Week 579: “High as Hello” by Tweedy


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The music business hasn’t fostered a whole lot of healthy father-son relationships.

It’s created plenty of absent fathers, for whom the twin addictions of life on the road and various substances were too powerful to allow them to build meaningful relationships with their sons. There have also been plenty of stage dads who have seen fatherhood more as a business opportunity than a responsibility to care and nurture (see: Joseph Jackson).

This is why it’s refreshing to learn about the relationship between Jeff Tweedy, of Wilco, and his son Spencer. They have worked together on several projects, and released their own album under the name Tweedy in 2014.

Spencer wasn’t pushed into being a musician by his dad, but his interest was clear very early, as he recalled on a podcast last year:

My first musical memories would definitely be watching VHS tapes of my dad and of Wilco on the TV in our family room. I would just watch those literally over and over and over and over again. I had one of the rapid VHS rewinders to rewind it and watch it over again. I drove my babysitters crazy. It was really exciting to me.

The fact that he calls a remote control a “VHS rewinder” is adorable, but it wasn’t my favourite part of the interview. Jeff explains that Spencer (and his brother) were, from an early age, not necessarily involved in music, but around music – the studio, backstage, at rehearsals – not so that they would become musicians themselves, but just so they would know what their dad did for a living.

Spencer and Jeff looking delightfully wholesome. (image: pitchfork.com)

Speaking about his own father, Jeff says that, “My father worked on the railroad for 46 years, and I think I maybe went to the railroad one time and I never had a clear idea of what his day to day life was like or what his, what he did.”

This idea feels important to me, not just because Father’s Day is approaching, but because for parents working from home over the past year and a half, the line between our “professional” selves and our parenting selves has largely evaporated. At first this was problematic: what if my kid walks in during a zoom meeting? What if I have to excuse myself to deal with pee on the floor? What will my kids think of the way I speak with my colleagues?

Now though, at least in our household, it doesn’t seem like a problem anymore. Sure, I’d like the kids to be occupied while I’m working, but if they end up on camera for a moment, who cares? My colleagues know I have kids. My kids know I have colleagues.

I may not be starting a band with my kids any time soon, but I feel like they have a complete picture of who I am when I’m not with them, and that can only be good.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The opening bars have an indie-lofi-country quality that reminds me of the beginning of a song we featured by The Beta Band.

2. The vocals are doubled, but in unison rather than harmony, with one voice an octave above the other, which sounds kind of father-and-son-like.

3. It’s hard to listen without imagining them playing in their basement: one of them imagining he’s playing in front of an audience of thousands, the other perfectly content to watch his son play.

Recommended listening activity:

Thinking up the perfect joke to tell your dad the next time you talk to him.

Buy it here.

The post Week 579: “High as Hello” by Tweedy appeared first on Beautiful Song Of The Week.

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