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ft. the beatles, aretha franklin, neil young, dr. dre, serge gainsbourg, duke ellington, the kinks, jimi hendrix, pavement, the clash, smog, the smiths, al green, the rolling stones, cat power, dusty springfield, yo la tengo, antony, wilco, elvis, talking heads, elliott smith, r.e.m., ray charles, otis redding, the monochrome set, randy newman, the cure, gillian welch, queen, stevie wonder & more


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see the archives & a random post


"i just happen to be here, and it's okay." -caetano veloso


"sing a simple song but keep the swing strong." -de la soul


"think straight, keep a clean plate." -joanna newsom


"keep a clean nose, watch the plain-clothes." -bob dylan


"keep your feet warm, but keep your clothes on." -harry nilsson


"it took me about three or four weeks to toilet train my cat, nightlife. most of the time is spent moving the box very gradually to the bathroom." -charles mingus


"think about something else. was art tatum talented?" - shoot the piano player


"she had a chihuahua named carlos that had some kind of skin disease and was totally blind." -tom waits


"he had a huge room with nothing in it except this huge vast hammond organ, right next door to the police." -david bowie


"he's got a mind like a sewer, and a heart like a fridge" -elvis costello


"you can't hold the hand of a rock 'n' roll man." -joni mitchell


"lou's jukebox spun for love and many other things, too – beauty, pain, history, courage, mystery" - laurie anderson


"hey there, hey now, well, you can make a pacemaker blink, easy thing, make a man's heart go bibbity bom. -john cale


"i’ve still got things inside me, sad things, happy things, that people don’t know about." -loretta lynn


"to try to maximize the relationship of listening to a record through promotion is like experiencing driving a car by reading about stimulus programs." -bonnie 'prince' billy


"after cheesecake with all of your friends and family, who's gonna front the bill? me... say you want to take first-class trips, well i want to work those first-class hips. yes i do." -r. kelly


"too much cheesecake too soon! old money's better than new" -roxy music


"my mother used to tell me about vibrations. to think that invisible feelings, invisible vibrations existed scared me to death." -brian wilson


"i'm a lunatic, and you are so super cool." - george jones


"i'm an idiot for you." -iggy pop


"i mean every letter in the words in the sentences of my quotes." -lil' wayne


"lyrics choochoo from my mouth like locomotion." - pato banton


"i'm going to boogie my scruples away." -lowell george


"i drive a rolls-royce, cause it's good for my voice." -t.rex


"i'm dealing in rock and roll. i'm not a bonafide human being." -phil spector


"phil approached me with a bottle of kosher red wine in one hand and a .45 in the other, put his arm around my shoulder and shoved the revolver into my neck and said, 'leonard, i love you.' i said, 'i hope you do, phil.'" -leonard cohen


"they’d whisper at each other and look at phil and whisper at each other. finally this lady, tanked, comes over to phil and says, 'alright, sonny, what’s your problem?' and he said, 'premature ejaculation, what’s yours?'" -tom wolfe


"i bite my nails and if that fails i go get myself stoned, but when i do i think of you and head myself back home." -gram parsons


"i would say groucho marx, to name one thing, and willie mays, and the second movement of the jupiter symphony, and louis armstrong’s recording of potatohead blues, swedish movies, naturally. sentimental education by flaubert, marlon brando, frank sinatra, those incredible apples and pears by cézanne, the crabs at sam wo’s, tracy’s face." -woody allen


"where have you been all my life?" -emmylou harris, to my brother tommy


brian eno songs that will make good book titles for my 10-volume memoir, in order: here he comes, baby's on fire, golden hours, brutal ardour, taking tiger mountain, events in dense fog, through hollow lands, some of them are old, everything merges with the night, dead finks don’t talk


ry cooder albums that every man should own: into the purple valley, boomer's story, paradise and lunch


"really, we don't want people twiddling their goatees over our stuff." -radiohead


thelonious monk's middle name: sphere


#1 song on the white album (tie): long long long, happiness is a warm gun


"the only word is love." -john lennon


"i love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. and mother. and god." -johnny cash


"i could even find it in my heart to love mike love." -belle & sebastian


"the moon is clear, the sky is bright, i'm happy as the horse's shite." -the pogues


"i hope that you all out there, young, old, tall, short, fat or thin, quick or slow, no matter what kind or color or shape or person you are, if you like to make music, why, go ahead.” -pete seeger


"chuck berry isn't merely the greatest of the rock and rollers, or rather, there's nothing mere about it. say rather that unless we can somehow recycle the concept of the great artist so that it supports chuck berry as well as it does marcel proust, we might as well trash it." -robert christgau


mashable says about us: "expect the unexpected with this awesome gem. groovy." and 33 1/3: "nice to have someone steer me in a worthwhile direction"


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the olden days: 2008 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2009 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2010 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2011 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2012 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2013 j. f. m. a. m. j. j. a. s. o. n. d. 2014 j. f.


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#972: wilco - new madrid (irving plaza, 1997, hbo reverb)

history’s most moving country song about charlatan geology, with a bonus point for lines about new york sung in the city itself, a second for full footage of the irving plaza concert online, a third for getting a nice long look at the late great jay bennett, and, after that, a bonus bonus point for jeff tweedy’s mid-90s shirt on top of a mid-90s shirt.

the past is a foreign country, people wear ill-fitting clothes there. 

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there once was a real but very physically improbable time and place when stephen stills, yo la tengo, irma thomas, tracy nelson, radiohead, wilco, little feat, desmond dekker, elastica and jerry jeff walker all played in the same little club in a three month span: it’s true, and this newspaper ad proves it. it was 1995 in new york city and i was nearby, but too busy being a tasteless little fifth grader to have appreciated it.

there once was a real but very physically improbable time and place when stephen stills, yo la tengo, irma thomas, tracy nelson, radiohead, wilco, little feat, desmond dekker, elastica and jerry jeff walker all played in the same little club in a three month span: it’s true, and this newspaper ad proves it. it was 1995 in new york city and i was nearby, but too busy being a tasteless little fifth grader to have appreciated it.

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#901: wilco (jeff tweedy and jay bennett) - james alley blues (1999, austin)

songs from wilco’s mid-to-late-90s catalogue that the obama 2012 campaign could have chosen instead of the titularly problematic i got you (at the end of the century): pick up the change, via chicagowhat’s the world got in store, someday soon, in a future age, dreamer in my dreams and definitely one by onejames alley blues wouldn’t have been any better but it would have really locked up the harry smith anthology vote. and songs from wilco’s mid-to-late-90s catalogue which, if chosen, would’ve made the new-mellenial imperfections of i got you (at the end of the century) look not really all that bad include that’s not the issuei must be high, red-eyed and blue and another man’s done gone. but especially christ for president.
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#615: the staple singers - why am i treated so bad? (1981)

if you like soul and heart and sideburns and handclaps and stories about mississippi and electric lights and organs and sunglasses and men named roebuck “pops” staples who can sing to the high heavens with his children mavis and yvonne and cleotha and pervis, well then you’ll like the staples singers. and if you also happen to like wilco, then you’ll be very happy to know that jeff tweedy is producing mavis staples’ next album, you are not alone, whose beautiful title song he wrote for her. and if you like both those things and also the louvin brothers, you should listen to jeff tweedy’s first band playing atomic power.

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#597: jim o’rourke & glenn kotche - pictures of adolf again (2003)

songs about fascists are only okay when they’ve got a xylophone interlude, a hammock-friendly guitar solo, a former member of sonic youth, a current member of wilco, some early-70s elton john ivory tickling, and a homemade video that uses charlie chaplin’s  inflatable globe scene.

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#412: wilco - laminated cat (not for the season) (2002)

from the grand salmon-colored new york observer: “everybody okay? everybody situated? got your programs? no? i’m sorry! you guys really look good. i’d always wondered what that meant,” jeff tweedy told swooning fans on monday night, halfway through wilco’s shiny coney island show. “very, very attractive audience—you should feel good about yourselves!”

it’s not that mr. tweedy has only become more stable since ending one of alt-rock’s best-documented drug addictions. he’s a better front man. at keyspan park, his songs started sweet and grew from there—a ray charles keyboard bulged in hate it here, a lap steel guitar whirred in walken, and an early-’70s hi records organ yowled in jesus, etc. it was big, oceanic music.

on the downside, middle-aged mr. tweedy has been writing songs that have a weakness for breezy comfiness: 2007’s sky blue sky even features a song about household chores. but on monday, the band swelled and swirled, so that parts of you are my face had the sweet buoyant bounce of south african pop, but other sections shook like springsteen.

it was weird to hear three perky songs from the band’s gleaming, googly-eyed 1999 pop extravaganza summerteeth, which was co-written by ex-band member jay bennett, who died in may of an accidental painkiller overdose. he had been suffering from health problems, had written publicly about under-insurance, and had sued mr. tweedy over royalties. wilco hasn’t had the same barroom drawl or ecstatic lavishness without mr. bennett, but the music’s much more comfortable.

there wasn’t a lot of comfort during yo la tengo’s opening set. the trio makes the country’s most delectable and expansive indie rock, but on monday they started annoyingly loud and stayed there. the set was fuzzy, muddy and shrill, and by its end there were 16 people near the stage plugging their ears, and one man with a hand to his forehead. but when yo la tengo came back on the stage at the end of the night to join in on wilco’s wild-eyed, long and loopy spiders (kidsmoke), the music had ferocious sparkle.

"i’ll tell you something," mr. tweedy said afterward, giving a calisthenics and hand-clapping lesson to the audience. "you’re going to feel this tomorrow, right here, and it will feel good. thank you so much. it’s really going to start to burn. but don’t stop. do not stop."

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from march 13, 2008: wilco - cars can’t escape (2001)

it was very sad when 45-year-old jay bennett died. last year i called him “a brilliant little baby,” and 16 days before his death this month i wrote about his problems with arthritis in the observer.  he was practically as cool as george harrison, except more tragic, and he was sometimes dreadlocked.

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#369: wilco - misunderstood (1996)

in late april, ex-wilco band member jay bennett wrote on myspace about his hip replacement surgery, under-insurance problems, arthritic aches and knee trouble: “i have been saving as much money as possible ever since i made this new commitment to my health, my future, and my quality of life,” he shared, “and have sold off some vintage recording gear.”

drummer ken coomer, who was also fired from wilco, left one of the few comments: “love you! call me i have a story of a friend who just went through a similar, actually worse surgery…”

how could the tale of jay bennett get sadder? this is how: on tuesday, the chicago tribune reported that mr. bennett has sued wilco frontman jeff tweedy, claiming that mr. tweedy owes him for his eight years in the band, and for his role in their documentary, i am trying to break your heart. that film shows dreadlocked, chubby, whiny mr. bennett giving migraines to mr. tweedy during the recording of yankee hotel foxtrot, hailed as the smartest american rock album in eons when it was finally released in 2002. mr. bennett had been fired in august 2001.

whether or not he gets the $50,000 he’s after—or a functioning hip—there’s some recompense in the secret that wilco hasn’t been the same without him. what is now middle-of-the-road prettiness was once tobacco-stained, waffle-ironed beauty. thanks in large part to mr. bennett’s kaleidoscopic instrumentation, 1999’s summerteeth, for example,sounds like phil spector producing gram parsons covering the beach boys.

mr. bennett’s last solo album, whatever happened i apologize, is available as a free download under a noncommercial creative commons license. “once i am able to get a down payment of sorts together and actually have the surgery performed… i should be operating at approximately 80% capacity,” he wrote on myspace. “i’m functioning way below 80% right now, so what do I have to lose?”

- from my second installment of the observer's shiny new pop picks

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#67: wilco - cars can’t escape (2001)

there are three spectacularly sad things about this song.

one is that jeff tweedy kicked the chubby dread-locked piano player, jay bennett, out of the band soon after this footage was taken. mr. bennett, as proven by the wilco documentary i am trying to break your heart, was such a brilliant little baby that he would complain while tweedy was vomiting because of his migraines. but mr. tweedy is difficult too: besides the headaches—see below—he’s suffered from depression, panic attacks, and painkiller addiction. also there’s the girlfriend hair touching problem too.

the second sad thing is that we watch the song blossom from a beautiful little two-man ditty into a huge full-band freakout, and yet cars can’t escape never made it onto any wilco album.

but the third and much sadder thing is that these lyrics are massively devastating, especially lines like “and in my sleepless head/ our love’s been dead a week or two,” or “there were reasons for you to love me/ but I gave you none.” and then there’s the refrain: “so i tap my glass and nod my chin/ and wonder who you’ve been in rhythm with.” good god.

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in the worst periods of migraine suffering, in particular during the making of the record ‘a ghost is born,’ the cycle of pain and pain relief and pain killer abuse got really difficult to dig out of… after a while it became obvious that it was a problem. i was abusing the painkillers. they became something i was having trouble living without. i would get scared by the amount of drugs i was taking. i was afraid i wouldn’t wake up. jeff tweedy, writing this month in the new york times' migraine blog
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#66: uncle tupelo - atomic power (1994)

why is wilco so much better known than jeff tweedy’s first band, the plaid-wearing old-time country revivalists uncle tupelo? maybe it’s because by the time of this 1994 concert, frontman jay farrar hated tweedy so much that he wouldn’t sing along on any songs his rival had written for the band.

according to tweedy: “around this time, i would say something into a microphone onstage, and afterward he would pull me aside and say, ‘don’t you ever fucking talk into that microphone again.’” to be fair, tweedy had been caught stroking ferrar’s girlfriend’s (now wife’s) hair while she slept, which is always awkward.

two months before this show, ferrar told the band’s manager to tell tweedy that he was leaving. they toured for a tad bit longer, but this here was their second-ever concert. by august, jeff tweedy was in the studio recording his new band’s debut, wilco’s a.m. it’s too bad uncle tupelo died, considering how perfect the band was at breathing life into old twangy songs like the louvin brothers’ atomic power.

weirdly, ira and charlie louvin loathed each other too: “the way we parted, I never thought of heaven and ira in the same thought,” the surviving brother has said. hatred makes for good country music.

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