WILCO – ” A.M ” Released 28th March 1995

Posted: March 28, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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Wilco’s debut album, A.M., was released 20 years ago .

A.M. is the debut album of Chicago based alt-country rock band Wilco, released on March 28th, 1995. The album was released only months after the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, another alt-country band that was the predecessor of Wilco. Prior to the release of the album, there was debate about whether the album would be better than the debut album of Son Volt, the new band of former Uncle Tupelo lead singer Jay Farrar. Only days after the breakup, Tweedy had decided to form a new group. He was able to retain the lineup of Uncle Tupelo sans Farrar, and rechristened the new band as Wilco.

In mid-May, the band began to rehearse songs in the office of band manager Tony Margherita, and hired producer Brian Paulson, who produced Anodyne. Wilco first recorded demo tracks for the album at Easley studio in Memphis, Tennessee in June. Stirratt recommended the studio based on previous experience as a member of The Hilltops, and Jeff Tweedy had heard of the studio through a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion recording. Reprise Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, signed Jeff Tweedy after hearing the tapes, and recording for the album continued through August.

Although A.M. was released before Son Volt’s Trace, critical reviews were modest and initial sales were low. The album was later regarded as a “failure” by band members, as Trace became a greater commercial success. It was the band’s last album to be recorded in a purely alternative country style, as following the record the band began to expand their sound across multiple genres. It is also the only Wilco album to feature Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets as a lead guitarist. Recorded June–Autumn in 1994 . Brian Henneman had to leave the band shortly after recording the album, and was replaced by former Titanic Love Affair guitarist Jay Bennett. Jeff Tweedy also attempted to create a more collaborative environment than Uncle Tupelo, requesting songwriting contributions from other members. John Stirratt submitted three songs, hoping to become a secondary songwriter for Wilco. However, although the songs were recorded as demos, only one (“It’s Just That Simple”) was selected to appear on the album, and was the only Stirratt song to appear on any Wilco album.

The album’s title is intended to reference Top 40 radio stations, and the tracks reflect a straightforward country-rock sound. The band members felt that they needed to establish themselves outside of the Tupelo fanbase. However, Tweedy later stated that in actuality, they were “trying to tread some water with a perceived audience.” Tweedy wrote a song about the Uncle Tupelo breakup, but decided that he didn’t want any material on that subject matter to appear on the album (It can be argued, however, that first single “Box Full of Letters”, as well as “Too Far Apart” allude to the dissolution of Farrar and Tweedy’s friendship and working relationship.) Tweedy attributes some of the straightforwardness of the album to his use of marijuana at the time. Shortly after the album, Tweedy stopped smoking pot, to which he credits the introspectiveness of further albums.

Wilco began touring before the album was released. Their live debut was on November 27th , 1994 at Cicero’s Basement Bar in St. Louis, a venue where Uncle Tupelo had first received significant media attention. The band was billed for that concert as Black Shampoo, a reference to a 1970s B-movie, and the show sold out.  Wilco continued to tour for two hundred shows, culminating in show at the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas in March 1995. A.M. was released on Reprise Records on March 28th, 1995.

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