Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Song of the Week: "Red-Eyed and Blue", Wilco

Hello, my name is Mr. Flip-Side and I am a recovering Wilco addict. I used to go on Wilco binges for days, weeks, even months at a time. Sometimes I would find myself driving through the Eastern Seaboard of the United States just to get a live Wilco fix. I'm not fully recovered. I still have moments when the ghost takes hold of me and I can't shake the gravely voiced demon in my ears. But, in general, I'm doing better. Here is how it started....

Sometime around 1995, JBC-15 asked me if I wanted to go to some tiny corner bar in Sacramento to see Wilco play. Who? "it's the off-shoot of Uncle Tupelo. The one the not-the-main-guy formed." Hmm, nah. I said. Then soon after I picked up their first album, AM. Not bad at all. Better than I expected, but not groundbreaking. Then the second album soon came out, Being There. $15 at the Tower Records in the Foggy Bottom section of DC. I popped the disc in the car stereo and started my 20 minute ride home. The first track, Misunderstood, was brilliant. It was the unrealized soundtrack I had in my head. The album is a raucous, wide-open, unedited, take me as I am outpouring from a band that was just starting to understand who they were. Or, I should say, a band leader who was just starting to understand that he had permission to move beyond the strict confines he felt at being the Jr. partner of Uncle Tupelo.

And then there is this little song. It's called Red-Eyed and Blue and it fits in the album as a brief little interlude. A link between two other more grandiose songs. It's simple and delicate and showcases a raw, vulnerable side of the band's leader, Jeff Tweedy. The now exiled Jay Bennett should not be overlooked either for his contribution. The multi-instrumentalist was wonderful at picking out catchy melodies on whatever instrument he played. Here, on the slightly out of tune piano, he plays a simple and wonderful little counter-melody that accents the chord progressions beautifully. Tweedy's voice is minimal and stark and the whimsical whistle at the end of the song accentuates the "just passing by, don't mind me" approach of the song. In the end, it was this song, more than any other, that sent me into my long Wilco addiction. One I still wrestle with. 


  1. I'm so with you on the Wilco, Morgan. It's nice to hear that little tune again.

    They're at Red Rocks you know - I think we should be there, don't you think? Tailgate it with some pizza and good beer.


  2. I saw that too. Unfortunately, I'm scheduled to be out of state that night. We can always tailgate it with one of their CD's on another night though!

    Thanks for the post.


  3. Very timely Song of the Week given that Jay Bennett just filed suit against Tweedy claiming he is owed a bunch of royalties, etc. Pretty sad that their partnership had to end so badly, because I, like you, think that Jay B. added alot to the band.

    This song was one of the first to grab me on this album, and it still sounds great. I still like this album and Summerteeth better than most of the later stuff.

    I'm going to see them at Wolf Trap in July. it'll be my first Wilco show in about three years or so.

  4. I saw Tweedy perform solo a couple summers ago - it was great.

    Any standouts/comments on Sky Blue Sky?

  5. Well, like the Mazzochist above, I have not been hugely in-love with the two Wilco albums post Bennett. Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are their best, in my opinion. With YHF being the best overall album. I find Sky Blue Sky to be a bit of a smiley face. It feels like a cathartic expression of Tweedy who was coming out of drug rehab, trying to hold a marriage together and enjoying his son. Obviously good for him, but the songs don't hold up to repeated listening as they do on Summerteeth, for example. Moreover, the production and arrangements are lush but lacking in spontaneity. What Light is a nice sing-along. Hate it Here has a good later Beatles feel to it. Impossible Germany is catchy and impressive but also too much of a bit Steely Dan show-off feel to it.

  6. I don't remember asking you to go see them in a tiny corner bar in Sac. Was that Old Ironsides? Harlow's? At any rate, I take your word for it. I do know that I did not go see them; seriously wish I had.

    I am going to check them out on June 25 at the Wiltern in L.A. They are playing two shows prior to this one that sold out almost instantly,before I even knew they were happening. I lucked out and they added a third.

    'Sky Blue Sky' may be no 'YHF', but it is still pretty damned good I think. I love "Impossible Germany", reminds me of the Allman Brothers. And I don't know about it being such a smiley face record. Songs like "Either Way" sound pretty bummed out and resigned to me.

  7. It wasn't Old Ironsides. It was some small 'lil place near about 23rd and O st. (guessing on the locale).

  8. About the song... The lyrics, it would seem, contain the three storied idols of the music industry, with 'love' here standing in for 'sex'. The announcement of love surfaces almost as a drugged-out side note yet it anchors the song. Something about the title too, some kind of twisted patriotic echo.

    The lovely second half, you're right Mr. Flippy, is equally central to the song. I'm always drawn further into the song by that guitar riff intro to the second half, which has a Brian Wilson quality to it.

    What about A Ghost Is Born? I may be in the minority here, but it is great! The fact that it was the first and only WILCO album I've heard through in a sitting and in its entirety, with the loose exception of Mermaid Avenue, may be the reason, but I don't care. Listen to Hummingbird, and then tell me different.