A legendary, revered frontman cryptically releases an album. The album is revered by many as his best or near best effort in his two decade solo career. Said album is pulled by retailers nine or so days later. You could say the artist is unlucky, but really, its par for the course for former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg.
On July 21, 2008, Westerberg’s short-lived “49 Minutes of Your Life” was released on Amazon.com in digital format only. The online retailer Tunecore also offered the album two days later. By July 31, the album was not available from either site.
2. The album consisted of one track, entitled “49 Minutes”, with the length of this track being, surprise, a mere 43 minutes and 55 seconds. While none of the songs have titles, individuals have attempted to label them (see unOfficial Track List).
3. Not unlike some of his other releases, Westerberg himself recorded all instruments on the album (to me, the drumming is always a tell).
4. As a cohesive track, the album attempts to create a sound collage akin to someone switching between radio stations. In an attempt to simulate this style, Westerberg included medelies or snippets (he performed them) featuring samples from various acts and bands, including The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Elton John, and The Roling Stones, among others.
5. According to Westerberg’s manager, Darren Hill, the original idea of the album was constructed as a joke that fans would pay a penny for each minute of music.The cost of the download was a mere $0.49 cents, which may be another reason why few retailers wanted to offer it.
Watch the clip below to hear “It’ll Never Die (Pine Among the Oaks)”
While no official reason was ever given by either retailer, it is surmised that the retailers were forced to remove the download due to the music sampled, and received cease and desist letters by music publishers. Both sites removed the track by the end of July 2008.
While the “49 Minutes…” track itself is shorter than the title, there was a subsequently release of another track, “5:05”, in August of 2008. Obviously, when lumped to the prior release, this addition provides the promised 49 minutes of listening time. While the lyrics in “5:05” sometimes ramble and the chorus seems to change, it serves as a fiery missive pointed to the potential law suits brought about because of the sampling used in the prior release.
In typical Westerberg, anti-establishment fashion, the chorus lyrics are “If they wanna sue me; can’t see through me; if they’ve got a law suit; I’ve got a swim suit ; all the girls and guys; make some noise and enjoy the 5:05.” The lyrics directly refer to the threat of a lawsuit, while using a typical Westerberg solo-technique, the double entendre. Here, the reference is to the lawsuit or “The 505”, a reference to the California Interstate that is a major travel route for heading from San Francisco to the Pacific Northwest. [Note: I did do a quick google search and could not find the track “5:05” available (legally). either]. Ironically, when sold as a download, “5:05” cost $0.99, $0.50 more than “49 Minutes…”.
So, did Westerberg know that “49 Minutes…” would be pulled for copyright infringement, and therefore planned “5:05” as a literal endcap for the 49 minute time measurement? If “5:05” was a true response, it was typical Westerberg, and served as both a publicity stunt and a cryptic stirring of the pot.
What I find most interesting is that once again this work stood as “almost success” personified. The ‘Mats stood on the ledge of stardom, but folded before finding the mainstream success that some of their peers (REM) or copycats (Goo Goo Dolls) would find. Here we see Westerberg providing us with some of his greatest solo output (save “Stereo/Mono” though you could argue a few others) that could be only be purchased cheaply for a handful of days. In any case, as Westerberg would go on to say in an article with Rockband.com, “[the album] turned everything on it’s head for a week.”
One important note to make is that in trying to remember some of the info for this post, I stumbled upon a far more informative and well written set of reviews that Josh Neas wrote for Aquarium Drunkard. You can find links to both of his posts below.