Song written by Jay Bennett and Jeff Tweedy; performed by Wilco
I can be pretty obtuse a lot of the time. Perhaps that explains a long-term personal exploration of reaction to art. I have to read passages in books multiple times and hear songs repeatedly just to decide whether or not there is something that I’m missing.
Driven by a desire for something new, I received a copy of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and immediately started listening. I liked it a lot. Also, I thought that the lyrics were complex, but intentionally so in a way that made me think they were unplumb-able. For that matter, the music was pretty out there, too.
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, the seven minute opening opus, just confused me, though I found it wonderful. Then, my wife walked into the room, listened for about ten seconds, and said, “Oh, he’s trying to pick somebody up in a bar.”
When the boy was young and we had cable television, I haunted the higher numbered channels for anything distracting. Somehow, I watched I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco and Man in the Sand at about the same time. Talk about brilliant studies in group dynamics and the sheer agony of creating great art. I raced out and acquired both volumes of the Mermaid Avenue sessions, having already caught the Wilco and Billy Bragg bugs through separate exposures.
occasionally visits and we drive around aimlessly, settling on destinations as the world passes us by. We landed at the House of Guitars, as has been known to happen. Their basement is filled to the rafters with records and CD’s and all sorts of paraphernalia- a cornucopia of music. Wandering the aisles, the radio overhead mentioned that a member of Wilco had died. I didn’t catch the details. My brother heard that it was their guitarist and songwriter. The clerk hadn’t heard, but was shocked to find out that Jeff Tweedy had died. During the next news cycle, the radio clarified that Jay Bennett had died. During the course of filming that documentary about Wilco, Bennett had left the band.
As you might imagine, I inundated my family with Wilco music for a few years. (A lot goes on in their music and it takes me a while to process it.) Fortunately, they liked it. So, when Wilco announced their return engagement to our local venue, we grabbed three seats. This was a big rock concert for our son and you want them to be happy. He had an absolute favorite song – no surprise to fans. They played a long, fantastic show with all their great tunes. We were as ecstatic as everyone. I know this because Wilco lets people tape their shows. As a gift, a co-worker gave us one of those recordings of that night. It came from near our seats.
Like everyone else, we sound exhausted when the band leaves the stage after their second set. I turned to my son and see tears on his face. They never played THE song. The band returned for their encore. They played a couple favorites and left again. My son hung his head and insisted we leave. The lights had not come up so we made no progress. The band returned and announced something along the lines of they were going to play one more song, a song that was their only Top 40 hit and that they had decided to stop playing, but what-the-hell, we were such a nice crowd. On the recording, you can hear one young voice erupt with the crowd over the opening strains of Heavy Metal Drummer.
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 26 more to go.
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