like the idea of being thought of as “the band that did the Happy Days video”. Whatever their feelings about it have been over the years, by last year they were happy enough to recreate it onstage, complete with intro and cardigans.

Pat Morita there, Arnold in Happy Days and Mr Miyagi in the Karate Kid films and the Alien Ant Farm video for Movies.

It’s a big ol’ banger, Buddy Holly, but if you ever wondered what a ragtime version might sound like, the band started doing that. Part of Weezer’s what-even-are-we phase saw them performing the song as a barbershop quartet.

Great song! 40 seconds of video left! The video was included on Windows 95 installation disks, back when the idea of being able to watch music videos at your leisure was borderline unthinkable. It’s also in the Museum Of Modern Art. In 2016, the song was used in a Honda advert featuring a family singing it in a car. It sucks! It really really sucks!

Casey Storm’s hair is very different to Henry Winkler’s, isn’t it?

Editor Eric Zumbrunnen, ACE, deserves a lot of credit for the magnificence of this video, which any way you think about it must have been an absolute editing nightmare. He worked with Spike for another two decades before his untimely death at just 52 in 2017. There is a detailed, heartfelt tribute to him here.

Eric justifiably won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Editing for this video, which also got awards for Best Alternative Video, Best Breakthrough Video and Best Direction. Here some of ’em are accepting the 1995 VMA for Best Alternative Video, presented by Dennis Rodman and Christopher Walken (who would later work with Spike on Fat Boy Slim’s Weapon Of Choice clip). There’s no Rivers or Pat, but Brian and Matt are joined by Spike, Karl Koch (Weezer’s webmaster, historian and BFF) and Pat Finn (who introduced the band members to one another and was briefly considered to replace Matt Sharp after his departure).

And there you have it. What a song, what a video, what a too-deep dive. Sorry about the sheer amount of people mentioned in this one who have died.

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