It was a defining moment. Wilco's fourth album, '02's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot," was rejected by their label, Reprise. Not only that, the label decided to drop the group. End of the line? Not yet.
As a parting gesture/kiss-off, Reprise gave Wilco the rights to "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." The group streamed the album on their website and being signed by Nonesuch Records, which like Reprise, was part of the Warner Music Group. Kinda strange. The upshot was that the album sold over 670,000 copies becoming Wilco's best seller to date.
Eight years earlier, Jay Farrar left Alt. Country's Uncle Tupelo. Band members, including Jeff Tweedy and John Stirratt, considered continuing to work under the Uncle Tupelo moniker before deciding to start Wilco (military jargon for "Will Comply").
Now on a role, Wilco won two Grammy Awards (including Best Alternative Music Album) for their fifth studio effort, '04's "A Ghost Is Born." The next year, they unleashed "Kicking Television: Live In Chicago" and returned to the studio for '07's "Sky Blue Sky."
'11's "The Whole Love" arrived two years after "Wilco (The Album)." Selling 82,000 copies in its first week, "The Whole Love," landed at #5 on the Billboard 200.
Wilco issued the "iTunes Sessions" in '12. The set contained live versions of songs from "The Whole Love," plus other selections from the band's vast catalog.
In a similar vein, and to celebrate Wilco's twentieth anniversary, Nonesuch Records issued "Alpha Mike Foxtrot," a 4-CD/Digital box-set of rare studio and live recordings and "What's Your 20," a 2-CD/Digital compilation of 'essential' tracks from Wilco's eight studio albums plus two songs from "Mermaid Avenue," a collection of songs with lyrics by Woody Guthrie. Both '14 collections were produced by Cheryl Pawelski, co-founder of Omnivore Recordings.
"There are probably a few surprises for even the sharpest collector," Pawelski said of "Alpha Mike Foxtrot." "This set presents an alternate history of the band, kind of a sideways view."
Wilco was back on the road in '15 when politics reared its head. After cancelling their planned Indianapolis concert in protest of Indiana's passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics viewed as discriminatory toward the LGBT community, the group eventually performed at the Murat Theatre.
They reversed their decision when the law was amended. "We consider the changes to Indiana's ("religious freedom" law) a good first step toward creating the sort of welcoming environment we encourage everywhere," the band wrote in a statement.
A few months down the road, "Star Wars," Wilco's ninth studio album, rolled out. Tweedy claimed he wasn't a fan of the film franchise. The name just made him "feel good."
The group's first set of original material in four years was initially a free download for fans. "It felt like it would be fun," stated Tweedy.
1996 Being There
2002 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2004 A Ghost Is Born
2005 Kicking Television: Live In Chicago
2007 Sky Blue Sky
2009 Wilco (The Album)
2011 The Whole Love
2012 iTunes Sessions
2014 Alpha Mike Foxtrot/What's Your 20 (compilations)
2015 Star Wars