Soundtrack Of My Life: Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy

Frontman, guitarist and Blondie fan (just don't ask him to do karaoke)

The first song I remember hearing

Johnny Cash – ‘Folsom Prison Blues’

“It’s something my mom and dad always had in their record collection and always played: it just feels like I’ve never not known that song. My dad worked on the railroad, and I always associate that song with his job.”

The first song I fell in love with

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The Byrds – ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’

“I remember hearing it and just thinking that it sounded like it had been made by celestial beings or something! An unbelievably fortunate thing in my life was that my older brothers, sister and aunt all had lots of records. By the time I was seven or eight-years-old, I had such a passion for records that they all ended up giving me theirs from the 1950s – I sort of inherited them. I listened to those records all day long, but especially this one.”

The first album I ever bought

Blondie – ‘Parallel Lines’

“I got it at a swap meet in Nogales, Mexico – it was on a kind of blanket outside a shop! [laughs] My sister lived in Arizona, and we drove down to visit; I think I was 11-years-old at the time. I borrowed money from my mom to buy a most-likely bootleg version of the album. I’d recently heard Blondie on one of the music TV shows [that was] on late at night on the weekends when I was kid.”

The first gig I went to

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The Stray Cats

“It was at a place called Mississippi Nights in St. Louis, Missouri. I talked my brother into taking me and my friends. [The Stray Cats] really weren’t very well-known in the States yet, but they were doing well in England and Europe and I had their first album as an import at the time. Mississippi Nights was a pretty tiny place, and there were maybe 500 people crammed into a room. I remember they had their guitars in trash cans because they were stray cats [laughs].”

The song that reminds me of home

Mac Davis – ‘It’s Hard to Be Humble

“My dad used to play it all the time; he was a really weird music consumer. He would basically listen to one song for months, until he found another [laughs]. He didn’t listen to albums: he would come home from work and just play one song over and over, and this was one of those. If you listen to this song on repeat like my dad did, it will drive you insane. But now I have a soft spot for it, and it makes me think of home when I was growing up.”

The song I wish I’d written

The Carter Family – ‘You Are My Sunshine’

“I don’t know where it’s from originally, but it’s just so elemental – it just seems like it’s always been there and we all know it, but none of us know where it’s really from. I think that’s kind of beautiful and eerie. There’s no author to colour it, there’s no feeling that it came from some other person, so it just feels like it was delivered to us from somewhere. It’s oddly bittersweet, and there’s a kind of Depression-era stoicism to it, too.”

The song I do at karaoke

Blondie – ‘Heart of Glass’

“I have never done karaoke and I don’t plan to, so I have no idea! Maybe if I had to, maybe I do ‘Heart Of Glass’ from ‘Parallel Lines’. It’s about the only one on the album I think I could do!”

The song I can’t get out of my head

Alabaster dePlume – ‘Don’t Forget You’re Precious’

“It’s from his new record called ‘Gold’. The whole record keeps going through my head, but especially this one. I’m just charmed by the whole record, which I think is just really healing and beautiful. His poetry is wonderful: he has such a big heart and generosity of spirit.”

The song I can no longer listen to

Wilco – ‘Shake It Off’ from ‘Sky Blue Sky’

“It’s just one of those songs that I just feel like I could do so much better now [laughs]. I just can’t listen to it. I probably would be happy playing it if somebody in the band wanted to or we got a request, but as far as the recorded version goes, I won’t listen!”

The song I want played at my funeral

Duke Ellington – ‘I’m Beginning To See The Light’

“It’s a song that I always sang to my kids when they were little. I looked it up and somebody wrote that this is the song that plays in every minor character’s funeral in films and on television. That was the universe really putting me in my place [laughs].”

The song that makes me want to dance

Talking Heads – ‘I Zimbra’

“I wouldn’t call what I do ‘dancing’, ever [laughs]. But this song from the album ‘Fear Of Music’ is one that [makes me dance]. There’s just something really liberating about it. From what I understand about it, it’s a made-up language and was a way for David Byrne to break out of some writer’s block he was having – just by writing a nonsense syllable song. I’m not a confident dancer, but that song always feels like it’s fitting the spirit of some sort of childish freedom – a liberating sense that you should just move how you want to move.”

Wilco’s new album ‘Cruel Country’ is out now

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