After barely being released, Paul Westerberg’s excellent 49:00 was pulled from the digital market last week. The reasons are somewhat unclear, but the almost universal understanding seems to be that it has to do with copyright issues – namely the medley of famous songs that Westerberg runs through toward the end of the album. It does beg the question though – things like this usually only take artist notification and some sort of royalty payment. So what, exactly, did Westerberg do or not do that caused this to happen? Was this as surprising to him as it was to us, or did he plan this all along?
The evidence for the latter comes in the form of what is now available instead - “5:05.” One of the mysteries surrounding 49:00 was its 43:55 running time. At first it was assumed to be just another Westerberg joke, but when 49:00 was pulled from Amazon and Tunecore last week, on Tunecore at least, appeared the song “5:05.” The missing piece had appeared. But this wasn’t just any missing piece. Here are a few things you should notice in the song:
1. A sped-up vocal sample at the beginning that is an excerpt from an Adolf Hitler speech, followed by commentary of some sort about the speech and its fascist meanings. Is this, perhaps, a commentary by Paul about copyright restrictions? If so, he may have already lost his argument via Godwin’s Law.
2. The lyrics of the chorus, though not officially available anywhere and somewhat garbled, seem to say: “If they wanna sue me / can’t see through me / they’ve got a law suit / I’ve got a swim suit / all the girls and guys / enjoy the 5:05.” Depending on when this song was recorded, it points toward Westerberg having put it in reserve for the, possibly, inevitable cease and desist order over the album. And thus leading to this song being made available. The lyrics do change a bit throughout the song – “enjoy the 5:05″ definitely becomes “join the 5:05″ at a later point, for instance – but the overall feel of the lyrics stays the same.
3. Finally, and most importantly, we get a repeated shout of “fuck you” under the repeated chant of “5:05″ as the song winds to a close. This would seem like nothing more than just a smarmy, caustic end to the song if this obvious petulance wasn’t followed by an insidiously subtle one – the track cuts off right as Westerberg sings and plays a warped version of the opening line of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darling.” This is important for two reason – first, it’s a direct slap at the lawsuit/cease and desist action over his medley of similarly broken, short chunks of other famous songs from 49:00 and second, “Oh! Darling” is the Beatles song that the Replacements famously lifted, practically in its entirety, musically, for their song “Mr. Whirly” on the Hootenanny album. As a dig at the copyright issue, as well as a call back to his days in the Replacements, it could not be better performed.
If this song was, indeed, recorded ahead of time, knowing full and well that 49:00 was likely to get pulled, it’s a childish, bratty and completely hilarious stunt. It’s everything we always thought of when it came to the Replacements and it’s a thrill to see that Paul is still capable of doing just those sort of things. – j.neas
Previously: Paul Westerberg :: 49:00
Purchase: Paul Westerberg – 5:05