"The Late Greats" as written by and Jeff Tweedy....
The greatest lost track of all time
The Late Greats' Turpentine
You can't hear it on the radio
Can't hear it anywhere you go

The best band will never get signed
The Kay-Settes starring Butchers Blind
So good you won't ever know
They never even played a show
Can't hear them on the radio

The greatest singer in rock 'n' roll
Would have to be Romeo
His vocal cords are made of gold
He just looks a little too old

The best songs will never get sung
The best life never leaves your lungs
So good you won't ever know
You'll never hear it on the radio
Can't hear it on the radio

Lyrics submitted by eastcidskl

"The late greats" as written by Jeff Tweedy


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The Late Greats song meanings
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  • +3
    General CommentBest Song Ever.
    Butterfly Edgeon March 12, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI gotta disagree with you, loldoctor; Jeff regularly admits in interviews to being a fan of "the greats," which usually ARE lesser-known artists. I believe I read somewhere that the "Kay-Settes" were a little side band or maybe imaginary band that he made up with drummer Glenn Kotche (I may be a bit off. though). The song is honest: he believes that the best things are yet to come, or rather, never to come. At least never to be heard by the public ear (nor even the strict indie ear). It's a fantastic and true concept, like most of Jeff Tweedy's concepts...

    I might have agreed with you on the indie culture mockery even if I hadn't read so often about Jeff's love for obscure greats, but I mean, listen to the song: the music is completely unpretentious, unironic, and assured - it's just good ol' rock and roll with that Americana twang Wilco does so well.

    If you want to hear a great song that REALLY reflects this "indie scene" while simultaneously embracing it playfully , check out LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge" from their self-titled album. Talk about irony. James Murphy is another songwriting genius like Jeff Tweedy even if their music is completely different.

    Oh, and the indie scene didn't pop up in the past few years, man. There were weirdos that lived next door to your mom and dad in the 70's who wouldn't be caught dead listening to the Carpenters or Simon and Garfunkel.
    vintagelemonadeon July 28, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWell, I don't know Tweedy personally, but given his relative humility in both his songwriting and his interviews, I find it hard to believe that he'd be anywhere near as snobbish about his love for "the greats" as most of these indie rock kids are.

    It's funny, because I always made a point to play this song on my college radio show last year, and the programming director (an "indie kid" himself) tried to tell me that I couldn't play Wilco because they were "too commercial".

    I told him to shove it up his ass.
    thermo4on October 08, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMost of you are wrong. The song isn't tongue-in-cheek at all. Tweedy is actually a really easy guy to understand in some of his songs. Tweedy was very frustrated after A&R dropped him when Time Warner and AOL merged. He resigned with Nonesuch, another Time Warner label, which made no sense since the company just dropped Wilco.

    This song was actually written during the YFH CD era, but released here after alterations that were made when Jay Bennett left. The song is a shot at the corporate music industry, how all they produce is shit and the real good bands never make it big. Whether you consider Wilco to be in that category, well thats up to you. Tweedy was definitely making a statement here though.
    NDBQuinn10on March 31, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's straight forward but also means many things ..... its Romeo from Rome & Juliet...
    Drake44444on December 16, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song should be pretty simple to get the just of. I believe it's about how most of the best music out there will never be heard and the music business is so corrupt in the way of how they want musicians to look and sound. Amazing song, Wilco does it everytime.
    insulatedsoulon July 02, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhile I don't think Tweedy or any of the other guys in Wilco are too thrilled about corporate radio or the record industry, I don't think this song is really about either one. It seems almost like they are making fun of the people who claim nothing good is on the radio, and that the only good music comes from obscure, unattractive bands. This is further supported by the final verse which expands the subject from just songs on the radio to all songs that could be sung. If the best songs won't even GET sung, what is the point of caring what makes it to the radio?

    Essentially, I think they are making the point that you can't go through life worrying about these imaginary "bests". I wish I could say I was at this point, but I doubt I was the only person to go online and google the names he mentions in this song.
    distopiandreamguyon November 07, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI saw Wilco playing in a small venue in Birmingham the same night they won two Grammies...they didn't seem to know how to react, whether to be thrilled and cocky or sarcastic because fame and fortune is not really supposed to be what they are about. So they opened the show by announcing they just learned they won two Grammies (in a deadpan voice, Tweedy said, "Before we were losers, now we are winners") and then they played this song first...."The greatest lost track of all time....I can never hear it on the radio." It was a nice moment.
    mkilbyon March 08, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAre The Late Greats an actual band, or did Jeff make it up for the purpose of writing the song?
    muffinson August 21, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think I would have to agree with distopiandreamguy on two counts: I think it is a toungue-in-cheek jab at some high-minded music fans about obscure material, obscure bands, etc., and all the great stuff the populace misses. But I too fell for it, as I tried to search the material.

    However, it is a double edge sword, as we all know great bands that never made a dent in "the industry." I think it is this double edge that makes it such a fun song, and fine songwriting.
    dunnosquaton September 21, 2005   Link

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