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17 Years Ago: Wilco’s ‘Being There’ Album Released

Reprise Records

After Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar each released albums with their new groups in 1995 following the breakup of their band Uncle Tupelo the previous year, it looked like Farrar’s Son Volt would be the one people would be talking about 10 years later. ‘Trace’ was an instant alt-country classic; Wilco’s ‘A.M.’ mostly sounded like leftovers from Tweedy’s Tupelo days.

But within two years, that all changed. Farrar continued to release albums of increasingly moldy folk and twang music. Tweedy, on the other hand, reinvented Wilco as one of the most exciting and experimental bands of the past 15 years. And it all started with ‘Being There,’ which celebrates its 17th anniversary today.

A double-record opus that plays like a mini-history of rock ‘n’ roll, ‘Being There’ is Wilco’s most upfront rock album. Its six-and-a-half-minute slow-building opener, ‘Misunderstood,’ sounds nothing like the music Tweedy made in Uncle Tupelo or on ‘A.M.’ It’s big, it’s bold and it’s Tweedy’s first giant step away from his past.

Over 19 songs, Wilco played around with everything from psychedelic freak-outs to power-pop to forward-thinking indie rock. Freed from alt-country’s constraints, and aided by multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett (who had recently joined the band and helped steer it through its most evolutionary period before being fired in 2001), Tweedy made his most personal album. And with the guitar-driven ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind), Wilco even managed some airplay. But more than anything, the success of ‘Being There’ — a mix of live-band dynamic and studio tricks — opened the door to the kaleidoscopic pop of ‘Summerteeth’ and their 2002 masterpiece ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.’

 Watch Wilco’s ‘Outtasite (Outta Mind)’ Video

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