Cover Stories: Weezer, ‘Raditude’
"Dog sleeves" could almost be its own subgenre of album covers. There's Beck's classic Odelay artwork, for example, and the greyhounds on the cover of Blur's Parklife. Alice in Chains featured a three-legged dog on their self-titled 1995 album and David Bowie transformed himself into half-canine (a Merdog?) for the cover of Diamond Dogs.
Perhaps the king of them all is Sidney – the four-legged star of Weezer's 2009 album Raditude. But make no mistake: Sidney isn't one of those superstar mutts born into celebrity like your Lassies, Rin Tin Tins and Scooby-Doos. No, Sidney did hard prenatal time in the pen before finding his damp snout plastered across magazines and album covers.
Jason Neely, Sidney's best friend (and the weird two-legged creature that knows how to work a can opener) explains on his Flickr page how the two met: "Sidney was a rescue dog that we adopted in Gainesville, Florida. His mother was due to be put down, but when some girls found out that she was pregnant, they rescued her and helped her have the pups. From the day we brought him home, we knew he was a special boy – I have never seen a dog with as much energy."
Neely caught this great action shot when Sidney was around two years old, and he submitted it to National Geographic shortly thereafter. The magazine has a long history of publishing reader photos, both in the magazine itself and in their "Your Shot" feature. A few months later the photographer received word that his work was slated for the August 2009 issue and a "Your Shot Special Edition."
What Neely couldn't have known was that Weezer's latest album was slated for release just a few months later (Raditude was released on November 3, 2009) and was still without a cover. Again, from Neely's Flickr page:
[Weezer's] manager, himself an accomplished photographer, was at an airport and was flipping through the "Your Shot Special Edition" when he saw my crazy dog leaping through our living room. He thought it would be perfect for their album cover. We talked about it and came to an agreement.
Things moved pretty quickly from there. Within weeks, the album cover appared online and the music press started buzzing. Spinner apparently reported that Rivers Cuomo rather than Weezer's manager discovered the photo, but no matter: The important thing is that the Weezer camp found the photo and Neely agreed to let them use it. (For the record, Weezerpedia contends that "Cuomo thought it would make the perfect cover for Raditude because, to him, it represented the feeling he gets when he performs live.")
Rolling Stone said that "We've heard crazier stories behind album covers... but this is definitely a contender for best or worst album cover of 2009, depending on where you stand." Pitchfork went with a more succinct "nice work everyone." Perhaps the most enthusiastic praise came from the folks at Entertainment Weekly:
I’m pretty sure the fine gentlemen of Weezer just won themselves a spot on my album covers of the year list. Behold the image that will grace 'Raditude'... Is that or is that not the greatest LOLcat/dog combo you have seen today? (Spoiler: The cat is hiding in the lower left-hand quadrant of the cover, in case you don’t immediately see it.)
The band knew they were onto a good thing, and when publicity time rolled around, they incorporated Sidney. MTV sent a crew to Neely's house to film the dog interviewing Cuomo for one of the most wonderfully eccentric clips you'll ever watch. Sidney got his next big break in the video for Raditude's second single, "I'm Your Daddy."
Neely's photograph of Sidney might be his best known work, but he's quite an accomplished photographer. His website and Flickr page feature dozens of landscapes, portraits and shots of Sid, now a little grayer in the snout but every bit as cool as ever.