Study Guide

Passenger Side

Passenger Side Introduction

In a Nutshell

"Passenger Side" is the tenth track on Wilco's debut album A.M., which, like many great debuts, displays songwriting chops and originality, pointing backward to the band's influences rather than forward to the new musical heights they would later reach. 

The song is very country, due in large part to constant presence of acoustic guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. Lyrically, the album owes a lot to traditional country ramblers like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and the many others who embodied the American outlaw, marginalized by society and plagued by booze and tough times. 

On the surface, "Passenger Side" is a booze-soaked road anthem, but underneath, it's a metaphor for the loss of control over one's destiny, a theme that recalls the plight of the iconic American country outlaw.

About the Song

ArtistWilco
Year1995
LabelSire/Reprise
Writer(s)Jeff Tweedy
Producer(s)Wilco, Brian Paulson
Musician(s)Jeff Tweedy (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar), Brian Henneman (Electric Guitar), Ken Coomer (Drums), John Stirratt (Bass Guitar), Max Johnston (Fiddle, Mandolin)
Learn to play
AlbumA.M.

Music Video

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Influences on Wilco

The Carter Family
Sonic Youth
Neil Young
Gram Parsons
The Beach Boys
Big Star
Dinosaur Jr.
The Jayhawks
Merle Haggard
Gang of Four
Black Flag
The Minutemen
Hüsker Dü
The Replacements
The Mekons
The Soft Boys
Woody Guthrie
The Staple Singers
Elvis Costello
Son House

Influenced by Wilco

Fleet Foxes
Avett Brothers
Ben Kweller
Frank Turner
Mumford & Sons

Passenger Side Resources

Images

North American tour 2011
Wilco!

Websites

Official Wilco website
Wilcoworld.net is an easy-to-navigate band website with information such as news, upcoming shows, and the lyrics and credits of all of Wilco's songs.

No Depression: The Roots Music Authority
This is a website devoted to contemporary music in the vein of that which inspired Uncle Tupelo and Wilco.

Video & Audio

"Passenger Side" Live on JBTV
This is a great clip of an early Wilco performing "Passenger Side," with Jeff Tweedy in his more Country/Western persona. His voice is hoarse and tired, and he complains that he's been singing for four weeks straight on the road.

Jeff Tweedy on the Tortured Artists
Here you can watch a brief clip of Jeff Tweedy talking about his idea of the "tortured artist" as well as his own past substance abuse.

Uncle Tupelo 11/92 – "No Depression"
Watch Uncle Tupelo at a low-key gig in 1992, playing their cover of the Carter Family song "No Depression." Jay Farrar sings lead, while Jeff Tweedy strums guitar on the right.

The Carter Family: "No Depression in Heaven" 1936 Radio Transcription
Hear the original version of the song that provided the title for Uncle Tupelo's album and which eventually became the label of an entire underground movement.

Talking to Wilco's Jeff Tweedy
Check out interviews in both print and audio with Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy, featured in the Arts section of Time.