Wilco-"Misunderstood" from "Being There"
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Published on Apr 26, 2012
Being There is the second album by Wilco. Released on October 29, 1996, the album was an improvement for the band in both sales and critical reception as compared with their first album, A.M..
Taking its name from the 1979 film Being There, the self-produced effort featured more surrealistic and introspective writing than their previous album. This was due in part to several significant changes in Tweedy's life, including the birth of his first child. Musically, it juxtaposed the alternative country styles songs reminiscent of Uncle Tupelo with psychedelic, surreal songs.
Wilco was formed in 1994 after creative differences between Tweedy and Jay Farrar caused the breakup of Uncle Tupelo. The band entered the recording studio almost immediately afterwards to record and release A.M. in 1995, which saw disappointing sales. Jay Farrar's new band Son Volt released Trace in late 1995 to critical praise and good sales numbers.
Tweedy felt that Wilco was incomplete without a second guitarist due to the departure of Brian Henneman after the A.M. recording sessions. Tweedy contacted Jay Bennett, a multi-instrumentalist who had been looking for a new band to join since his power pop band Titanic Love Affair had been dismissed from its record label. Tweedy was intrigued by the fact that Bennett could play keyboards, an instrument no other Wilco member was able to play.
The first conceptions of material for the album came during a particularly stressful time in Tweedy's life. Tweedy had recently quit smoking marijuana, attendance at Wilco concerts was dwindling, and Tweedy was trying to manage his marriage, a mortgage, and the birth of his first child.
For Being There, Tweedy wanted to blend the experiences he had making music with the ones he had listening to music. One of the first songs that Tweedy wrote was "Misunderstood", a song about a tortured musical artist from the point of view of a fan. The song contains several overt references to the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, including the addition of insults that Farrar used against Tweedy—specifically one calling him a "mama's boy". The song concludes with the artist lashing out against the listener with satirical self-pity, a rebellion against the way that fans saw Uncle Tupelo as only an archetype of Gram Parsons inspired country rock. To induce a feeling of chaos on the track, the members of Wilco recorded a track where the members switched to novel instruments and placed sections of it into the song. The theme of a "tortured artist" is found in other songs as well; the end of "Sunken Treasure" features Tweedy calling for the renewal of his youth as a punk rocker.
A dichotomy of musical styling was featured in the album's songs. "Hotel Arizona", "Sunken Treasure", and "Misunderstood" featured personal language and more surrealism compared to alternative country songs such as "The Lonely 1" and "Far, Far Away". Wilco sought to incorporate influences from other bands, but not to an overbearing degree; however, they were unable to accomplish this with songs like the Rolling Stones-influenced "Monday". Unlike radio-friendly A.M., the band had no preference about whether Being There could yield radio hits.
When the recording sessions were done, Wilco had originally recorded thirty songs, but were able to cut it down to nineteen songs covering a span of seventy-seven minutes. Tweedy decided that he wanted to release all of the material as a double CD, but was concerned that consumers would be reluctant to purchase it. To compensate for the financial loss that the label would take, Tweedy agreed to cut most of his royalties for the album. By 2003, it was estimated that he lost nearly $600,000 because of this, but Tweedy remained satisfied by the deal.
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