For The Sake Of The Song: Wilco “What’s The World Got In Store”

This beautiful song comes from Wilco’s wonderful second album ‘Being There’, released in 1996. This double album was named after the 1979 satirical comedy film where a simple gardener, played by Peter Sellers, somehow becomes a national political celebrity. Wilco had been formed in 1994 by Jeff Tweedy after alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo had split acrimoniously due to a falling out between Tweedy and fellow bandmate Jay Farrar, who went on to form Son Volt.

The album was produced at a particularly stressful time for Tweedy. He had quit smoking marijuana and had become a father for the first time. Now he had the responsibility of raising a family; a contrast to his earlier free and single years where had started as a bass player in a punk band before forming Uncle Tupelo. In addition, Wilco’s first album, ‘A.M.’ had not had the critical success or sales of Son Volt’s ‘Trace’ and Farrar had been publicly insulting to Tweedy.

In 1998 Wilco teamed up with Billy Bragg to put some Woody Guthrie lyrics to music, making the ‘Mermaid Avenue’ album. I was a huge fan of Billy and absolutely loved this album and also the ‘Rough Guide To Americana’ CD which I stumbled upon in an Oxfam shop. I started to investigate americana, buying some Wilco albums, including ‘Being There’. The album is a great mixture of various styles, such as power-pop and psychedelia, but ‘What’s The World Got In Store’ goes back to the alt-country of Uncle Tupelo with, for example, some gentle picking of what sounds like a banjo.

This all coincided with, like Tweedy, the birth of my first child; a momentous time where I wondered what the world had in store for him and hoped he would be lucky in life. Although Tweedy is apparently addressing an exhausted partner, perhaps his wife, rather than a child, the line in the chorus exactly mirrored my thoughts and so was very powerful to me. The song will always remind me of my son and his birth and so is very special to me. It would be one of my Desert Island Discs.

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