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World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music
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If you know the movie High Fidelity, you know the line. John Cusack’s record store-owning character Rob Gordon is processing a recent breakup by re-organizing his vast LP collection. When his co-worker Dick stops by and sees the massive effort, he knows the arrangement is chronological or alphabetical, but – autobiographical. “…if I want to find the song “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, I have to remember that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 pile – but didn’t give it to them for personal reasons,” he says to Dick’s amazed delight.
Reading Jeff Tweedy’s newest book World Within a Song, one gets the sense that the Wilco frontman could easily pull a Rob Gordon-style record reorg of his own. In this collection of sonic deep dives and “Rememories,” as Tweedy refers to his life reflections, songs become a framing device for a memoir-of-sorts. Each song selected serves as a launch pad to a funny, poignant story. It’s an easy-going, enjoyable ride – and occasionally profound, especially in its encouragement to consciously think of songs in the same way. Or, to at least consider how others might think of them too.
Readers expecting note-by-note breakdowns or in-depth lyrical analysis from a world class songwriter might be a touch disappointed. But they won’t be for long, as Tweedy’s storytelling skills are as sharp as his songcraft. And, like a mix-tape made by a friend, there’s always another track (or fifty) on the way. If Tweedy delivered these kinds of tales during his solo sets, he could have another career as a Todd Snider-like rambling troubadour. As it stands, the book works perfectly, with standout tales lightly drawn from the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man’” and self-deprecating memories around “Who Loves the Sun” by The Velvet Underground.
In High Fidelity, after Rob’s autobiographical explanation, Dick replies, “That sounds…” “Comforting,” Rob finishes. And so too is World Within a Song – a reminder that everyone has their own connection to music. Their own memories and Rememories that are launched with each of their favorite (and sometimes not-so-favorite) tunes – their own worlds within songs. It’s a joy to read some of Jeff Tweedy’s here, and to think about one’s own.