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Mavis Staples, Nick Lowe, and Wilco - "The Weight"
January 11, 2012 1:52 PM   Subscribe

Wilco, Nick Lowe, and Mavis Staples rehearse "The Weight" backstage at the Civic Opera House in Chicago in December 2011.
posted by nadawi (69 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is FANTASTIC.
posted by radiosilents at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2012


That was great. I'm glad no one's cell phone rang.
posted by dortmunder at 2:01 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nice find, excellent post, thanks.
posted by Daddy-O at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2012


I just happened to see this yesterday, after watching It Might Get Loud and looking for more covers of The Weight afterwards. So, so incredible.
posted by penduluum at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome. Good enough to almost wash my brain clean of the wrong chord that White, Page, and Edge keep playing at the end of It Might Get Loud.
posted by The World Famous at 2:07 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nick Lowe looks so uncomfortable; this is just not his kind of music. Clearly he's staring at a lyrics sheet. Totally out of his element. BUT STILL GREAT! 'CAUSE HE's NICK LOWE PEOPLE!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome. So awesome.

Here's some more Wilco covers and collabs. I was considering doing a post, but will just insert some of them here:

Covers
Thirteen (Big Star)
I wanna Be Sedated (Ramones)
Yesterday (Paul)
I'm Only Sleeping (John)
Any Major Dude Will Tell You (Steely Dan)
Broken Arrow (Neil Young)
I Shall Be Released (Dylan)

Collabs

I Shall Be Released with Fleet Foxes
I Shall be Released with Neil Young
You & I with Feist
Jesus Etc with Andrew Bird
Cruel to be Kind with (the great great) Nick Lowe
You Are Not Alone with Mavis Staples

etc and so on.

They do a great cover of "King of Carrot Flowers" but I can no longer find a good link. Anyone?
posted by holdkris99 at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Gorgeous and heartwarming. People so simply happy doing something worthwhile. Pretty much a vision of paradise.

I will now brag and mention that my dad was in Nick Lowe's band at school. In your collective face, Basherphiles!
posted by howfar at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


thanks holdkriss99! i waffled back and forth about making it a links heavy post, either wilco covers or covers of "the weight" but decided to just post the link and hope the thread filled up with other great stuff.
posted by nadawi at 2:15 PM on January 11, 2012


I saw Nick Lowe open for Wilco in Dallas a couple of months back. I was not too familiar with his work, though new a few of his songs through covers and he was just incredible. So down to earth and pleasant and his voice was just disarming. It was just him and a guitar. Very sublime.
posted by holdkris99 at 2:16 PM on January 11, 2012


Damn you, Auto-Tune. *This* is how it's really, truly done.

Thanks, nadawi!
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's all fun and games until Jeff Tweedy fires every last one of them.
posted by Think_Long at 2:17 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Excellent!

Just for reference, the best version of The Weight ever included Mavis, Pops and all the Staples.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:19 PM on January 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


The little handflingy thing Mavis does at the end makes me want her to be my favorite aunt or something.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Lovely, thanks!
posted by carter at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2012


I would only watch this tape because of Nick Lowe. But he doesn't appear to be playing any instrument, and wasn't really singing. I barely saw his lips move and I sure couldn't hear him.

I don't know why Lowe would lower himself to being on the same stage with Wilco. He doesn't need them. He doesn't need anyone. His recent solo work is the culmination of a great career.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:22 PM on January 11, 2012


I don't know why Lowe would lower himself to being on the same stage with Wilco.

Why would you bring sneeriness in here, man? This thread is a great mellow hangout. Thanks for the link, and smile.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


- Wilco and Lowe, + Andrew Bird.
posted by Iridic at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2012


Wilco covered 'I Love My Label', is why Lowe is playing with them. He's done guest appearances at a few shows recently.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2012


Mavis Staples never fails to send chills up my spine. She's incredible.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


These are all great, but I just can't get past "not as good as Levon Helm".

The Weight
Ophelia
posted by Meatbomb at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know why Lowe would lower himself to being on the same stage with Wilco

Well in Dallas he seemed to honored to be opening for them. They covered his song I Love My Label when they started there on label as the B-side to their first single. I have also heard Lowe in an interview talk about how much he admires Wilco and enjoys their music. I am a Wilco fan (obviously) but am I wrong to believe that they are respected in the music industry by their peers and by those who influenced them?
posted by holdkris99 at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2012


I believe this may have supplanted my previous favorite cover of The Weight, by Cassandra Wilson.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:29 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mavis Staples never fails to send chills up my spine. She's incredible.

Interesting. The old stuff I've heard is really very nice. But listening to her now I can't help thinking that the voice is a total wreck.* And she doesn't do a kind of singing (IMO) that does very well when one's voice is a total wreck. It's always a bit disappointing to me when singers where a big part of the reason I enjoy them is the distinctiveness of the sound continue to perform after the instrument goes off the rails.



* Not that I would expect any 72 year old who had put that much wear and tear on the voice instrument to a voice that wasn't a wreck.
posted by slkinsey at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2012


am I wrong to believe that they are respected in the music industry by their peers and by those who influenced them?

You're not, but it's probably not cool to like Wilco among those people who know about such things. I notice that, since I lapsed into blissful ignorance of what the self-appointed cognoscenti consider hip, I haven't enjoyed listening to music any less. Wonder why.
posted by howfar at 2:34 PM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, I am aware of their cover of I Love My Label. I can't stand it. It's so overproduced and overwrought, it represents everything Nick Lowe was satirizing in the original. And alas, Wilco doesn't seem to be self-aware enough to have done this intentionally, or even aware they were doing this.

So go listen to the original. I remember buying this on the Stiff Records compilation back in 1977, it wasn't available on any other Lowe recordings, ever.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:38 PM on January 11, 2012


But listening to her now I can't help thinking that the voice is a total wreck.

Yeah, the quality of her voice isn't what it used to be, but I still think her interpretation is fantastic. Her voice doesn't have the clarity or flexibility that it used to, but she knows how to use it for emotional and dramatic effect.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


That cover can't be why then, as your greater knowledge has shown. I tell you what, next time my dad talks to Nick, I'll get him to ask for you.
posted by howfar at 2:40 PM on January 11, 2012


I love Mavis (...and Wilco... and Nick Lowe) I don't mean to give you any grief for posting this terrific little video.

I have to ask, though... you do know that Mavis sings this song with positively everybody, right? And that's she's always this good? Every six months for the rest of Mavis's life, you can expect another YouTube video of her doing an outstanding version of this song with someone else. Billy Bragg, The Decemberists, Elvis Costello, Arcade Fire... those are all on the first page of results.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Trivial, yes, but: That bass player is playing on the first bass I ever owned c. '72. It is because of that sweet bottom-end tone that you love this clip.
posted by hal9k at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2012


Labour of Lust is one of the all-time great records. Nick and his band (the incomparable Rockpile) make it sound so EASY.
posted by blue t-shirt at 2:54 PM on January 11, 2012


It's a crime we've not yet mentioned Dave Edmunds, Lowe's bandmate/rival/nemesis.
posted by Iridic at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Her version might not be the definitive best, but listening to Aretha sing "The Weight" is nonetheless a transporting experience, because Ms. Franklin had basically godlike qualities at the height of her prowess.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 3:12 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The best version of The Weight is the original.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:24 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Nick Lowe does a pretty decent cover of the that cool Wilco song (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.
posted by barrett caulk at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


"The best version of The Weight is the original."

So glad I wasn't the only person thinking this. It took me a few years to appreciate the version that Scorsese filmed with the Staples for The Last Waltz. But man, nothing beats hearing The Band perform it themselves.
posted by newfers at 3:28 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The best version of The Weight is the one that causes you to belt out the chorus at the top of your lungs while cruising down a lonely stretch of highway with your dearest friends in an old station wagon.

True story.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:36 PM on January 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


So, so true. So true. Good times!
posted by newfers at 3:41 PM on January 11, 2012


I'm a little curious how the sound was recorded because this sounds better than I would expect for being recorded in a little room like that. Thanks for the link.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:50 PM on January 11, 2012


Album of the week? Nick Lowe's Jesus of Cool
posted by John Shaft at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2012




I'm a sucker for this song, and this was a good version. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 4:00 PM on January 11, 2012


The original, at Woodstock.
posted by newfers at 4:07 PM on January 11, 2012


This is my favorite karaoke song, and if you are within 20' of me chances are you will have a microphone thrust in your face at some point during the song. (Of course someone will counter that they'll shove it back in my face or some such idiocy, but trust me - you know the words, the crowd is in a frenzy, and when you get your chance to be the first 'and' - you take it!) I've noticed kids often love the song once they see how everyone gets a chance to participate.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 4:16 PM on January 11, 2012


More people saw the rehearsal than the show.
posted by stbalbach at 4:20 PM on January 11, 2012


Mavis and family at a couple of career heights (things really start cooking at 3:00 in the third link).

As spectacular as Mavis is, the whole of the Staple Singers truly is greater than the sum of the considerable parts. Pops was a pioneering guitarist and songwriter, and their combined voices are, for me, the best of High Lonesome.
posted by Currer Belfry at 4:28 PM on January 11, 2012


"Hey guys, let's immobilize Nels Cline with bubble wrap and duct tape to prevent him from doing anything even vaguely interesting!" -- Jeff Tweedy, every morning of his goddamn life

"Mmph! Mmph! Where's my whisk?! Feedback! Needs.... more..... noise.... Mmph! Mmmmmmmmmpppphhhhhffff!" -- Nels Cline, every goddamn day since he joined Wilco
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:37 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just for reference, the best version of The Weight ever included Mavis, Pops and all the Staples.

I love how unornamented Pop sings his verse.
posted by Trochanter at 4:40 PM on January 11, 2012


Very nice, many thanks for this.
posted by benjonson at 4:44 PM on January 11, 2012


Her version might not be the definitive best, but listening to Aretha sing "The Weight" is nonetheless a transporting experience, because Ms. Franklin had basically godlike qualities at the height of her prowess.

Excuse me? Yes, it might! (In spite of Christgau's awesomely backhanded remark about it in his dismissive review of This Girl's in Love With You: "I admit that when she sings "The Weight" it sounds as if she knows what it means. But I still don't.")

The cover in this post, though, is for old people - it just is, I am sorry - and it's probably mostly Wilco's fault, even though they're the youngest ones in the room. Mavis is a treasure, and I prefer to think of her in sexier times. I mean, her voiiiiiiice there. (Plus, William fucking Bell.)
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:20 PM on January 11, 2012


holdkriss99 already mentioned it but I saw them perform Broken Arrow by Buffalo Springfield a few years ago. They performed it with the "take me out to the ballgame" style organ break in the middle.
posted by sngbk at 5:31 PM on January 11, 2012


Because of my mother's love of albums of.country singers covering non-country songs, the first version of The Weight I hard was off "Rhythm, Country, and Blues" and was sung by The Staple Singers and Marty Stuart. In retrospect, that's kind of weird.

The B.B. King/George Jones version of "Patches" off that same album is better than the original, but B.B. King and George Jones could probably do my job better than me, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:17 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


BitterOldPunk, oh yeah, totally not interesting at all.
posted by saul wright at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


So awesome.
posted by kdern at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2012


"Hey guys, let's immobilize Nels Cline with bubble wrap and duct tape to prevent him from doing anything even vaguely interesting!"

This is an apt criticism. "Art of Almost" the opening track on the new album really lets him show off his range and in live shows that song and "Impossible Germany" cut him loose. I was surprised when he joined and surprised that he is still in Wilco, but I am glad he is.
posted by holdkris99 at 6:51 PM on January 11, 2012


holdkris99 has the wrong link for You are not alone, here's the correct one.
Mavis Staples + Jeff Tweedy - You Are Not Alone

Also, here's the opener to the concert at the Civic Opera House Wilco - One Sunday Morning
posted by borkencode at 6:58 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"One Sunday Morning" is just tremendous. A 12-minute epic that just flies by.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:07 PM on January 11, 2012


Fantastic. Thanks.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:36 PM on January 11, 2012


The concert that this was a rehearsal for can be listened to in full on Wilco's site. The in-concert version of "The Weight" is nowhere near as good -- complete with Nick Lowe botching one of his lines (though, to his credit, covering for it fairly well).
posted by me3dia at 8:49 PM on January 11, 2012


Wilco is the best cover band (I mean like, my all-time favorite band to listen to playing music not written by them) but Lord help me I cannot get into their 'original' stuff.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:08 AM on January 12, 2012


Yes, I am aware of their cover of I Love My Label. I can't stand it. It's so overproduced and overwrought, it represents everything Nick Lowe was satirizing in the original. And alas, Wilco doesn't seem to be self-aware enough to have done this intentionally, or even aware they were doing this.

I haven't heard the original (and I'm at work at the moment), so can't compare the music. But worth remembering that Wilco just set up their own label (ILML was the B-side of their first self-released single). And that they were dropped by their label when they turned in the demos for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, so they put the demos on the net, got great reviews, and were ultimately signed by another label from the same group as the one that had ditched them. So to my ears, Wilco's version of the song is simultaneously an attack on their old label, in the spirit of the original, and an expression of joy at the freedom that they now have.

And looking at the lyrics: "They always ask for lots of songs but no more than 2:50 long so I write 'em some" is particularly appropriate given that the last Wilco album has a 12 minute and a 7 minute song (and given earlier demands for the band to write hit singles).

Fair enough if you don't like the sound, obviously, but I think there's a lot more intelligence in their version than you give them credit for :)
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:27 AM on January 12, 2012


Just for reference, the best version of The Weight ever included Mavis, Pops and all the Staples.

It's funny... the fact that it's filmed without an audience, and just sort of out of nowhere inserted into the middle of The Last Waltz *should* be a low-point given that it's a concert movie, but it totally, totally works. I feel like Rick Danko's "Crazy Chester" verse is really a big part of it.

There are a few happy accidents like that in the film. The big one was that Mannish Boy was captured by one camera and one camera only because they were changing film on all the others. But that just allows the viewer to focus on Muddy Waters, and man, it's awesome.

If anyone is enjoying the music in this thread and hasn't seen The Last Waltz, drop what you're doing and watch it right now.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:56 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of my all time favorite songs and my two favorite bands, what a great paring. I was surprised how much mention this got in the internet. As soon as this show was available live on the Wilco site, I was reading about the Weight cover.

Speaking of Wilco covers, I was working with Will Ferrell right around the time Wilco was doing this (direct link to a 5mb mp3 of Wilco doing "Don't Fear The Reaper" as a closer for some shows. They contacted him to do "more cow bell" on a show, regrettably he was not available, because otherwise he said he would have loved to.

H
posted by silsurf at 8:16 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love how unornamented Pop sings his verse.

Yes. It's like the definition of mellow-cool, and I love it.

Also, it's funny to me how Mavis kinda sings the song the same way every time...I by no means mean that in a negative way, but I've seen The Last Waltz approximately 80 billion times, and her inflections on some of the lyrics were very recognizable here, 35+ years later.

Also also, The Weight is the greatest rock and roll song / greatest song about rock and roll ever written, by possibly the greatest rock and roll band ever assembled. I am not biased.
posted by zap rowsdower at 8:23 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should also mention that Levon Helm's autobiography, "This Wheel's on Fire," is worth reading. Interesting stuff about his childhood, but the sections about putting The Band together and specifically putting The Last Waltz together are really neat, and give a whole lot of context to what made it into the movie and what didn't, as well as explanations for a lot of the camera weirdness that SpiffyRob mentioned.
posted by zap rowsdower at 8:31 AM on January 12, 2012


"Nick Lowe" is an anagram of "Ken Wilco", so, uh, there you go.
posted by dfan at 9:15 AM on January 12, 2012


This version sometimes comes to mind when I think about the song :
The Weight as a singalong on SNL
posted by newfers at 3:44 AM on January 13, 2012


That's one of the few recurring SNL sketches I can actually stomach, but I'm glad they don't whip it out more than a few times every year. Definitely not as good without Will Forte, though.

As to the original video, I've found myself watching it quite a bit since it was posted. It's really, really cool to see musicians performing for an audience that's, for all intents and purposes, really just themselves. Not to bring everything back to The Last Waltz, but I've always loved the clip of Robertson, Danko and Manuel playing Old Time Religion while sitting backstage. Danko is clearly just HAMMERED, but they are having such a good time summoning this song from the dregs of their soul. It's really wonderful. And the segue into The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down really provides wonderful contrast. Levon Helm is such a monster.
posted by SpiffyRob at 6:24 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If anyone is enjoying the music in this thread and hasn't seen The Last Waltz, drop what you're doing and watch it right now.

I'm at work, could you write a note to my boss, because I would like to take your advice.
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:05 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


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