Wilco vs. Billy Bragg

In an interview with The Australian, Jeff Tweedy denies reports of a Mermaid Avenue boxed set (including unreleased recordings) and Wilco ever touring with Billy Bragg:

“Billy Bragg is so full of shit, man,” he says, before pausing for a disturbingly long laugh. “That guy is full of shit,” he manages again. “I don’t know what he’s talking about. If he has more stuff, then that’s great, but I don’t think there’s any chance of us having anything to do with it.”

More laughter.

“The guy’s been saying that all over the place and I have no idea what he is talking about because he has never talked to us about it. There are no other songs that we have. Everything that we did was on the records. But I’m serious. He’s full of shit. Nothing against Billy. He’s just full of shit.”

This would be another close match-up. Tweedy might have an age advantage, but Bragg is scrappy…

Via lancewaxer.

8 thoughts on “Wilco vs. Billy Bragg”

  1. I remember some “outtakes” floating around Napster back in the day. I believe two were ‘Bugeyed Jim’ and ‘My 30,000’. Can anyone validate this claim? Both were Billy Bragg vocals but sounded like Mermaid Ave. productions.

  2. “Bugeye Jim” and “My Thirty Thousand” were b-sides to the “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key” single (Amazon), both Bragg vocals.

    There was a Tweedy vocal outtake called “Ain’t Gonna Grieve My Lord No More” that was going around on a boot claiming to be Mermaid Avenue demos. I’ve got a crappy-quality mp3 of it. It’s a decent stomper along the lines of “Christ for President.”

    “When the Roses Bloom Again” was recorded during the sessions but turned out to be copyrighted by A.P. Carter. There’s a Johnny Cash recording of it on Disc 2 of The Essential.

    John Stirrat put “Revolutionary Mind” (lyrics by Woody) on the first Autumn Defense record.

    And Jay Bennett put “No Sleep Tonight” (lyrics by Woody) on The Palace at 4am.

    So there are obviously more songs out there. But I remember reading that when Bragg wanted to put out Mermaid II, Wilco had to go back in the studio to record a couple more songs (“Someday, Some Morning,” etc.). So who knows?

  3. In the “Man In The Sand” documentary you can hear Wilco playing the melody for “Someday, Some Morning” but with the lyrics for “Birds and Ships.” When Billy’s version won out I suppose they just transplanted some lyrics.

  4. i always thought the tenuous relationship and underlying lack of desire to go through the experience with billy bragg was alluded to at the end of man in the sand. where tweedy talks about the experience of working with billy bragg is like working with jay farrar.

    plus, tweedy’s got the history of teaming up with some pretty creative folks, pulling out some amazing music out of them, and then moving on. as much as i’d like wilco to revisit the jay bennett years, it’s not going to happen. and i wouldn’t expect him to step backwards and revisit the collaboration with billy bragg.

    on the other hand, i wouldn’t mind seeing ken coomer and jay bennett teaming up with marc perlman and gary louris to back up billy bragg. though, that would collaboration would always stand in the shadows of the mermaid avenue sessions.

  5. Deny it or not, some day (maybe a decade or two in the future) a box set will appear, just like it has for every other session under the sun.


  6. I guess Billy didn’t get the memo.

    ChartAttack: When I talked to you two years ago, you said there was a possibility of more Mermaid Avenue material coming out. Can you give me an update?

    Bragg: Because I have a deal in which my work reverts to me and I retain ownership, the Mermaid Avenue albums will be returned to me soon. Then I’ll be able to sit down with Jeff Tweedy and work out what we’d like to do about all of that. Hopefully, it will be possible to go back and go over the material. Some of it’s just Jeff and I playing Woody Guthrie songs. It’s not another monumental album, in that sense. But there are songs that you haven’t heard from those sessions, so it would be lovely if we could do something with the whole of the sessions and maybe add some copies of the manuscripts that we worked with in time for Woody’s centenary, which is 2012. That would make a lot of sense. I’m actually hoping to meet [Woody’s daughter] Nora Guthrie for lunch tomorrow and see where she is with everything and what her plans are for the centenary. She has some brilliant stuff going on because she’s that sort of person. If she’s conducive to it and I can chat with Jeff to see how he feels about it, I’d really love to do Woody justice for his centenary. And it would be great to play those songs again. I have to choose each night which ones I can put in a set. I can’t play an entire set of Woody Guthrie songs. But if we could do something where we were just playing Woody Mermaid Avenue songs, it would be a lot of fun. We never actually did tour.


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