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Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. by [Jeff Tweedy]
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Let's Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc. Kindle Edition

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Wildly entertaining… Breathtaking…Unforgettable…Tweedy's music has never shied away from darkness, but he's also never been afraid to celebrate joy. The same is true with this remarkable memoir—it's a wonderful book, alternately sorrowful and triumphant, and it's a gift not just to his fans, but to anyone who cares about American rock music.”
NPR.org

Let’s Go is especially enlightening, a rock’n’roll book that quietly dismantles what we expect from rock’n’roll books.”
Pitchfork

“Illuminating…a compelling portrait of an artist whose everyman nature proves to be anything but a front.”
—AV Club

"[Tweedy] succeeds in entertaining and oddly revealing ways, moving with shape-shifting ease from wry self-effacement to what he calls Midwestern sarcasm to naked confession.”
Chicago Tribune

“Laced with funny anecdotes… Readers might sometimes wonder at Tweedy’s lyrics, but in his playing, singing and writing, whether in solo efforts, in collaboration with Wilco or in his producing other artists, we know we have something to treasure.”
Associated Press

“In its willingness to probe the most vulnerable periods in his past, though, [Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)] is of a piece with Tweedy’s revered songwriting.” 
—Vanity Fair

Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) reads more like a collection of humorously confessional essays by David Sedaris than a conventional rock memoir.”
Uproxx

"Engaging and self-questioning."
—The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The Wilco front man has just written one of the best and most revealing memoirs in years...Let’s Go is a warts-and-all addiction memoir, but luckily it is much more than that, too. It’s also a genuinely moving ode to his wife and two sons (one of whom, Spencer, is the drummer in his side project Tweedy), and an impassioned and often quite funny firsthand account of a music geek’s coming of age.”
The Ringer

“Though Tweedy’s lyrics tend to be oblique, his new memoir is anything but."
—Men’s Journal

“We already knew Jeff Tweedy could write…We didn’t know Tweedy could write an entire book, and do it really well. But with the arrival of his new memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), out last week, it’s clear Tweedy is just as adept at writing nonfiction as he is songs. Let’s Go is a dry-witted examination of Tweedy’s personal life and career so enjoyable even the most casual of fans will be hooked.”
Paste

“By turns self-deprecating, sincere, hilarious, and harrowing.”
The Boston Globe

"A funny and candid addition to the rock-memoir genre”.
Newsweek

“Funny and frank.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“Engaging and self-questioning.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“A memoir every bit as openhearted and captivating as [Tweedy’s] best songwriting...Even the most difficult events in this page-turner are edged with humor and the hindsight of someone looking back from a better place. Though stories of contemporary musicians occupy a crowded field, this one’s a cut above the rest. Tweedy proves himself delightful company, and, as with his music, readers will hear this resonating long after they’ve finished.” 
—Library Journal (starred review)

“Tweedy writes movingly about his parents, his wife and children, and his desire to find an artistic home for his band. Thoughtful, earnest reflections on family, creative integrity, and a life in music.”
Kirkus

“Tweedy will delight fans by sharing such tidbits as his favorite moment in the Wilco documentary and how a Noah’s Ark analogy powered the Grammy-winning A Ghost Is Born album. Tweedy tells a wonderfully unassuming story of a music-filled life.
—Publishers Weekly

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

The World's Longest Main Street

I grew up in a place called Belleville, a town of about forty thousand in Southern Illinois, a half-hour drive outside of St. Louis. It's the "stove capital of the world," or at least it was at the turn of the century. That's what we were told, anyway. It's also the home of Jimmy Connors and Buddy Ebsen (Uncle Jed from The Beverly Hillbillies), and when I was growing up they made Stag Beer there. So as you can imagine, my childhood was pretty magical.

In reality it was pretty depressing. Depressing and depressed in all of the familiar ways common to dying midwestern manufacturing hubs: a lot of old empty buildings and a lot of occupied barstools. The things that made our town unique and special were hard to get super excited about. Belleville has (purportedly) the longest Main Street in the U.S., spanning 9.2 miles and ending somewhere around East St. Louis. One stretch of road and so many opportunities to get loaded and almost zero chance of getting lost. I don't know how many bars were on Main Street, but there must've been a lot, because Belleville's other claim to fame was having the most taverns per capita. I found out later that wasn't true, which was kind of a relief, because it never felt like something worth bragging about. As if day drinking was a commodity we could have exported and sold to the rest of the world.

I lived just a half block off the Main Street with too many bars, on a tree-lined street with a name like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting: Fortieth. Our small single-family wood-framed house with a porch and a swing ended up being the last home my folks would ever own after my mother impulsively paid $16,000 for it at an auction in the early spring of 1967. Apparently she knew she was pregnant with me but hadn't told my dad. I was the card up her proverbial sleeve to ease his expected top-blowing at her fiscal irresponsibility. The previous owner had died in that house, which creeped me out as a kid, and as it turned out both of my parents ended up dying there as well. So everyone who ever owned the house I grew up in died there.

Which is, I think, the main reason my siblings and I weren't overly sentimental about hanging on to it after we buried my dad in 2017. Aside from all of that backstory, the place was fairly nondescript. The one word I think would be most useful in setting the scene of my childhood? Mauve. There was a lot of mauve. Mauve carpets, mauve wallpaper, mauve furniture. Everything was mauve. Think of a smaller me, and then picture the color mauve, and you've conjured my childhood in a nutshell.

I'm not sure if my parents intended to have me. I've heard different accounts. The popular story is that I was an accident. Regardless, I was late to the family party. My older sister, Debbie, who's fifteen years my senior, was born when my dad was just eighteen. They had two more kids, Steve and Greg, and by the time I showed up, my dad was in his midthirties, an age that most men of his generation considered well past prime baby-making years. My dad changed his story over time. He once told me, "I remember your mother called me at work and said, 'I want another one,' and I was home before she hung up the phone." I don't know if that's true. He always told that version with at least a six-pack under his belt, so I can't vouch for its veracity. It's possible he was trying to spare my feelings. Who wants to be an accident? That's a hard way to come into the world, created just because the responsible parties weren't paying attention. On the other hand, aren't we all accidents? Sorry, moving on . . .

My dad-his name was Bob, but for the purposes of this narrative, let's stick with Dad-worked on the railroad (yes, all the livelong day). He dropped out of high school after he got my mom pregnant when she was fifteen and got a job as a diesel mechanic for the Alton and Southern Railway. In the early 1960s, some higher-up figured out that Dad was way smarter than his lack of a high school diploma would indicate, so they sent him to Arizona to study computers and learn how to program with punch cards, and eventually he got promoted to superintendent of the switching yard. That's almost the extent of what I know about what my dad did all day. I only went down to the railroad to see him once, as far as I can remember. I never had much curiosity about his job. For his part, he didn't seem that curious about me, either, and I never felt much pressure from him to care about trains. Which is odd, because what kid doesn't like trains?

However, my dad did have a record I was fascinated by, Sounds of Steam Locomotives. It was a collection of recordings of train engines. That's all it was; the rhythmic clanging of steel wheels on steel tracks, the heavy chuff of heated steam being pushed through a locomotive's smokestack, a train's moaning whistle that always sounded to me like voices. It was a weird record, even more so because it was owned by my dad, who spent the vast majority of his waking hours around trains. Wouldn't that be the last thing he'd want to hear after coming home? Was there a time before I was born when, after work, he would sit with a beer next to the hi-fi, listening to tracks like "2-8-2 No. 2599, Chicago Northwestern" and "4-8-4 No. 801, Union Pacific" and nodding along like they were pop songs?

I guess when I think back on it, it makes total sense how I developed a fondness for almost any recorded sound. Maybe indirectly (because my dad and I never openly discussed it), I learned from him how you could find music in just about anything.

 

I wasn't an only child, but I grew up like one. Since my sister and brothers were so much older, most of the time it was just my parents and me. My dad was on call at the railroad twenty-four hours a day, so he'd always be gone or in bed early. It got pretty lonely in my house growing up.

Most nights I'd stay close to my mother, who was born JoAnn Werkmeister, as she watched TV and smoked cigarettes on the couch. It was the best she could do. She'd been a mother for so much of her life that by the time I came around, she'd kind of given up on parenting. Well, maybe not given up, but she wasn't interested in being an authority figure. I wasn't given a lot of boundaries or rules. I didn't have a bedtime. If I made it to bed at all, it was usually my decision.

She was a night owl-she took occasional naps throughout the day, like a house cat-so she always stayed up late, and she'd let me stay up with her. We'd watch Johnny Carson, and then later, on channel 4's late-night Bijou Picture Show-the Turner Classic Movies of its day-old movies my mom would tell me she'd seen in theaters when they were brand-new. She adored Judy Garland, so I especially have memories of watching movies like Presenting Lily Mars, Meet Me in St. Louis, For Me and My Gal, Strike Up the Band, Babes in Arms with her. Sometimes I'd drift off-it's hard to stay awake at 3:00 a.m. when you're a little kid-and sometimes she'd fall asleep. With a lit cigarette still dangling in her mouth. I'd watch mesmerized as it slowly burned down to the filter and hold my breath in suspense as an ash the length of an entire cigarette would somehow balance itself against her breathing for whole minutes before plopping onto the lap of her robe. That might sound like really irresponsible and dangerous parenting, I know, but it's a memory that evokes nothing but warm feelings for me. The smell of the cigarettes and the black-and-white TV flickering in the dark, the only sounds being Judy Garland's familiar voice-"Psychologically, I'm very confused, but personally I feel just wonderful"-and my mom's gentle breathing nearby. I never felt so content.

Almost every night we'd wake up my dad, who was trying to sleep in the next room. We had a small house, so the master bedroom was inconveniently located right next to the living room. There was just a wall-not even a particularly thick wall-separating him and whatever we were blaring on the TV.

He'd burst out of the bedroom in his saggy white briefs and start screaming, "Goddammit, shut this place down, JoAnn!"

"Go back to bed, Bob!" she'd scream right back at him.

"Do you know what time it is? It's two o'clock in the goddamn morning! I have to be up before you even know what day it is!"

He'd slam the door shut and my mom would light another cigarette. "Mom," I'd whisper, trying to be conciliatory. "Maybe the TV is a little bit loud."

"Don't let him tell you what to do," she'd say.

I'd turn the volume down anyway, at least until we heard snoring coming from the next room and we knew he was asleep again, and then the volume would go right back up. It was a nightly battle of wills, and my mother always won.

I tried to be the arbitrator between my parents, the neutral voice of reason, but they both knew I was on her side. My mom was very permissive with me about a lot of things, because she was more interested in having me as a friend and an ally than being my parent. We were a unified front against an unfair and unreasonable world (i.e., my dad and his demands for a quiet home after midnight). She took great strides to keep me by her side. If I ever said, "I'm lonely," she wouldn't suggest something rational like "Why don't you call that kid who lives down the block and go play with him?" She'd teach me how to play solitaire. That was her solution to my loneliness. "Here, I'll get you some cards." Because she wanted me there.

My parents did the best they could without a lot of role models in terms of making good boundaries and healthy decisions for their children. My mom's dad, the cabbie/pimp and career alcoholic, left emotional scars she never outgrew. When she was nine years old, she got a pair of pink cowboy boots for her birthday. It was the only gift she'd asked for, and for a girl not accustomed to getting what she wanted, it was a glorious surprise. She couldn't remember herself ever being that happy. But then she went outside to play, still wearing the boots, and she got hit by a car. It was pretty horrific. They took her to the hospital, and she was so severely injured that they had to cut her brand-new pink cowboy boots off her body. She ended up being in traction for more than a month. Her dad only came to visit her once that entire time, drunk and causing such an awful scene that he had to be forcibly removed by the police.

It's hard for me to even imagine my mom at that age, feeling the world fall apart all around her. Barely nine years old, run over by a car, with her cherished pink cowboy boots destroyed, and then her dad finally shows up for a visit, weeks later, wasted, and has to be dragged from her room, kicking and screaming, "I'm here to see my little girl. Let go of me, you cocksuckers!" It's just sadness piled on top of more sadness.

I felt bad for my mom and dad. Not at the time. At the time, I felt closer to my mom, I needed her more, and I loved that I was her confidant and best friend. I was the uncontested oedipal victor, a psychiatrist once told me. I really didn't like the sound of that. It was only later, when I was old enough to think about their relationship, that I could recognize how my father could legitimately claim he was being treated unfairly. He was getting up at four o'clock in the morning, sometimes earlier, to drive down to the railroad and work a twelve-hour shift. On top of that, he was always on call. The phone could ring at any hour of the night or day and he would be expected to deliver himself to the railroad's needs above all other concerns. It wasn't easy for him to get eight hours of rest even without us almost intentionally ruining whatever sleep he could manage. There's no reason we couldn't have watched TV in the kitchen or even gone to bed ourselves. But Mom wasn't interested.

"Turn that shit down!" he'd scream from behind the bedroom wall.

"Put a pillow over your head," my mom would shout back, and we'd both giggle like preteen bullies.

I think my dad genuinely loved my mom. And she loved him, too, but maybe not as much. When I was a kid, I thought that she wasn't getting what she needed emotionally from him. But in hindsight, it was probably the other way around. It was my dad who had no chance. She wasn't going to trust a man with her happiness. Not after her father made it so abundantly clear what could happen when you trusted a man. She trusted me, but I was her perennial baby, fostered to be her bringer of happiness. But with her husband, they were roommates, at best. She wasn't going to leave him, but she wasn't going to let him get too close, either.

 

While I was never groomed for the railroad, my brothers did end up going into the family business. Greg was in track maintenance, and Steve was a brakeman. I also had several uncles and cousins who worked on the railroad. Anytime I would express an openness to the idea of working around trains, my mother would say firmly, 'You're never going to go work on the goddamn railroad.' She was hell-bent against it. I don't know if she just wanted better for me, or if she worried it was too dangerous. I never quite figured out why it was okay for my brothers but not for me. Maybe it wasnÕt, but she knew she had already lost those battles and wasnÕt focusing on their futures anymore. Just mine.

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

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Top international reviews

Brenda Vendor
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 2, 2019
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manderley7
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Tweedy Fans
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 5, 2018
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B. GRANT-DAVIE
5.0 out of 5 stars Delivered promptly and in good condition. Thank you
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Farnedi Enrico
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaing reading, not to deep on the subjects
Reviewed in Italy on April 28, 2019
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4.0 out of 5 stars In one sitting!
Reviewed in Canada on November 18, 2018
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Yeldnah
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest above all
Reviewed in Spain on February 23, 2020
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Tom O'Neill
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book by a great songwriter.
Reviewed in Canada on April 18, 2019
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Nannabijou
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read. Loved it.
Reviewed in Canada on March 26, 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Reviewed in Canada on August 5, 2019
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René P.
5.0 out of 5 stars Para fans de Wilco y la música
Reviewed in Mexico on April 29, 2020
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B. Buchanan
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and insightful
Reviewed in Canada on February 19, 2019
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Valzee
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this one if you love music.
Reviewed in Canada on December 2, 2018
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K j carr
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, insightful, great read.
Reviewed in Australia on June 14, 2019
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thatamericanguy
5.0 out of 5 stars I am a fan
Reviewed in Germany on December 19, 2018
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Cliente Amazon
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Reviewed in Spain on December 12, 2019
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