We were in Mexico, you and I, visiting your family, officially, but looking for your future wife, unofficially. You were, I mean — not me. Not that it matters. Anyway, you were lying on your bed, headphones on, listening to the new Flaming Lips CD, Clouds Taste Metallic, at my request. I asked what you thought. You said it was okay, but given the choice you’d rather listen to Uncle Tupelo.
This wrinkled my brow. I thought we were solid on the Lips and their psychedelic pop, even if they were starting to write songs about zoo animals. Made me think I don’t know who you are anymore. I felt betrayed.
Back home in Texas, I sat in the passenger side of a car parked outside a house in Dallas where the party was going on. Dean was playing “The Long Cut” off Anodyne, wanting me to hear how off-key the guy was singing at times, and how great that was. I said it was okay, but thought I’d rather be listening to the Lips. The Tweedy stuff was growing on me, though. “New Madrid,” “No Sense in Lovin'” — good stuff, that. I was surprised I could even stand it, though, my aversion to country being what it was. All those root-fifths and fiddles. But there was something about that Tweedy.
I ran across Golden Smog’s first album at a record store in Chicago that summer I lived up there. No one else had told me about this little side project of his, it felt like my discovery. I guess that made it okay for me to like. You hate that about me, I know, but at least you understand. If it helps, when my brother came to visit, I drove him around playing Golden Smog, and he pissed me off predicting the rhyme in a song he’d never heard before, he rolled his eyes. I put on something else.
I still have that copy of A.M. you gave me 20 years ago. Can’t listen to it anymore because of the scratches. Wore it out. I made a mix tape from it for Maria. It had my favorite songs from Anodyne, A.M., and Being There (in that order, of course). She said she liked the first song a lot so she listened to the next, liked it a lot too, then listened to all of it and liked all of it a lot. I pretty much wanted to marry her after that.
Then we broke up, and the song I couldn’t stop listening to was “Say You Miss Me.” It was on the mix tape. I imagined her listening, feeling what I was feeling. She wasn’t, of course, but imagining it helped. There’s no better breakup song than “Say You Miss Me.” They played it that time we saw them at Trees in Dallas, when I was shouting “Radio King” and Tweedy ignored me. (I know he heard me, I was like five feet away.)
I remember us dancing like drunken idiots to “Casino Queen” in the apartment. Brand new box of wine in the fridge, you used to call it a ‘gusher,’ the way it shot out of the spigot. We were old enough to worry just slightly about bothering the neighbors, but not old enough to care too much just yet.
It’s been such a long time. I hope you’re better. I’m sure you’ll never see this.
Summerteeth was not the album we wanted when it came out. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot wasn’t either. I just wanted more A.M., more Being There. “Just a stop frame in time…” Wait, that’s Son Volt. Farrar was the one obsessed with time. Tweedy was love.
But I see now how great Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was. Is. There are rock albums that are better, arguably. But not many.
Summerteeth is the one I never go back to. “I dreamed about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.” We’d just been talking about how dark the lyrics were and then the line about suicide came up and you just laughed.
It’s funny how funny things get less funny as you get older, sometimes. You probably don’t know I know.
I bought A Ghost Is Born, but I was kind of ready to move on from Wilco by then. We’d grown apart (now they’re “dad rock.”) My wife got me Sky Blue Sky as a birthday present anyway. (You remember Jenny, we went out to dinner once before we married.) I lost track of Wilco after that.
I’ve been reading Tweedy’s memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). Jenny got it for me for Christmas. I’m almost done. “Hummingbird” is stuck in my head. I keep listening to it to give my head what it wants but it just wants it more. It’s in my daughter’s too — she’s in love with that song now, sings along with it (pretty good for eight). We’ve listened to more Wilco in the past week than I have in the past ten years. I’m okay with that.
I sat down to review a book about someone’s life and ended up thinking more about mine and yours. I’m okay with that, too.
The book is pretty good.
An excerpt, for inquiring minds. And for your convenience, the video mentioned is linked below.