Expectations for the record were mammoth, but principle song writer Rivers Cuomo was battling personal challenges. He had demoed a bunch of songs during a Christmas break but then had surgery to correct a leg that was shorter than the other. The surgery and recovery were painful and Rivers struggled with painkillers and loneliness. He said in the Pinkerton Diaries:
Fans ask me all the time what it is like to be a rock star. I can tell that they are dreaming, as I dreamed, when I was a kid, of someday ruling the world with a rock band. I tell them the same thing I would tell any young rock-star-to-be […] you will get lonely. You will meet two hundred people every night, but each conversation will generally last approximately thirty seconds, and consist of you trying to convince them that no, you do not want their underwear. Then you will be alone again, in your motel room. Or you will be on your bus, in your little space, trying to kill the nine hours it takes to get to the next city, whichever city it is. This is the life of a rock star.
The music took on a darker tone.
The album title Pinkerton comes from a character in the opera Madame Butterfly. B.F. Pinkerton is a US naval officer in Japan who marries a Japanese girl. Cuomo says he is an “asshole American sailor similar to a touring rock star.”
Cuomo was dealing with his own ‘inner Pinkerton’ while writing the songs that would make up the album.
“Pinkerton is a womanizing rock star type of character which I wasn’t aware I had in me.”
In 1996, the record wasn’t a commercial success. But over time, it has come to be viewed as a cult classic Weezer record. Back in ’96, Rolling Stone readers voted it “third worst” but through word-of-mouth and revisionist history, in 2002 Rolling Stone readers would vote Pinkerton the 19th greatest album of all time!
The lead single is “El Scorcho.” That was followed by “The Good Life” and “Pink Triangle.”
The album continues to sell. It would be certified ‘platinum’ for sales over a million copies 8 days before it’s 20th birthday.