Cicero's Basement Bar, St. Louis, MO
October 13, 1989
*Uncle Tupelo Upgrade Series, Vol. 5*
Source: Soundboard, likely master or first generation cassette, from the band's archive
taper unknown (it may have been Tim Albert who ran sound at many of their early shows)
Transfer to DAT (by Shayne Stacy, 1994): cassette (from Uncle Tupelo's archive) > consumer Aiwa belt drive deck > Sony DTC690 using monster audio cables > DAT (90M tape, 32 kHz)
Transfer from DAT (by mrpember, October 2020): DAT clone(1) > Tascam DA-20 > M-Audio Audiophile USB > PC > Audacity (minor edits, pitch correction) > CD Wave Editor (tracking) > TLC > Flac (8)
02- Sin City [Flying Burrito Brothers cover]
03- Graveyard Shift
06- Cocaine Blues [covered by everybody, most famously by Johnny Cash]
08- Screen Door (electric version)
09- So Called Friend
10- Baby, Please Don't Go [traditional]
11- Knockin' On Heaven's Door [Bob Dylan cover]
13- Whiskey Bottle
14- Fortunate Son [Creedence Clearwater Revival cover]
15- Factory Belt
16- Mercedes Benz [Janis Joplin cover]
17- No Matter What [Badfinger cover]
18- That Year
19- Life Worth Livin'
20- Looking For A Way Out (fast "There Was a Time" version)
21- Mannish Boy (sort of) [Muddy Waters cover]
22- A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall [Bob Dylan cover]
23- Gimme, Gimme, Gimme [Black Flag cover]
Jay Farrar: guitar, harmonica, vocals
Jeff Tweedy: bass, vocals
Mike Heidorn: drums -- and possibly the mystery vocalist on track 21?
The purpose of the Uncle Tupelo Upgrade Series is to circulate live recordings of Uncle Tupelo and related bands with known lineages, focusing on recordings taken directly from masters or from the cleanest, lowest generation copies available. Some are shows that have circulated online for years with unknown or incorrect lineages and others are shows that have not been widely circulated in the file-sharing era. I will share any information I have regarding the recordings, as well as any features of the shows themselves that make them special to me.
NOTES ON THE RECORDING
In late 1994, Uncle Tupelo's management very generously allowed taper / collector / superfan Shayne Stacy access to their archive of live cassette tapes. That is if you consider a bunch of cassette that they had thrown in a box in the closet, many with very little or no identifying information, to be their "archives." Most of those recording as well as an embarrassment of other great shows are available for streaming on Shayne's website, https://sacramentomusicarchive.com/.
This recording is one of three shows from Cicero's Basement Bar from 1989 that were in that box of cassettes, with the others from June 30 and August 25. It is hard to overstate how much these tapes meant to me and others at the time since there were no circulating tapes *at all* of the many, many shows they played at Cicero's, which was their homebase during their early years. It was like this major piece of their development and history was completely undocumented. The fact that these soundboard tapes actually sounded pretty good was semi-astounding; Cicero's was a tiny basement that maybe held 150 people, and Uncle Tupelo played very loud. If you've heard many board tapes of loud bands in small rooms you know that the mixes are usually awful, lots of drums and vocals with very little guitar, etc. These shows are quite raw but they sound good enough that I suspect that the sound engineer (possibly Tim Albert who did sound for them at many early shows, he also recorded some of their early demos) created separate 2-track mixes just for the tapes. As for the lineage of those tapes, the fact that no one had heard any of these before Shayne was given access to their archives makes me suspect that these cassettes in the box likely are the original masters and not copies; if a fan / taper had recorded these shows and the tapes in that closet were copies, I think they would have gotten spread around. The sound on this October 13 show is maybe a hair under the other two Cicero's board tapes from '89, and it is not complete (I suspect this show would have gone on at least another 30 minutes), but I don't think it has circulated as widely and it is still a really fascinating listen if you are a fan of the early days of the band.
FYI, this version of Cicero's closed in 1997, there is another Cicero's down the street that still has live bands but the magic happened at the old location. That old location is now the site of the Duck Room which is below Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop.
NOTES ON THE SHOW
The recordings of these long, sloppy, beer-soaked early shows at Cicero's would likely make the band members cringe if they heard them today (Jeff Tweedy has said he can't listen to his voice from back then), but from a fan's perspective they are an essential part of their story. I only saw them there a few times, the first time I was suprised to see so many people crowded up next to the tiny stage; it was raised maybe 6 inches so for crowded shows if you actually wanted to see the band you had to be within a few feet of the stage...and everybody wanted to see the band. And these were serious fans / friends who came to every show and sang along with all the originals and the covers. The tapes of these shows reflect what I remember perfectly, both the good and (occasionally) not so good. Like most young bands they didn't have any type of a road crew or backup equiptment so long breaks between songs to tune or fix guitars were pretty standard. The band tightened up immensely in the few years after this when they started to seriously hit the road, but there is something about the freshness and spirit of those early shows that I still really love.
They started this set with the still unreleased "Otherside" which was included on the LIVE and OTHERWISE cassette in 1988 and (somewhat mysteriously) left out when all of their other old cassette demos were released as bonus tracks on CD re-issues over the years. I'm pretty sure it is the only song they wrote and played live that has not gotten an official release on CD or vinyl. That song is the band at their thrashiest (but dig how they slow down for the bridge and do some cool alternating lead vocals), and following that up with a cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers classic "Sin City" sort of neatly summarizes the early days of the band.
There are a bunch of highlights, blazing versions of most the songs that were recorded a few months later for first album NO DEPRESSION and several that were saved for their second album; it is interesting that Jeff Tweedy had a nearly complete "D.Boon" several years before it was recorded for STILL FEEL GONE. "Screen Door" was a fairly rare electric version and "So Called Friend" was pretty rare even when it was new. Almost half of the set was covers which was typical of the time, but in almost all instances they put their own very unique spin on those songs to the point where it almost didn't matter if the songs were written by Jay, Jeff, Bob Dylan, John Fogarty, or Black Flag. The Badfinger cover is more than a bit rough (as Jay Farrar acknowledges), and I have no idea what was going on during "Mannish Boy," but the spirit was there even if some of the lyrics were not.
mrpember, October 2020