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