Book Review

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. Jeff Tweedy. Dutton. 2018.

There are some books that you think you should read because of what you expect them to contain and how you think you will benefit from them. There are some books that you think you have to read because everybody else has read or will read them. There are also those books that you want to read because they seem like they’ll be enjoyable, maybe even fun, whether or not they pay off in any other tangible benefits.

I picked-up Let’s Go motivated in equal parts by the first two reasons that I listed above.
I am a big fan of Wilco’s music and have been for a long time. Tweedy’s point-person role in the band, on both a musical and lyrical level, led me to believe that the book would be a beneficial read. I expected to learn things about the band that would enrich my appreciation of their music. Also, being an aspiring songwriter and writer myself, I thought that I might gain some insight into Tweedy’s creative processes, inspirations, or practices of self-critique, that would open things up in my own work.

Beyond the personal benefits that I expected to garner from reading the book, were the outside influences . . . the expectations of others. Many of my friends and even casual colleagues are fans of the band. So, it goes without saying that many of them will read the book and will probably expect me to be able to discuss it with them whenever we get a chance to chat about it. To be honest, since I’m a big reader, I’m guessing that even my friends who aren’t likely to read the book but are interested in Wilco will expect me to be their Cliff’s Notes.

It’s the third reason that I listed above . . . fun . . . that I wasn’t sure if I should expect going into it. One of the things that I like most about Wilco shows is Tweedy’s stage banter . . . but I wasn’t sure what to expect from him as he turned to long-form prose.
The best news about this book, and the reason that I don’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone and everyone who has even a passing interest in Wilco, is that Tweedy’s voice as the front man of Wilco leaps off of the pages of this book: It’s a fun read, plain and simple.

Tweedy states it a number of different ways throughout the course of the book. In the chapter titled ‘The Flowers of Romance’ he recounts telling his son Spencer, in the context of a conversation about “how much weight to give other people’s opinions”; “’You can’t pants me anymore. I’ve had my pants taken down enough times in my life’”. Elsewhere he writes that “my comfort level with being vulnerable is probably my superpower”.

What stands out most about the story Tweedy tells is that he is first and foremost a proud parent, a devoted husband and a grateful son and brother. The book is dedicated to his wife and sons and the perspective from which he writes is solidly in the center of that universe. He is fortunate and thankful for the opportunities he has in Wilco, working with his sons, and as a solo artist . . . but all of that has been recognized as the icing on a pretty tasty cake.

The book is full of great stories about his life as a young man in Belleville, IL, his discovery of punk music and resulting friendship with Jay Farrar, with whom he would form Uncle Tupelo, Wilco’s formative years with Jay Bennett, and yes . . . his descent into and rise out of an addiction to prescription drugs. All of these tales are told with the self-deprecating sense of humor we’ve come to expect from Tweedy. But at the center of them all are the sense that they only mean anything to him to the extent that they shaped him into who he is now . . . a husband, father, and fortunate friend of the other members of Wilco.

In case you’re wondering, Tweedy appreciates the fans too. “It’s hard to take too much credit, but it’s also impossible not to feel some pride looking at the vibrant, multigenerational and diverse crowd that has gathered around our band. They’re generous, thoughtful, and loyal, not just to us but to one another, as well.”

Grab a copy . . . learn, share, enjoy . . .

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