Uncut Editor's Diary

Picking A Fight With Jeff Tweedy

Allan Jones

“I can’t for the life of me understand how 50-year-old rock critics can pretend to like Babyshambles,” thunders Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy in the current issue of Uncut.

“It just drives me nuts,” he goes on, building up a fairly impressive head of indignant steam. “I’m like: ‘How can you pretend to like that? What the fuck, are you serious?’ There’s now way,” he continues, not done yet. “You can’t – you have to be young. You have to be that age to do that, because you should know better by now?”

Hey, really, Jeff? Well, thanks for sharing that with us.

I don’t want to sound too sensitive here, and I’m absolutely sure Jeff doesn’t keep such close tabs on stuff I write to know how much Babyshambles mean to me – even at my advanced age, decrepitude and drool obviously now a messy part of my life as the sun sinks on what’s left of it – so perhaps I should also be careful about taking any of this personally.

But what Jeff has to say – them’s fighting words, man.

Over the last 14 months or so, I’ve seen Pete solo and Babyshambles in full-on band mode maybe 10 times, or almost once a month and I haven’t had to PRETEND on a single occasion that I’ve enjoyed them, I just have. So, yes, I guess I must be fucking serious about them.

And I don’t listen to the staggeringly misrepresented Down In Albion or go to see them as often as I can in some ghastly attempt to recapture some fading aspect of youth, my own or anybody else’s. I listen to them because this is the kind of rock’n’roll I’ve always loved – rowdy, lyrical, ramshackle, euphoric, heartbreaking, brutal, beautiful, every so often unhinged, troubled, redemptive and always exciting and unpredictable.

I have tons of time for Tweedy and the music he makes with Wilco, hence their serial appearances in Uncut where they have a lot of fans. But I’d have to say that great Babyshambles tracks like “Fuck Forever”, “Pipedown”, “Killamangiro”, “Eight Dead Boys”, “What Katie Did Next”, “Loyalty Song”, “Up The Morning” and “Merry Go Round” mean as much – probably more – to me than anything Wilco have done. And live, Babyshambles are increasingly amazing, inciting scenes of joyous rapture perhaps alien to Jeff, whose audience generally tend to be a bit more on the chin-stroking side, a lot less combustible than the rabid hordes who adore Pete and let him know it, loudly.

What would Jeff prefer people like me – the mature Pete fan, that is, and there are a lot of us – to listen to? Would he think it more decorous if I meekly succumbed to the exasperating worthiness of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible instead of the noisy exhilaration of Down In Albion or the biting clatter, for instance, of Favourite Worst Nightmare, The Arctic Monkeys presumably also being off limits?

It’s not going to fucking happen, Jeff. Don’t even think about it.


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