I’ve been on a bit of a documentary kick as of late, and am pretty much always on a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Kick.* And as you Wilco fans will know, YHF—arguably one of the most beautiful albums ever produced; seriously, it’s immaculate—caused quite a bit of tension during the process of its recording and after. The course of just one short year saw not only long-time drummer Ken Coomer fired mid-album and replaced by Glenn Kotche, but also the departure of song-writer and multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett, who left soon after YHF’s completion. Furthermore, the 2001 AOL-Time Warner merger soon lead to the sudden dismissal of Reprise Records president Howie Klein, triggering disagreements between the band and the new management over the album’s direction and sound.
Prior to its release, YHF was viewed by many in the industry (even those partial to the album) as a risk for Wilco. In fact, one source even suggested that Warner Brothers thought the album was so bad it would kill Wilco’s musical career. Luckily for all of us, Jeff Tweedy didn’t budge on YHF’s final form, and the rights to the album were eventually released free of cost from Reprise back to the band. After a bidding war involving myriad major and independent labels, YHF was eventually released in April of 2002 with Nonesuch, to critical acclaim nonetheless. Potentially “risky” as the album may have been for a well-known and reputable band like Wilco, this deviation from and deconstruction of the pre-established Wilco sound paid off in a major way. And as Jeff Tweedy said about the making of the songs on YHF:
“We generally go for a pretty straight definitive version of what the song sounds like it should be and then deconstruct it a little bit, and see if there’s some more exciting way to approach it. There’s no reason at all not to destroy. We made it, so it’s ours to destroy and that’s liberating and exciting in a really creative way.”
So for all you Wilco lovers out there, let’s unite in YHF adoration this Friday and watch this clip from the 2002 documentary about the making of the album, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart.
*Some of you suggested YHF as an essential album yet to get the 33 1/3 treatment in response to our post yesterday. NOT speaking on behalf of the series, I must say I personally 1000% agree.