Saturday 6 August 2016

#61 WILCO - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos & Engineer Reference Demos (Flac)

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos

 WILCO YHF etc… the story

Given the chance to write a fresh batch of songs, to match with more Woody Guthrie lyrics, Wilco contributed a number of songs, to the second Mermaid Avenue record, one of which ("Someday Some Morning Sometime") was a key signpost to the path the band would take. Leaving the denseness of Summerteeth behind, the sometimes ghostly, ethereal "Someday Some Morning Sometime" was the first hint towards a more atmospheric, moody path the band would often revisit, refine and expand in the 2000s.

Then everything went berserk.

The group began writing songs for their next album, and recorded them in their own loft studio space, with Jay Bennett (guitars, keyboards & song writing) engineering the sessions. They agreed to be filmed, for a future feature-length film* on the band and the making of the record. Original drummer Ken Coomer was fired from the band and replaced with the talented Glenn Kotche. This happened on the very same day that filmmaker Sam Jones showed up with all of his gear to start making the film.

Despite a long, drawn-out mixing process, pitting multi-talented Jay Bennett against the avant-garde Jim O'Rourke, Jeff Tweedy's choice of mixer. The record was finally completed, one that initially sounded like ‘Summerteeth Part II’ had now become much more intimate, experimental and unique. On hearing the album, Reprise (an arm of Warner Bros Records) thought it too un-commercial and decided to drop them from the label. Sam Jones’ cameras catch the conversation where Reprise tells manager Tony Margherita that they have dropped the band. Initially Wilco was to pay $50,000 to get the rights to their new record back, but eventually Reprise let them go for free.

Before signing a new deal, the band fired the aforementioned Jay Bennett - losing a key songwriter, guitarist, and superb keyboardist. They were now down to a four-piece: Jeff Tweedy (songwriter, guitars & vocals) John Stirratt (bass), Leroy Bach (keyboards & guitars) and Glenn Kotche (drums & percussion). They signed to Nonesuch, another Warner Bros imprint; essentially getting Warner’s to pay twice for their new album – one that was eventually released in April 2002 titled ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos

01 - I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
02 - Ashes of American Flags
03 - I'm The Man Who Loves You
04 - A Magazine Called Sunset
05 - Reservations
06 - Kamera
07 - Not For the Season
08 - Shakin' Sugar (aka 'Alone')
09 - Nothing Up My Sleeve
10 - Venus Stop the Train
11 - Cars Can't Escape (aka 'Rhythm')
12 - Poor Places
13 - Won't You Let Down
14 - Heavy Metal Drummer
15 - Let Me Come Home (aka 'Instrumental 1')
16 - Corduroy Cutoff Girl (aka 'Instrumental 2')
17 - Corduroy Cutoff Girl (aka 'Instrumental 2') (alternate)
18 - Kamera (alternate)
19 - A Magazine Called Sunset (alternate)
20 - Shakin' Sugar (aka 'Alone') (alternate)
21 - Not For the Season (alternate)

The so-called "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos" - actually consisting of both true demos and completed-but-discarded studio tracks from the YHF sessions - have been called "the great lost Wilco album." In fact, it sometimes seems that these recordings have inspired as much fawning praise from critics as the officially-released album.

The tracks fall into two basic categories. First, there are early, sometimes radically different versions of songs that ended up on the record. Indeed, fans who aren't wild about the sonic experimentation on YHF can find more straightforward renditions of some of the songs here.

Second, and even more stunning, are the songs that didn't make the cut at all, a number of them as good as just about anything in the Wilco catalog. It's not hard to guess why pop gems like "Magazine Called Sunset," "Alone" and "Nothing Up My Sleeve," all of which would have been right at home on Summerteeth, didn't fit in with what Tweedy was trying to accomplish with YHF, but that doesn't make them any less wonderful. "Not For The Season" is terrific, too, and was a longtime staple of Wilco's live set (they still bust it out on occasion), but it didn't make the grade either, perhaps because Tweedy had other plans for the song. (It ended up, sapped of most of its passion, as "Laminated Cat" on the first album by Tweedy's Loose Fur side project.) And "Will Not Let You Down" sounds like Wilco brought Exile-era Keith Richards in as a ringer one day -- it's rollicking fun, even if it had no natural place on YHF.

Yet, the omission of two of these songs from YHF defies explanation. "Cars Can't Escape" is one of Wilco's loveliest ballads, and although the band gave it away online to anyone who purchased YHF, and even toss it into their live setlist every now and then, they have never treated it as much more than a throw-away. It's been added to this collection.

But if these recordings do comprise some sort of alternate-universe classic, then "Venus Stop The Train" is THE great lost Wilco track. Achingly beautiful and hauntingly produced, it would have been an absolute highlight of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and consistent in every way with the sound and ethos of that classic record. Instead, it has never been released, or performed live. Not even once. Until that far-off day when a career-spanning Wilco box set sees the light of day, this is the only way you'll ever hear this positively gorgeous song.

Engineer Reference Demos

01 I'm The Man Who Loves You
xx Kamera (officially released on More Like The Moon EP & Rarities box)
xx A Magazine Called Sunset (officially released on More Like The Moon EP & Rarities box)
02 Poor Places
03 Shakin Sugar
04 War On War
05 Ashes Of American Flags
06 Cars Can't Escape
07 Pot Kettle Black
08 The Good Part
09 I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
10 Reservations
11 Let Me Come Home
12 Heavy Metal Drummer
13 Nothing Up My Sleeve
14 Radio Cure (
Corduroy Cutoff Girl)
15 Never Let You Down
16 Venus Stop the Train

Source: Studio SBD Chicago, IL. (2001)
Lineage: unknown
FLAC Fingerprint annd Shntool MD5 Fingerprint files created with Trader's Little Helper.
officially released tracks removed.

These are previously uncirculated studio versions of the songs off Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. They are all at least somewhat different from the 21 track verson of the YHF Demos listed above. The early working version of "Radio Cure" (titled "Corduroy Cutoff Girl"), as well as alternate studio versions of "Pot Kettle Black" and War On War have never been on any other bootleg.  "A Magazine Called Sunset" and "Kamera" were previously included on the Kamera / More Like The Moon EP. Everything else is at least somewhat different than anything previously circulated.


Following is an expanded list of YHF session tracks, one that includes the two unique demo / engineering leaks, as well as the final album versions and additional released tracks. It gives a perspective on what is available on bootleg and the tracks that have been officially released. 
In comparing the early versions to the finished ones. It's noticeable that the prototypes often feature the track as it sounded with former drummer Ken Coomer, while the finished feature Glenn Kotche. 
Furthermore, if you sequence the record including the tracks that ultimately were dropped from the final running order, you really do have what could have been ‘Summerteeth’ Part II - which, obviously, Jeff Tweedy had no interest in making.


"Demo" - available on the 21-track leaked demo CD, supposedly from tracks recorded before drummer Ken Coomer was fired and replaced by Glenn Kotche. The drumming sounds more like Ken than his replacement, in that, the drums have fewer nuances than Glenn's drumming.

"Engineer Reference" - available on the unknown-lineage leaked CD that supposedly was used as a mixing reference during the final mix down sessions with Jim O'Rourke. It’s unknown who the drummer was on these tracks I have no evidence but I think the drums sound more like Glenn than Ken, and they are much closer to the final mix versions than the earlier demos. The disc has some glitches, as initially leaked, and includes tape spin-up sounds at the beginning of some tracks.

“YHF album” - available on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. Jim O'Rourke's final mixes are clearly more defined, less sprawling, and, frankly, better than the original demo versions or the Engineer Reference variants. Just compare the three versions of "Poor Places" - the upbeat, honky-tonk Demo variant is miles away from the final album track - and it's much better for Jim O'Rourke's involvement.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot session tracks

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
01 Demo
02 Engineer Reference
03 YHF album*

04 Demo, take 1
05 Demo, take 2
06 Engineer Reference* on More like The Moon EP &
the box set 
07 YHF album*

Radio Cure
08 Engineer Reference - vocal, entitled "Corduroy Cutoff Girl"
09 YHF album*

War On War
10 Engineer Reference
11 YHF album*

Jesus, etc.
YHF album*
no known demo version has leaked

Ashes of American Flags
13 Demo
14 Engineer Reference (Glenn drums?)
15 YHF album* (Jay's rough-mix drums were used on this track)

Heavy Metal Drummer
16 Demo
17 Engineer Reference
18 YHF album*

I'm The Man Who Loves You
19 Demo
20 Engineer Reference
21 YHF album*

Pot Kettle Black
22 Engineer Reference
23 YHF album*

Poor Places
24 Demo
25 Engineer Reference
26 YHF album*

27 Demo
28 Engineer Reference
29 YHF album*

Non-album plus unreleased tracks

A Magazine Called Sunset
30 Demo, take 1
31 Demo, take 2
32 Engineer Reference* on ‘More like The Moon’ EP
& the box set
Not For The Season
33 Demo, take 1
34 Demo, take 2
remade as a Loose Fur track (Tweedy/O'Rourke/Kotche) and retitled "Laminated Cat", with a much sparser sound

Shakin' Sugar
35 Demo, take 1
36 Demo, take 2
37 Engineer Reference
re-recorded and released by Jay Bennett on his debut solo release The Palace at 4 AM

Nothing Up My Sleeve
38 Demo
39 Engineer Reference

Venus Stop The Train
40 Demo

41 Engineer Reference
re-recorded and released by Jay Bennett on his debut solo release The Palace at 4 AM

Cars Can't Escape
42 Demo
43 Engineer Reference
44 Roadcase
* official download version & the box set

Won't Let You Down
45 Demo
46 Engineer Reference

The Good Part
47 Engineer Reference
48 B-side to "War On War" single* &
the box set

Corduroy Cutoff Girl
49 Demo - instrumental, take 1
50 Demo - instrumental, take 2

Let Me Come Home
51 Demo - instrumental
52 Engineer Reference – vocal* released on benefit CD 'Amos House Collection Vol.3' & the box set

Of the 52 tracks listed here 16* have been officially released, the remaining 36 tracks can be found on the YHF demos and the YHF Engineer demos. The source for this article was an earlier blog post by ‘analogloyalist’ in 2009. It has been edited, re-written in parts and brought up to date with current information

* The official tracks can currently be found on the two following releases: 

Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch -79669-2)
Released: 23 April 2002

Wilco - Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 (Nonesuch - 543675-2)
Released:  17 Nov 2014

* The Sam Jones film can be seen on the DVD release:

Wilco - I Am Trying To Break Your Heart [2002] (Plexifilm – 007)
Released: 1 April, 2003



  1. I was wondering if this set may show up here, as I have always thought this and the equally great 18 track engineers demos are definatly deserve a spot in the 100 greatest bootlegs. I dont know if I like this better than the finished product. I have listened to both of them so much now in my mind its hard for me to tell what is official and what is demo. these tracks are that good. thanks for posting this.

  2. I have approximately between seventy and eighty titles earmarked for inclusion here. This was one of those but some leeway is allowed for newer titles or upgrades that may make an appearance currently or in the near future.
    I have never analysed the differences between tracks completed as opposed to these demos it kind of takes the listening enjoyment of the music away but it certainly would be a worthwhile exercise because of their importance

  3. You will find them here Austin

  4. I cannot find the link,,is it gone???

  5. Unfortunately yes, Ouster's amazing site has ceased operation.

    1. I was lucky enough to download the FLAC versions some time ago.