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In Love With That Song

In honor of the new Poll, I’m gonna post this about Crackle & Drag

By 14.Jan.084 Comments

The first time i heard Paul Westerberg’s “Crackle and Drag” I was sitting by myself in the Guthrie Theater wondering if he was ever gonna play “I Will Dare.”

You can tell just by listening to the MP3 that that audience was floored by the song. one, it was new, none of us had ever heard it before and two, it’s a fucking amazing song. It’s easily in the top three of my all-time favorite solo Westerberg songs.

I’m not sure at what point I realized the song was about Sylvia Plath, I knew it before the song was over. I think it might have been around the time he mentions her sleeping on the oven door. I know I didn’t recognize the title line from Sylvia’s poem. but the song just wrecked me from the very first time i heard it. I became a little obsessed, searching endlessly for the song on the Internet (later Paul would release two versions of the song on “Come Feel Me Tremble”).

I can say with pretty much no reservation that this is one of Paul’s most poetic songs. He’s the king of wordplay (can you stand me on my feet, anyone?), but this song is different because it’s filled with concrete imagery and these images he sings about are just beautiful in their stark exactness.

you could never fix her with a cold stare, she’s all broken inside
she made a good go for a weeping willow
her hair was dirty and she was 30
she stuffed some rags on the floor
(this is my favorite one, it just slays me that she wanted to make sure her kids were gonna be okay)
she made a pillow on the oven door
now their zipping her up in a bag, can you hear her blacks crackle and drag


I am the queen of the underground, a bad ungrateful bunny.


  • Placemat says:

    One of my favs.

    1st time for me was the Boston In-Store. Paul pulled it out about half-way through the set, remarked how it was supposed to be on Stereo but got the axe from some no taste record exec, & changed “all broken inside” to “all busted inside” (which I’ve always liked better).

    Maybe it’s the tears, but the best version, for me, is still the one on the DVD.

  • jay says:

    Ya, I was so excited when i heard there gonna be 2 versions on the album, and then was bummed when i heard them because they just dont have a quarter of the emotion that he puts into the live versions.
    I like it better than Regular, Skyway, Reach, and all the classic slowbies. The timing of the phrases is what I love. The intro to each new verse just creeps out realllllllyyyyy slowly and reluctantly- pretty powerful writing.

  • honkywithahaton says:

    I remember coming home from the Guthrie and that night or the next day hitting the Internet lyric sites hard looking for this amazing cover he’d pulled out, and it wasn’t there. Then the Gwyneth Paltrow movie was coming and there was a campaign to get them to use PW’s song, maybe misguided. I had to see the Crackle line in a book before I believed it. I think there’s another line lifted straight from Plath but I can’t recall what it is now.

  • pauly says:

    instant classic. i had no idea who the song was about and it didn’t matter. it was a one of those perfect westerberg tunes that reminds you what a truly talented artist he is. The more I learned about the history of the song the more I appreciated it.