We're all music fans. That's why we listen to the radio, buy CD's, go to shows. it's why I feel lucky as hell to be working the job I am.
Music touches everyone in different ways. Everyone has certain favourite artists or songs that have helped us get through tough times and enhanced good times. I can trace back memories of the first time I heard the artist that fills that role for me.
I'll admit, I'm a bit of a Wilco fanboy. I sometimes make fun of my friends for being fanboys of stuff, but I guess I'm just as guilty. If you've never heard of Wilco, they're an alt country/folk rock kind of band from Chicago.
Wilco has been around since 1994, and through the years have built up a solid fanbase, yet a lot of my friends who I talk to about the band have never heard of them.
It was my friend David Trowsdale who first introduced me to the band. One night we watched Saturday Night Live as Wilco came on and played a song that I thought really rocked. Dave lent me his copy of their 2004 album A Ghost Is Born. I still have yet to return it. I listened to the album over and over and began to really love it, and as I got into college, I managed to meet a few other Wilco fans who introduced me to more and more of their material, as I amassed their CDs. I've seen them now 6 times, including 4 times in a 7-month period. If they play two nights at Massey Hall next time they come to Toronto, I know I'll buy tickets for both nights again. Like I said, a bit of a fanboy.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Wilco released their fourth studio album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, on this day 10 years ago. (April 23, 2002). The album is a very important one, and is on a number of music bloggers' "Top 10 Albums Of The 2000s" lists.
The story behind the album is pretty interesting, and is a good example of just how crazy the music business can be.
Wilco finished recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2001, but there had been a bit of a shakeup in the offices of their record label, Reprise. In 2001, AOL merged with Time Warner to create AOL Time Warner. Time Warner's market share of the music industry had dropped since the 1990's, and the new executives ordered the termination of 600 jobs. One of those jobs was Reprise Records president Howie Klein. Klein had been a huge supporter of Wilco on the label, and with him gone, head A&R Representative David Kahne was left in charge of deciding whether to release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or not. He decided not to, and to drop the band from the label.
Wilco's lawyer was able to arrange a buyout. The band would keep the rights for the album in exchange for $50,000. Before Wilco could accept the deal, Reprise called back and offered to give the band the rights to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for free.
The band had planned to release the album on September 11, 2001, but singer Jeff Tweedy didn't want the band changing labels to cause a lengthy delay in the album's release. After being released from the label, and member Jay Bennett leaving the band, MP3 files of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot's tracks began surfacing on filesharing websites, and so WIlco decided to stream the entirety of the album on its website to discourage sharing of low quality files. On September 18, 2001, the album went live on the website and it received 50,000 hits in that one day, over 8 times its usual traffic. The tour that followed was a financial success, and the band was surprised that fans would sing along to the unreleased songs at the shows.
A number of record companies bid for the right to release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and the band signed with Nonesuch Records. Nonesuch was another subsidiary of AOL Time Warner.
So the album was produced by Reprise records, the band got the rights to the music for free, and then Nonesuch paid the band for the album. So essentially, Time Warner paid Wilco twice for the album. Just goes to show how messed up showbiz can bee.
Understandably, such a weird sequence of events created a lot of publicity for the album, and it was critically acclaimed, with Brent Sirota of Pitchfork Media giving the album a perfect 10.0 rating and calling the album "simply a masterpiece."
It was this day 10 years ago that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was released, and it sold 55,573 copies in its first week, peaking at number 13 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The band, and this album specifically, have played huge roles in my life. If you've never listened to Wilco, I think you owe it to yourself to listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Do it a couple times if you have to, somtimes it can take a few listens to really get it.
Here's a live performance of the album's first track, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.
Happy listening, friends.