Happy 20th: Ween, 12 Golden Country Greats
20 years ago this month – over the weekend, in fact – Ween released their third studio album on Elektra Records, an endeavor which found Dean and Gene Ween going country.
It would be fair to say that Ween arrived on Elektra Records with a reputation for delivering music both eccentric and entertaining, but their first major-label album, Pure Guava, kind of set the tone for the masses, in that it left them with absolutely no idea what to make of the band, thanks to the album’s first single, “Push Th’ Little Daisies.” Chocolate and Cheese, their follow-up effort for the label, mostly maintained that status quo with its single, “Voodoo Lady,” but when the time came for their third Elektra album, they decided to go in a completely different direction, opting to pick a specific genre and sticking with it from start to finish.
When Ween went country, they did it with no half measures: they recorded it at Bradley’s Barn, they hired the Jordanaires to help out on backing vocals, and they brought in a variety of musicians with some serious country street cred, including Buddy Harman, Charlie McCoy, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Buddy Spicher, and many others. Mind you, some of the song titles would have caused the average country fan’s eyebrows to rise skyward (“Mister Richard Smoker” and “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain” leap immediately to mind as examples), and the album’s lone single, “Piss Up a Rope,” was definitely geared toward the existing Ween fans, but if a song like “I’m Holding You” had been released to country radio, there’s every chance that it could’ve turned into a legitimate hit.
Sadly, if not entirely unexpectedly, 12 Golden Country Greats didn’t turn out to be a mainstream breakthrough for Ween, but because the band made a concerted effort to make an album that sounded like classic country and western, it’s arguably more timeless than just about anything else in their catalog.