There’s a scene in the movie Airheads where Brendan Fraser’s character asks a stuffed shirt (played by Harold Ramis), “Who’d win in a wrestling match, Lemmy or God?” When Ramis answers “Lemmy,” Steve Buscemi’s “Rex” mimics a game-show buzzer. Ramis quickly changes his tune, barking out the alternate: “God?” Rex triumphantly announces, “Wrong, dickhead. Trick question: Lemmy is God.”
In my own personal rock mythology—in which, among other things, Iron&Wine’s Sam Beam is an angel, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James is a ghost, and Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) is something akin to the really charismatic, charming devil from Paradise Lost —Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy is God (which, I suppose, would make my old hometown of Chicago heaven and Summerteeth ’s “Via Chicago” the Lord’s Prayer). He is the be-all and end-all of musical genius in my book, and that’s exactly why he’s the one person I don’t ever want to meet.
I realize it may sound strange for a music journalist not to wanna interview (or even give a “nice show” handshake to) one of her favorite artists, but that’s how I’ve always felt about Tweedy. It may sound like insecurity, but I think it’s more a reluctance to acknowledge the humanity of an idol. After all, I’ve chatted up artists I find wholly amazing and intimidatingly intelligent (Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, James Mercer and M. Ward), and I feel pretty comfortable in my own dorkiness when transcribing those interviews.
I don’t think it’s celebrity that makes me want to keep Tweedy at a distance, either (which is not to imply that he’s knocking down my door or blowing up my voicemail). It’s the fact that I know he’s a regular guy. I know he has relationship problems and bad hair days and awkward moments. I know these things are true, but I don’t want to meet them face to face. I mean, what if you met God and he or she had terrible acne or something? Wouldn’t you be disappointed? I do realize, of course, that Tweedy’s songs resonate so deeply with me because he’s human—and because he’s so eloquently described the experience of being human time and time again.
But that still doesn’t make me want to know him. I’d rather keep him firmly planted on a pedestal. I’d like to envision him as his music paints him, faults and all, because that’s the Jeff Tweedy I know. Apparently, WW screen editor Aaron Mesh met Mr. Tweedy in a Pittsburgh hotel lobby a few years back, and he tells me the man himself was quite cordial and charming. Guess that’s for him to know and, well, for him to know.
Wilco plays Wednesday, Aug. 22, at McMenamin’s Edgefield. 6:30 pm. Sold out. All ages.