UNCLE TUPELO: Live, at the end of the line.
When I found out in the early summer of 1994 that UNCLE TUPELO had broken up, I was pretty crushed. I was much younger than I am now, but even then I was informed and cynical enough to know that when a great but lesser known band breaks up, that's it. It's not like THE WHO breaking up, where Pete Townshend has all the money in the world to keep exploring ideas and putting out records. Typically, unless you're Paul Westerberg, you slink back to your hometown and get a day job, or a bartending gig, and that's the end of it.
If you had told me back then, "Don't worry, Jeff Tweedy's band is going to be opening for the Rolling Stones in about 11 years, and Jay Farrar will be putting out his fourth Son Volt record and eighth post-U.T. album," I would have called Bullshit on you.
Of course, I didn't know then that the Uncle Tupelo story would go on to balloon into a bit of indie legend. It's fantastic that time has been so kind to them. A couple of years back, their catalog was remastered and rereleased with tons of b-sides and unreleased material. This was a victory for the band, who had seen little to no profit for their first 3 records, released on an indie label that had been screwing them for over a decade.
Now that the band has retained those masters, I wonder if they'd ever consider releasing their final concert on CD. The bootleg -- a fantastic soundboard recording from their 5/1/94 show at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis -- has been floating around for years. Video footage has also been spotted, and recently a fan dubbed the sound from the CD over the lackluster audio for the original film.
Until the day of a legit release comes, I highly recommend hunting down the audio files somewhere. For now, I'm including seven of the tracks performed that night.
"No Depression": The Carter Family cover that launched a magazine and, some say, an entire subgenre called "alt.country."
"Chickamauga": I think "ANODYNE" is a masterpiece of a break-up album, especially because the album seems to be about the break-up of the band and not just your typical romantic disaster. Chickamauga is the name of a city in Georgia that hosted a major Civil War battle.
"Watch Me Fall": One of my favorite Tweedy-penned Tupelo songs, and one of their earliest tracks to attract me to the country side of their sound.
"Postcard": The title of this song is also the name of the U.T./Wilco/Son Volt discussion forum I've been following for almost 6 years. I once curated the list CD tribute to the band, featuring list members and their bands covering the band's music. It was a pretty spotty affair, and my contribution ("Black Eye") would have sounded much better with today's recording software, but I was glad to be a part of making that collection happen. The title of the compilation came from lyrics from this song. It was called "DON'T COME HERE ANYMORE."
"Acuff-Rose": Another fantastic Tweedy number, praising the storied music publishing songbook of country legend Roy Acuff and his partner, a Chicago songwriter named Fred Rose. Some of the names that appear in that songbook include Roy Orbison, the Louvin Brothers, Hank Williams and more. Tweedy puts it best when he sings, "Name me a song that everybody knows / And I'll bet you it belongs to Acuff-Rose."
"True to Life": From my favorite U.T. album, "STILL FEEL GONE."
"Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" (Neil Young): These guys recognized the cold hard truth that, without pioneers like CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL and NEIL YOUNG, they would have never existed. Here they pay tribute to one of those forefathers, on a fiery cover of a classic Young song.
For more on tonight's post:
- A bio of Roy Acuff at Country Music TV.
- Factory Belt, an unofficial U.T. archive
- A link to Tweedy's setlist from the final show
- Learn more about Uncle Tupelo at Gumbopages
- The official homepage