DINOSAUR JR’s MAJOR LABEL ERA, PT 2: REWARDS IN THE NOOKS AND CRANNIES
In the previous post I made the point of establishing that Dinosaur Jr. signed to Sire Records in 1990 and released major label debut Green Mind in February of the following year, putting it in a pre-Nevermind camp of “unlikelies” next to Uncle Anesthesia by the Screaming Trees, Sonic Youth’s Goo, Ride’s Nowhere, the supremely radio-unfriendly Yerself is Steam by Mercury Rev, and fIREHOSE’s Flyin’ the Flannel. Why? Well I think it’s important to understand that Nevermind did not completely blindside the industry. Ears were to the ground, especially at DGC/Geffen and, obviously, Warner Bros. and its subsidiaries.
But what exactly were those ears hearing that seemed even remotely radio-friendly? Despite what’s written at the end of the Dinosaur Jr. chapter in Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, Green Mind did not yield anything that made it onto commercial terrestrial radio. “The Wagon” placed well on the UK indie charts and got the band some good coverage in their much more underground-friendly music press. But Dinosaur Jr.’s 1991 - 1993 output for Sire was also punctuated by the heaviest, noisiest and all around least-accessible songs of its entire career (save for maybe Bug’s “Don’t”) next to some still-obscure noise-pop gold that had no business languishing as b-sides or deep album cuts that never made it onto live setlists.
Some true bangers were unleashed, namely on the fantastic Whatever’s Cool With Me stateside compilation released by Sire as a mini-album placeholder between ‘91’s Green Mind and the expectation-drenched gateway to commercial success, 1993’s Where You Been? It combines four b-sides apiece from the UK-only 12” versions of “The Wagon” 12” and “Whatever’s Cool With Me” (a lost contender as a “Freak Scene”-beating single if there ever was one).
“Whatever’s Cool With Me” - First released as a UK-only single with its own video but upon the release of the same-titled compilation, this different US version of the song’s video made its way onto 120 Minutes. Features several quick clips of J. Mascis getting his teeth worked on by his dentist father. His death a couple of years later would temporarily derail the younger Mascis’ creative process.
Regarding the four tracks I chose as evidence to support the dangerously-nebulous point (that I nonetheless took the scenic route to making) of the last dispatch, I forgot to mention a shared commonality of rarely, or never, making it onto a Dinosaur Jr. setlist. As of this writing, Dinosaur Jr. has logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 live performances since late-1984.
“Whatever’s Cool With Me” was a part of the band’s live arsenal for approximately 15 shows, with most of those concentrated in 1991, the year it was briefly pushed as a single. “Not You Again” has been played less than 8 times by Dinosaur Jr. but is frequently revisited by Mascis when he plays solo acoustic sets. “The Little Baby” and “Pebbles+Weeds” have never been played live by Dinosaur Jr., according to the maximum amount of research the Internet will allow me to execute.
And secondly, I forgot to clarify that Mascis played every instrument heard on those four tracks as well as the two other studio-recorded songs on Whatever’s Cool With Me?….a cover/reappropriation of David Bowie’s “Quicksand” with lyrics changed to reference “The Wagon” and “Sideways”…an aggressively mediocre original that opens the compilation.