Tag Archives: Jeff Tweedy

How to Write an Earworm

In the days of AM radio, when songs were under three minutes long, there were a variety of sequences of songs played—repeatedly—which were generally described by the disc jockey as being the “top 10.” It was never entirely clear what the number described (i.e., top 10 of what?).

But it should be noted that while there was undoubtedly the whiff of something shady (to mix a couple of metaphors), radio station managers knew that they had to be exceedingly careful because of Congressional investigations into so-called “payola” in 1960, which even caused comment by then-president Dwight Eisenhower, who considered this to be an issue of public morality.

Which seems a bit too far.

But be that as it may, the FCC established a law that says, in part, “When a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is paid or promised to, or charged or accepted by such station, the station, at the time of the broadcast, must announce: (1) that such matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished, either in whole or in part; and (2) by whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied.

In other words, the issue was (and conceivably still is) that the station (or more likely the DJ who was getting swag and whatnot from the A&R man repping the label and musician) would play a given cut over and over and over again. The effect would,  presumably, be one of an excessive number of listeners buying into the ad populum fallacy: if it is being played that much it must be good.

Or there is another thing that could have come into play: the Ohrwurm phenomenon. The earworm. The hearing a song “in your head.” A song “stuck” in your head.

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Googling “how to write a hit song” results in 386,000,000 results.

According to Robin Frederick, who operates mysoundcoach.com,

“Here’s the simple skeleton structure on which most hits are built

  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • VERSE / CHORUS
  • BRIDGE / CHORUS”

Ms. Frederick goes on to explain, “Those monster radio hits often add a section between the verse and chorus called the pre-chorus. It’s used to build anticipation and excitement leading up to those huge hooky choruses. Pop/Dance hits will sometimes have a section after the chorus called a post-chorus. This is where the music producer gets to show off his or her chops.”

Got it?

The chorus counts.

Continue reading How to Write an Earworm

New Jeff Tweedy: Gwendolyn

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Gwendolyn”

Jeff Tweedy "Gwendolyn" (Official Music Video)

Directed by James Fleischel. From Love Is The King, out October 23 on dBpm. Vinyl/CD due January 15.

Featuring the mouths and noses of Fred Armisen, Courtney Barnett, Elvis Costello, Jeff Garlin, Tavi Gevinson, Jon Hamm, Robyn Hitchcock, John Hodgman, Yuka C Honda, Abbi Jacobson, Norah Jones, Gaelynn Lea, Scott McCaughey, Seth Meyers, Nnamdï, Nick Offerman, Molly Sarlé, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, Jay Som, Alex Winter, Sammy Tweedy, Spencer Tweedy and Jeff Tweedy.

Who knows what’s going on underneath those masks? There could be some very attractive people hidden under there. Or maybe not.

If this new video proves anything, it’s that one’s nose and mouth drastically affect your appearance. It also proves that Tweedy knows a lot of famous people!

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy: Gwendolyn

New Norah Jones and Jeff Tweedy video: I’m Alive

Video: Norah Jones – “I’m Alive” (ft. Jeff Tweedy)

Norah Jones - I'm Alive

From Pick Me Up Off the Floor, due May 8 on Blue Note.

Well I suppose the title of this song is a rather important affirmation in these times of social distancing, self-quarantine and isolation. I hope you, too, are alive and will remain so for as long as reasonably appropriate.

This is a weird thing to be going through, and there have been times over the past couple of weeks where not even listening to music has worked to calm the fear and loathing that rises from my depths of my guts every time I think about how our orange fuhrer and his Republican enablers have botched the response to this crisis. It’s maddening.

But what can you do? Stay home, laugh at memes, and try to comfort those around you. Try not to take out your anger on the undeserving. Watch “Tiger King” and marvel at the wonders of the universe. We are all just blips in the timeline. This too shall pass.

And in the meantime find some joy in this new song by Ravi Shankar’s daughter, recorded with Jeff and Spencer Tweedy at the Wilco Loft.

Just sit and wait, don’t move
Just hesitate
You can hope and pray
You can moan
Maybe things will change.

Things will change. They always do.

Norah Jones: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Jeff Tweedy video: Family Ghost

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Family Ghost”

Jeff Tweedy "Family Ghost" (Official Video)

From WARMER, due April 13 on dBpm.

I can appreciate any song that starts out declaring “I’m a dope.” That is a sentiment I can get behind. Tweedy goes on to describe how it feels to be a liberal middle aged white guy in today’s environment.

I’m a dope
Blowing smoke at the TV screen
Lost all hope
Based on the things I’ve seen
I’m a man content
For the sake of argument
Underneath each added straw
Oh, I feel so American

Yup.

I drove across the country with my family for spring break this year, and one of the lessons from that trip is: it’s a big country. Really big. And most of it is empty. Like, not even cows. Just fields and tumbleweeds and dirt and mesas and mountains and no people for miles. Wild.

It’s a weird time to be American. Feels like there’s a lot dividing us from each other. What does it even mean to be American? Will we ever share a common reality, or will we continue to live in our own separate bubbles? I don’t see how that’s ever going to change, so it’s hard to have any hope for any kind of united identity. Whatever that means.

I guess it’s something we’ve been grappling with since before we were even an independent nation. Loyalists and patriots and black folks and indigenous people… Was there ever a true American identity? Probably not.

Regardless, this is a lame video.

For something way cooler, check out the two songs he taped for Acoustic Asheville, another new one from Warmer, plus an old classic. Watch below…

Jeff Tweedy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy video: Family Ghost

New Jeff Tweedy video: I Know What It’s Like

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “I Know What It’s Like”

Jeff Tweedy "I Know What It's Like" (Official Video)

Directed by Mark Greenberg. From WARM, out now on dBpm Records.

I’m about 100 pages into Tweedy’s memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), and so far it’s really enjoyable. One of my favorite things about it so far is the antipathy he retains toward his classmates from high school. We all know we’re supposed to let that shit go by the time we’re grown up, but it’s comforting to know there are other people out there who continue to feel “alienated and irrationally repulsed by most of my classmates.”

When he bumped into a woman from his high school who told him she was sad he wouldn’t be attending their twentieth reunion, he writes, “I needed to catch up with her like I needed to sit down with Madonna and reminisce about all the times I watched the ‘Lucky Star’ video on MTV as a teen.”

I know what that’s like.

I wish Tweedy would put more of this kind of conversational humor into his lyrics. His songs used to be funnier…at least occasionally. I love sad sack dad rock as much as anybody (it’s my jam), but I appreciate getting a chance to smirk or even guffaw once in a while to moderate the tears in my beers. But it’s okay. Something else is taking shape, I guess.

Jeff Tweedy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Jeff Tweedy video: Some Birds

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Some Birds”

Jeff Tweedy "Some Birds" (Official Video)

Directed by Seth Henrikson. From Warm, due November 20.

Jeff Tweedy knows his audience. After all, he was once one of us. His only job outside of being in a band was as a record store clerk, so he understands well the things that set us off. The lead-off video for his upcoming solo album is a quick bit of catnip for folks like us. It starts with a norm-core version of Tweedy--replete in polo shirt, sweater and “haircut”--walking in to what we think is just a quick trim and probably neck clean-up. Instead, it’s the antithesis to “Almost Cut My Hair,” a freak flag anthem dating back more than 45 years.

What’s more, norrm-o Tweedy is serenaded by real Tweedy who uses the occasion to show off all of the double-neck guitars he has…and we don’t. It’s exactly what I would do in his shoes, and so would you.

The song itself is catchy enough. It’s a cool little mid-tempo cruiser punctuated with some 12-string almost-solos. Again, totally my thing.

According to liner notes written by George Saunders and published by The New Yorker, “”Jeff told me once that what he’s trying to communicate to his listener is, ‘You’re O.K. You’re not alone. I’m singing to you, but I also hear you.'”

Well, we hear you too. And we reply with a resounding, “One of us! One of us! One of us!”

Jeff Tweedy: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Mavis Staples video: If All I Was Was Black

Video: Mavis Staples – “If All I Was Was Black”

Mavis Staples - "If All I Was Was Black"

From If All I Was Was Black, out now on Anti.

Mavis Staples is 78 years old and she’s been singing professionally for 70 of those. Thank about that. She’s been getting paid to sing since before most Baby Boomers were even born. She’s a national treasure. This is the title track to her third album produced by Jeff Tweedy.

Director Zac Manuel told Rolling Stone, “The intent of this video is to highlight black excellence, and to provoke and encourage a larger public appreciation of the labor – physical and emotional – the people of color often are expected to bear. Using the symbolism of the ‘monument,’ a contemporary point of debate, I hope to steer conversation toward the acknowledgment of actual greatness; by replacing a negative and reinforcing a positive, this video will alter the image of who we often see immortalized in our country’s history.”

If it was up to me, I’d just replace every statue in America, confederate or otherwise, with a statue of Mavis Staples. Oh, mercy.

Mavis Staples: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy on Letterman

Great clip from Late Night with David Letterman. Two things of particular interest: 1) Jeff Tweedy takes lead on a verse; 2) Letterman is utterly gushing at the end.

Via Consequence of Sound

Mavis Staples: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Wilco: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Watch Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy: Only The Lord Knows

Video: Mavis Staples & Jeff Tweedy – "Only The Lord Knows"

This is the other Jeff Tweedy original, in addition to the title track, on Mavis Staples’ new album, You Are Not Alone. So good.

Mavis Staples: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Mavis Staples – Wrote A Song For Everyone

Video: Mavis Staples + Jeff Tweedy – “Wrote A Song For Everyone” Acoustic

This is one of my favorite CCR songs. Shoot, it’s one of my favorite songs, period. The way John Fogerty’s lyrics tackle hugely complex subjects and make them personal, while acknowledging his inability to communicate with the person he loves, is heavy and perfect. It’s no wonder Jeff Tweedy picked up on this song: it essentially encapsulates the entire theme of his own masterpiece, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. What took Wilco a whole album to say, “Wrote a Song for Everyone” does in under five minutes. Even if you can write songs that connect with thousands of people, it’s still tough to be honest with the people you love.

Saw the people standin’ thousand years in chains.

Somebody said it’s different now, look it’s just the same.

Pharoahs spin the message, round and round the truth.

They could have saved a million people, how can I tell you?

There are only two songs written by white folks that take on the subject of slavery and handle it in an effective way. This one and Bob Dylan‘s “Blind Willie McTell.” I hope Tweedy gets Ms. Staples to do that one on their next collaboration. You Are Not Alone is due September 14 on Anti.

Continue reading Mavis Staples – Wrote A Song For Everyone