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The Minus 5  

The Minus 5 – a brief compendium: Scott McCaughey. Charioteer, optometrist, master brewer, or corpse? The blatherers rage on

The Minus 5 – a brief compendium: Scott McCaughey. Charioteer, optometrist, master brewer, or corpse? The blatherers rage on. What HAS been established is that “McCoy” is long addicted to rock’n‘roll and its various sidekicks, at great expense to family and friends. To wit: Young Fresh Fellows (1983 to present) — songwriter, singer, instrumentalist; The Minus 5 (1993 to present) — songwriter, singer, instrumentalist; R.E.M. (1994 to present) — instrumentalist; Tuatara (1996 to present) — instrumentalist, songwriter

With these groups, Scott has made many records (best seller: 5 million; worst seller: 450), and played many shows (highest attendance: 125,000; lowest: 8). “McOi” is always available and enthusiastic when it comes to these activities. In fact, there have been many other bands that have “benefited” from Scott’s talents (first documented stage appearance: 1972, with Vannevar Bush & His Differential Analyzers). A complete discography may never exist, but for more information see Guy With A Pencil – McCaughey’s Odyssey In Song (Dalkey Archive, Normal IL, 2002).

Thee Minus 5 itself started when McCaughey realized he had a dumptruck-load of songs that the Young Fresh Fellows would either never get around to, or would wisely choose not to. His friends and fellow Seattle-ites Peter Buck, Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer were quick to volunteer to help Scott capture his “Let The Bad Times Roll” vision, and these early sessions produced The Hello EP and Old Liquidator. Many other luminants have since joined the ranks of the Minus 5 (see list below). It’s a bit like a cancer, really.

the minus 5 vs. wilco – historical background Uncle Tupelo opened for the incredibly popular Young Fresh Fellows once at the Off Broadway in St. Louis, 1988. There was an undeniable musical kinship between the bands (since denied) despite the fact that Jeff was 14 and Scott was 40. Years later other things happened. Peter Buck produced Uncle Tupelo’s beautiful March 16-20, 1992 album. Every so often Scott and Jeff Tweedy would find themselves at their wife’s house in Chicago, playing each other records and new stuff their bands had recorded. On a night off on R.E.M.‘s 1995 world tour, Jeff learned a bunch of the songs off of Old Liquidator, and played a set with Scott and Peter at the fabled and much-missed Lounge Ax. Somewhere along the line Tweedy and McCaughey started talking about the desire to record together, and they kept talking about it, though nobody listened.

After a Golden Smog show in Seattle, Jeff, Scott and Barrett Martin recorded a new Minus 5 song “Childhood Lament” (which resides carelessly on the unreleased Let The War Against Music Begin Vol. 2 album). Wilco toured with R.E.M. in 1999. McCaughey regularly contributed moogerfooger banjo to “Misunderstood.” Backstage in Munich came the Tweedy/McCaughey/Buck anthem: “Lyrical Stance (I’ve Got A).” Later, in Toronto, Scott and Jeff penned “The Family Gardener” and recorded a rough version of the song with Brian Paulson in a Raleigh, NC Holiday Inn. In January 2000, a two-week celebration of Lounge Ax (finally being evicted from its longtime home) brought Scott to Chicago to perform a set of new material, with no rehearsal, and featuring Wilco as the Minus 5. This set has been widely bootlegged. Ha!

great moments in the minus 5 Yes, there have been many, but this hardly seems the time or the place to go into them.

great moments in scott mccaughey (in order) 1. SM weds singer/anthropologist Christy McWilson April 27, 1980. That night they go to see Roy Loney & The Phantom Movers at the Inn Of The Beginning in Cotati, CA. 1. October 1994 finds SM performing with R.E.M. on Saturday Night Live and consorting with Bill Murray and Chevy Chase. In a fashion. Chase has a flask of whiskey in suit pocket; McOi makes note of this. Later gives Chase unsolicited, in depth, and quite favorable review of Cops And Robbersons. 3. Young Fresh Fellows first concert, opening for Sun Ra at the Rainbow Tavern in Seattle WA, Dec. 1983. SM buys mysterious vinyl album (which features Pharoah Sanders) from Mr. Ra himself in dressing room. 3. School lunch “sermon”; jail time. 4. March 2001 – M5 performance of “You Don’t Mean It” on Conan O’Brien. 1. SM plays the vibraphone, with R.E.M., backing Neil Young on “Ambulance Blues,” two nights running at the Bridge Concerts, Oct. 1999. 1. Scott & Christy’s children invent a real robot, Kyle. 1. T. Rex / Poco / Doobie Brothers bill at Winterland, 1972. 2. YFF in-store at Tower Records Shibuya Tokyo Japan. Members of Japanese band the Circus Posters attend, perform private concert of YFF songs for SM. 2. 1998: SM writes magnum opus “There Is No Music”, records both YFF and M5 versions, shitcans them both. 2. Young Fresh Fellows conquer Spain, like Cortez. Spanish insist on yearly conquerings from 1992 to present. Occasional complying results. Callemacha = red wine + Coca Cola. 3. SM and Mike Mills play keyboards on “Mindtrain” with Yoko Ono at the Crocodile in Seattle, 1998. Yoko totally digs SM’s scene. And vice versa. 11. March 2001 – M5 performance of “You Don’t Mean It” on Conan O’Brien.

down with wilco – first person account abbreviated, by scott mccaughey “I am driving by airports practicing retrieval of you.” With this message from Jeff “Parfumery” Tweedy, I knew that I was finally headed to Chicago to start working on a long-discussed collaboration with Jeff and his bandmates in Wilco. And it was a heartfelt and nobel convergence as Jeff, John, Glenn, Leroy and I submarined ourselves into SOMA Studio Chicago with grande pianos, Mike Jorgensen, and free-cone resonance on Monday, Sept. 10, 2001. The next day was not good though. With heavy hands and troubled minds, sounds so still and confused were cordoned off that week onto whirring reels. It seemed like all we could do. On Saturday all manner of cookery was lasered from studio to Abbey Pub tabernacle and we foisted eight of the nine songs we had managed to magnetize in the preceding blur of days. The new Wilco then displayed its mighty bench press for the first time. The crowd was tattered, thirsty, ready to be barked at for some precious hours of musical release and friendship guzzling.

Two months later Ashleigh Banfield produced five or seven more tracks at SOMA. She really did. Rebecca Gates planted a tree in the sidewalk. “The Days Of Wine And Booze” was the last song. Jeff was slumbering in a bad virus and wouldn’t let me leave without rolling the song up in the piano carpet.

Back in Seattle, at a pile of logs in the Bastard District, regularge M5ers jumped to interject. Indeed they could, handily, in the shapes of Peter Buck, Minister of Tar, and Kenneth Stringfellow, Cautionary Extract. It was hardly a surplus that Charlie Francis, Christy McWilson and Sean O’Hagan would llama themselves in, reprising reprievious stints. People feel sorry for me and will take an hour to cudgel me when asked.

On a stealthy and miserable Mission to London, I smuggled in an analog hard drive. Charlie made sure the mixes were crenellated. By keeping Howlin’ Wolf a prisoner in the car, driving by Abbey Road tabernacle every day, and making the birds sing on cue, the whisky turned to stone so it would be there always, like a Harry Nilsson demo.

One year later, you hold the frothy ale in your tankard. Or is that simply a diagram of a cow, with #30 designating brisket?

recommended reading (complete the following novels to enjoy “down with wilco” to its fullest) The Third Policeman — Flann O’Brien; Gargantua and Pantagruel — Francois Rabelais (trans. Raffel); Ulysses — James Joyce; Wittgenstein’s Mistress — David Markson; Cruddy — Lynda Barry

recommended listening (these should be listened to at all times, including before, during, and after “down with wilco”): Bill Fay — Bill Fay / Time of the Last Persecution; Howlin’ Wolf — Memphis Days; Nick Lowe — “Basing Street”

recommended eating a soda cracker and a peanut

recommended drinking Guinness Stout, Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Lagavulin $$$, or Bowmore $), Diet Coke, Red, Red Wine (Spanish Rioja), Anything.


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