Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Primary songwriter/singer Jeff Tweedy was a member of the seminal 1980s and 1990s group Uncle Tupelo. Tweedy shared songwriting and singing duties with bandmate Jay Farrar, who split from Uncle Tupelo and formed Son Volt. Tweedy formed Wilco from the remaining Uncle Tupelo members (bassist John Stirratt, drummer Ken Coomer and string player Max Johnston ).
Wilco has steadily gained popularity since its first release A.M. in 1995, the only album to fully carry over the Tupelo sound. Produced by Brian Paulson and lead guitar work done by Bottle Rockets' frontman Brian Henneman, A.M. reached #27 on the Billboard heatseeker chart. Multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett joined the band, expanding their already rich sound, adding more electronic/keyboard music, as well as the strength of a second guitar. They released the double album Being There , which won glowing reviews and a devoted group of fans, but average sales, reaching #73 on the Billboard album charts. The track "Outtasite (Out Of Mind)" reached the mainstream and modern rock top 40 in 1997.
In 1999, the band released Summerteeth, showing a band evolving from country to electric rockers. Songs like "Can't Stand It" and "I'm Always In Love" demonstrated a buzzing shift in their sound. The Album reached #78 on the Billboard album charts. Summerteeth also represented a new focus on creating 'studio sounds' that were added to the live tracking for effect. With later albums, Tweedy and Co.'s fascination with these studio sounds would continue to grow.
They returned to their country roots working with English songwriter Billy Bragg for two albums, Mermaid Avenue and Mermaid Avenue Vol. II , for which they wrote and performed music for lyrics by the American folk musician Woody Guthrie.
The band's next release, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is considered by many in the music industry to be one of 2002's best albums, as well as a standout in terms of innovation. What started as an album continuing down the musical and sonic path set by Summerteeth morphed into a monster that would attract plenty of adulation and trouble.
Glenn Kotche replaced Coomer on drums (Coomer would later play with the band Swag), and brought a more musical and improvisational style of playing to the songs. Multi-instrumentalist Leroy Bach also joined so the band could better duplicate their complex arrangements live and in the studio.
The production seemed to go well, though serious rifts formed between Bennett and his bandmates; before the album was completed Bennett was fired from the band. In addition, Reprise Records, the band's label and a Warner subsidiary, rejected the album, sparking a long search to find a new home for the band. The band bought the studio tapes for $50,000 and began streaming the album from their website. Upon initial release, complaints abounded over the bizarre, noise driven elements of many YHF tracks, although the song "Heavy Metal Drummer" became a radio staple (at least around Chicago, Illinois). Nonesuch Records, another Warner subsidiary, released YHF in 2002. Bennett started a project with longtime collaborator Edward Burch and released The Palace at 4 A.M. on the same day YHF came out. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot reached #12 on the Billboard album charts, Wilco's highest chart position to that date, as well as charting in Australia. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has since gone on to sell over 500,000 copies, and to date remains Wilco's best selling album.
Filmmaker Sam Jones caught it all on tape and released I Am Trying To Break Your Heart , a documentary filmed in black-and-white. One already classic scene involves an acidic argument between Tweedy and Bennett over a crossfaded mix of the songs "Ashes of American flags" and "Heavy Metal Drummer", ending in Tweedy's running to the toilet to vomit (on account of chronic migraines he has had since youth). (For the record, the final mix did not crossfade the two tracks.) One DVD disc has the movie with extra footage and commentary, and the other has clips of live performances.
Wilco's most recent album, A Ghost is Born was released on June 22, 2004, a date that was pushed back after Tweedy entered a rehabilitation facility for his addiction to his migraine painkillers, an event that also caused them to pull out of their headline slot at that year's Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California. Hailed by critics who frequently cited Neil Young's influence, A Ghost is Born was Wilco's first album to make the top ten of the US album charts in 2004, opening at #8, and also reached the top 50 of the Australian charts. A Ghost is Born won Wilco its first ever Grammy Awards in 2005 for Recording Package and Alternative Music Album.
- A.M. (1995)
- Being There (1996); #73 US
- Mermaid Avenue (with Billy Bragg) (1998); #34 UK
- Summerteeth (1999); #78 US, #38 UK
- Mermaid Avenue Vol. II (with Billy Bragg) (2000)
- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002); #13 US, #40 UK
- More Like The Moon EP (also known as Australian EP and Bridge EP) (EP) (2003)
- A Ghost is Born (2004); #8 US
Books and movies
- The Wilco Book by Wilco, et al (ISBN:0971367035)
- Wilco: Learning How To Die by GREG KOT (ISBN:0767915585)
- Adult Head by Jeff Tweedy (ISBN:193202316X)
- I Am Trying to Break Your Heart - A Film About Wilco, directed by Sam Jones
- Wilco's official website
- Wilco Allmusic.com article
- Influences on Wilco's Sound
- Wilco Interactive Setlist Database
- Wilco Lyrics Archive
- Wilco Discography
Wilco is also an Australian manufacturer of electrical mains fittings, in particular three phase fittings. The Wilco 530 is the standard connector for lighting power outlets in Australian entertainment venues, supplying 240/415 volt power at 30 amperes per phase plus a neutral and ground. Several other manufacturers make compatible fittings to it.
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