21 Reasons Why Jay Bennett Should Be Back In Wilco

Jay BennettGLONO has a long history with Wilco. We used to be so obsessed with this band that we actually got teased by other bloggers and commenters. We used to be featured in the band’s links section of their website (until, mysteriously, we were removed just DAYS after running GLONO’s exclusive interview with Jay Bennett after he was sacked).

We miss those days, we miss THAT band. The missing ingredient is Jay Bennett, of course. No slight on current Wilco lead guitarist Nels Cline, but we miss Jay. So we’ve compiled 21 reasons why he should be brought back to the band. We do this out of love so don’t be mad, Jeff.

21. Dreadlocks – Dude had some freaky dreads back in the day. Helps balance Tweedy’s inherent honky-ness

20. Bendy notes – Jay Bennett’s solos always feature lots of bends, which just sound cool.

19. Wilco is too serious now – Jay Bennett is a top-notch goof making him the premier candidate to bridge art and fun.

18. Mellotron – Dude’s got some crazy-rare gear.

17. It’s good for the economy – With Jay comes JP. Those guys need good jobs. Do it for Obama!


16. Cover song selection increases – Jay Bennett is a music historian and can play anything. Wilco’s available catalog of cover songs returns to its proper place.

15. Airline to Heaven – Slide work on a 12-string guitar featured on “Airline to Heaven” is undeniable. Don’t even try, Tweedy. It is UNDENIABLE!

14. We like to get drunk – When Jay Bennett was in the band we got crazy drunk at your shows. Now they are in fancy theaters with limits on alcohol sales and stupid prices. If we’re bringing Jay back then Susan Miller Tweedy needs to reopen Lounge Ax too. This is a package deal.

13. Song structure is GOOD – Jay Bennett has a particular talent for song structure. He’s like Burt Bacharach and Neil Diamond combined. Mix that with Tweedy’s dyslexia and ADD and you get cool, freaky songs you can hum. See: Being There through Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

12. Mad scientist vibe – Bennett always looked like the weird professor from college who let you get away with murder. At the time you thought he didn’t know, but as an adult you now realize that he was well aware that you were an undercover fuck-up.

11. Forget the Flowers – This style of playing is my favorite and Jay Bennett does it better than anyone. It’s a crying shame that this song is not a staple in the live set but maybe that’s because it cannot be played by anyone else. In the name of the fans we demand that at a minimum Jay appear once per show to play “Forget the Flowers”

10. My Darling – the prettiest song on Summerteeth was composed entirely by Bennett.

9. His fashion sense is hilarious – This is in the Wilco is Fun realm but Jay Bennett dresses like a clown and that is funny.

8. California Stars – Bennett came up with the melody for the best song on Mermaid Avenue, and one of Wilco’s most memorable songs ever.

7. Kingpin – “Serious” Wilco fans got annoyed by Bennett hamming it up in the live setting, but this was always fun. It’s only rock and roll, for Christ’s sake. Let ‘er rip!

6. Harmonies – Jay has a strange voice that is really not suited for solo placement, but his scratchy baritone matched with Tweedy’s lead and Stirratt’s high harmonies is simply awesome. Creepy sometimes, yes, but fantastico just the same. *Example: “Casino Queen” live. His deep vocals MADE that song.

5. Dreamer in My Dreams – No idea who’s playing what on this, but it’s balls-out, raw rock and roll. And it’s awesome.

4. Someday Soon – The scootin’ guitar in this made it no longer possible to hate the Grateful Dead.

3. Tension makes for good music – Yes, we know you get annoyed by his anal retentiveness and he got you so mad you puked all over the studio but that sort of tension makes for great music. Are you bigger than Lennon-McCartney or Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson (okay, maybe)?

2. The Ludes vibe of the entire Summerteeth album – You can call it over-produced, or over-analyzed, or whatever you want. Bennett’s weird keyboards are the star of this album.

1. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco and management made a concerted effort to marginalize Bennett’s role in this album. But he wasn’t kicked out of the band until AFTER it was finished. He produced the album. Jim O’Rourke just mixed it.

Jay Bennett: myspace, wiki.

You can download Bennett’s latest album, Whatever Happened I Apologize, for free from Rock Proper.

43 thoughts on “21 Reasons Why Jay Bennett Should Be Back In Wilco”

  1. It would be great, but I think even a reunion with the other Jay would be more likely than this one.

    #22 — More Like the Moon (the collection of outtakes from YHF, containing many songs that are at least co-written by Bennett) gives AGIB a run for its money and runs circles around SBS.

  2. Bah.

    This article reminds me of Bon Jovi fans. You probably know a similar type: girls with high-teased bangs that are impervious to wind gusts; guys with Superman tattoos flexing their biceps to Bad Medicine.

    Unfortunately, those people are stuck in whichever year their social life peaked.

    Personally, I love Wilco pre-, post-, and with-Jay.

    But for the sake of argument (and boredom), I’ll play along.

    21. Dreadlocks on white dudes are pretentious. A foreshadowing, perhaps, of Jay believing he’d somehow taken over Wilco. For further evidence, see his interviews in the IATTBYH documentary. “He wanted the band back, that’s the simple answer,” Jay Bennett.

    20. He is a great guitarist.

    19. Too serious now? Really? See, Just a Kid and I’m a Wheel.

    18. Can’t argue with Jay’s collection of crazy gear either, but I’m not sure how that has any merit on anything.

    17. Uhm, OK.

    16. Uncle Tupelo covered Gram Parsons, too… no doubt, that was the other Jay’s idea.

    15. Nels Cline does a wicked job on Airline to Heaven.

    14. See above comment about being stuck.

    13. See #14 above.

    12. Yeah, Wilco songs post-YHF just cannot be hummed.

    11. Great song. Fantastic pickin’. Does sound different these days without Jay.

    10. Worst song in the Wilco catalog (IMHO).

    09. Lame point, but a point nonetheless.

    08. Yes, Jay wrote the melody. But Jeff changed the octave and made the song soar.

    07. Kingpin is still a lotta fun with the current lineup.

    06. Sometimes his harmony contribution worked, other times it didn’t.

    05. Dreamer is also balls-out fun when it’s just Jeff and an acoustic guitar.

    04. Short of American Beauty, it’s still possible to hate the Dead.

    03. Tension also drives people to chemical dependence. Health is more important than what one person perceives as good music. “Good” being subjective after all.

    02. Summerteeth is awesome and all that, but Jay and Jeff both had a hand in the piling on of keyboard and synth parts. See Greg Kot’s Learning How to Die.

    01. This is revisionism. Jay was credited for his contribution. No doubt, properly compensated too (otherwise we surely would have seen a lawsuit by now).

    Finally, I can’t believe GLONO is still whining about not having a link on Wilco’s website. Get over it.

  3. Well, yes. Everything is subjective, isn’t it?

    One man’s “whining” is another man’s “informing” (re: the link removal rehash).

    I don’t think you can argue that Tweedy sought help to relieve his chemical dependence, though. It’s well-documented, and to suggest he isn’t healthier for it just seems silly.

    Personally, I don’t see the point in wishing something that changed hadn’t changed at all.

  4. No, not everything is subjective, there are some objective truths but that’s not what we’re addressing here.

    “Personally, I don’t see the point in wishing something that changed hadn’t changed at all.”

    Then I guess there’s no need for criticism at all, and I know there are folks out there who believe just that. But we take our music personally and write about what that means. For us, WILCO was more fun (and we argue, “better”) with Jay in the band. That, of course, is subjective.

  5. I’m not saying there’s no need for criticism. Your article got me out of lurker mode, and generating discussion is generally a good thing. No?

    I just happen to disagree with your opinion on this particular band and don’t understand the pining for what they once were when that isn’t what they’re gonna be anymore.

    Wilco records still surprise me. They’re never what I expect and they always require time to sink in and be fully appreciated. Very few bands have done that for me on such a consistent basis.

  6. I think the list is meant partly (or wholly) facetiously. It’s not like these guys (Glono) have always resisted Wilco’s changes. (They really don’t have much hairspray in their bangs.) Most of the innovations post-Jay Bennett have been welcomed, even celebrated.

    That said, I enjoyed your zingers, Flip!

  7. I’ve gotta go with Flip on this one. These are terrible points and, although I’m not too familiar w/ this blog, I’ve gotta assume the author is not a musician. See here:

    20. “Bendy notes”??? C’mon, man… J. Bennett is a good guitarist, but playing ‘bendy notes’ by no means qualifies one as such. Nels, on the other hand, is a god who the rock world should be honored to count among their own.

    4. “made it no longer possible to hate the Grateful Dead.” Wow… just wow.

    Though talented, J. Bennett is a sloppy, bumbling idiot. Have you seen “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart?” He’s bordering on lunacy in the studio; I wouldn’t want to work with him either. I, like Flip above, love Wilco pre-, post-, and with-Jay, but the man was obviously losing it. If he wasn’t he’d be a major act himself these days. Instead, he always just sounds like a whiny bitch.

    I’ll never get tired of hearing Nels add his bricks to the shimmering wall of sound that is a Wilco show.

  8. The live shows were much better with Jay, I don’t care what anybody says. I will take a club atmosphere over the theatre setting anyday. The shows were just more fun!

  9. Good read.

    I’ll take the Stones Live over

    the Beatles Studio anyday.

    Great Chattanooga show last night for SV and King Jay

  10. It’s definitely a curious thing to know when a band should call it quits. According to “Learning How to Die”, Coomer finds it laughable that they’re still a band under that moniker. No doubt bands must evolve (save for ACDC), but when must they, out of respect for all those involved, quit calling this revolving cast of amazing musicians “Wilco” and start calling it “The Jeff Tweedy Band”? Take the Allman Brothers Band, for instance. They still have about a billion holdover hippies, frat kids, and sad drunks following their every move, claiming this is the best its ever been. There are 3 original members left, 2 of whom are drummers. They’ve been through upwards of 4 bassists, a 2nd keyboardist or 2, and like 20 different lead guitarists. Yet they still tour as ABB. Now this is different somewhat because most of the former members are dead. But all the same, will Wilco someday be that sad old band with like 2 original members that’s still trying to hold on to a following by whoring around a name that has meant so many different things to so many people? are they doing that already? Who knows….

    -john

    p.s. Jay Bennett, Ken Coomer, and Bob Egan need to get their asses back in that band. And fast, before Wilco starts letting Nels Cline make elevator music. That is all.

  11. Don’t you think those dudes should start a new band? Along with Max Johnston and Leroy Bach. Find a frontman and they’d be a hell of a band. Call it Exco.

    It’d be even funnier if Jay Farrar hired that crew for his next Son Volt album.

  12. No joke… That would be awesome. Things would definitely come full circle if Farrar was involved. They’d be unstoppable.

  13. “Don’t you think those dudes should start a new band? Along with Max Johnston and Leroy Bach. Find a frontman and they’d be a hell of a band. Call it Exco.”

    I’m available right now.

  14. Really good stuff Glono…I love Jay – he’s a really good guy and I do miss him in the band at times. But I do love the current incarnation an awful lot and will always treasure his place in the band’s past. And, when it’s time for him and Coomer and Leroy and all the other guys done gone from Wilco at the R&R HOF in 2020 (a scant 11 years away) it’ll be nice to see them all together again.

  15. I found this blog post while I was searching for stuff about Jay after his death. It’s so sad and yeah, Wilco was much better with Jay. Their best albums have been with him in it, co-writing and playing melodies. I think A Ghost is Born could have been a great album as well, it had the raw songs necessary but it was just missing something. What could have been.

    I also agree with something someone wrote earlier: Cline does make elevator music. I have literally heard his guitar riffs inside many an elevator. His guitar parts are horrible and are a major reason Wilco sounds a lot less interesting. They’d be better off with Tweedy just playing acoustic.

  16. I loved the Jay incarnation of the band, but these comments about Nels are laughable. The man is unreal and adds an element to the band that I didn’t even know what missing.

    We’ll miss you Jay, obviously.

  17. Steve said:

    “(Cline’s) guitar parts are horrible”

    Gimme a break. I agree with you — Jay was better suited for Wilco. But Cline’s frantic outro solo on Side With The Seeds is perfection.

    They’re two very different guitarists, and let’s leave it at that. No need for mudslinging at a time like this.

  18. its a moot point now I guess… but the idea of ditching Nels Cline for Jay is ridiculous to me. They are a far superior live act now, and the material is fantastic. were they more fun for some folk before? sloppier and kookier? okay…

  19. Having seen every configuration of Wilco since 1997 I can tell you that Jay Bennett’era Wilco was as musically proficient as today’s version. There are stylistic differences between the two version, but on a technical/musical level I would argue that Jay Bennnett was as good a guitarist (nevermind his skills as a producer-engineer, keyboardist, backing vocalist, arranger, etc.) as Nels Cline.

    …and the older version was more fun.

  20. There is a weird vibe to a lot of these posts… like people giving Jeff advice on how he can make a Wilco that pleases you all. Ha! Get over yourselves! Jeff is an artist… he is the real deal… and we have all been lucky enough to be able to watch him grow and change and become… His decisions are his to make. His art is his to make. As much as I think all the folks in all the versions of Wilco are amazing in their own individual ways, I’m sorry, they are all lucky to be along for the ride. I really don’t mean to demean them but the heart and engine of Wilco starts and stops with Jeff, his songs, and his voice. Everything else is just everything else.

    RIP Jay… such terribly sad news.

  21. RIP Jay – forget Tweedy’s center crap. You were the heart and Jeff was the soul of Wilco. It’s too bad Tweedy didn’t get what you were all about and how much you brought to the band. Nels is a coprorate clone, easily replaced by some other guy with a guitar. You weren’t.

  22. Jeff , Jay and John singing together was better than Stones, Beatles, the New wilco.Jays hands were the size of a 3rd graders but his feel was moving and large. The gent who replied to all the points….flip and Nick Rock, I’ll bet my Les Paul you are working for Tony M.and that “the New Wilco” was involved in your comments. F^@^k the movie, Everyone was strung out! But

    Jay on drugs beats anything Jeff or mr. too many guitars I think I’m god foo foo Kline could come up with in a lifetime. Its about the music you friggin morons…sorry still angry about Jay’s passing. may i repeat f#^$k the movie. I’ve got stories you will never hear and I will defend Jay till I meet him in heaven.

  23. Whatever. Jay was a pain-in-the-ass, pretentious mediocre-at-everything musician whose sole plus was being Tweedy’s songwriting catalyst.

    I’ll take the new line-up over the old any day.

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