When I was 19 I got to see one of my favorite bands of all time, Uncle Tupelo, play at a club in Dallas called Trees. I was a DJ at the Baylor University station and had heard that they were going to be in Dallas opening for Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, which I didn’t really like, but gladly paid the $20 to see that night. My friend Kathleen and I drove the 90 miles northward to go to the show and I was blown away. Jay Farrar broke more stings on his guitar than I could believe and Jeff Tweedy was cool in a doughy kind of way on bass. They ripped through track after track and ended their set after about 30 minutes. It was amazing.
After that Kat and I left. Like I said, I didn’t like Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, so I didn’t stay, but I followed the band I went to see for the next several years. I didn’t see them live anymore, but I got all of their albums and watched their progression from country-rock (starting with “No Depression”) to a mixture of bluegrass and country-folk (“Anodyne”). I didn’t know about all of the internal turmoil that was going on within the band at the time, I just thought they were great. And it hit me hard when I heard that they’d broken up. Great bands break up every other day, but this one hit me rather hard. I really liked them and now I had to stop being lazy and find something new to listen to.
And if I’d been looking for a band to like after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, Wilco was real love.
Their first album “A.M.” is fantastic. It continued an already established sound that Tweedy and begun with Uncle Tupelo and carried it a step further, in more of a Rolling Stones direction. If CDs could wear out I would have worn out “A.M.” by now. It is still one of my favorite comfort albums to listen to.
Their second album is less than perfect though. “Being There” has great moments, but interspersed through it are tracks that I could have done without (‘Outta Mind, Outta Sight’, ‘Kingpin’, ‘Hotel Arizona’) and that made me not love it as much as I wanted to. Not saying it isn’t good, it is, but I didn’t have that total unconditional love that I’d felt with “A.M.”.
After that a year or so went by and they came out with “Summerteeth”. And I thought, “Hmm…that’s a stupid album title.”
And my love for them stopped there. It was like people who like kids from TV shows in the 70’s. Peter Billingsley never aged beyond A Christmas Story. Mark Hamill never aged past Star Wars. Cryogenically frozen, my love for Wilco stayed. And that was 1999.
Fast forward to a week and a half ago.
My friend Jimi has an extra ticket to their show at the Palladium, his wife doesn’t like the experimental guitar work of current Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, and they can’t get a babysitter, so a free ticket is mine for the taking if I want it. And I do. So we go.
And the show was great. They played for about 2 hours plus and, strangely, didn’t play much off of the 2 albums that I love so much. Mostly from “Summerteeth”, “A Ghost is Born” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. So now I’m catching up on my education by listening to their other albums.
And I have one thing for Mr. Tweedy. Please, Jeff, no more goofy album titles. I’d rather we didn’t break up again for such a long period of time. Thank you.