The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?

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The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?
Willie Nelson IRS Tapes.jpg
Studio album by Willie Nelson
Released 1991
Genre Country
Label Sony Music Special Products
Producer Bob Johnston
Willie Nelson chronology
Any Old Arms Won't Do
(1992)Any Old Arms Won't Do1992
The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories?
Across the Borderline
(1993)Across the Borderline1993

The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories? is the thirty-ninth studio album by American country and western singer Willie Nelson. The album, featuring only Nelson and his guitar, was released by Sony in 1992 to pay Nelson's tax debt with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Initially, the album was only distributed by phone order in November 1991, but later negotiations with Sony Music saw it being distributed in stores.

The album generated US$3.6 million for the IRS, who requested a further US$9 million from Nelson to satisfy his debts. It was well received by critics.

Background and recording[edit]

In 1990, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seized most of Nelson's assets, claiming that he owed US$16 million.[1] It was later discovered that his accountants, Price Waterhouse, had not been paying Nelson's taxes for years. In addition to the unpaid taxes, Nelson's situation was worsened by the weak investments he had made during the early 1980s.[2][3] His lawyer, Jay Goldberg, renegotiated a settlement with the IRS in which he paid US$6 million, although Nelson did not comply with the agreement.[1]

To pay his debt, Nelson recorded The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories, featuring him and his guitar, without the accompaniment of his band.[4] The album constituted a compilation of Nelson's hits.[5] A second tape of 1976 recordings The Hungry Years was offered to direct sales purchasers at the same time.

Release and reception[edit]

The album was released in 1992.[4] By that time, Nelson's assets had been auctioned; the items were returned to Nelson by fans and friends who purchased them. Nelson promoted the album during a benefit concert for the restoration of the Texas State Capitol.[5] During an appearance on Primetime Live, Nelson wore a T-shirt with the nonexistent toll-free number 1-800-IRS-TAPE, that allegedly was the number to call to order the album. After 500 calls, Jon Richards, the owner of Visual Technology. Inc., announced that he would let Nelson lease or purchase the number to help the sales of the album.[6] Besides the phone orders, Nelson also negotiated with Sony Music to distribute the album in stores.[7] The IRS collected US$3.6 million from the sales of the album, and after a payment of US$9 million during the next five years, Nelson's debt was satisfied.[8]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyB+[9]
Chicago Tribune3.5/5 stars[10]
Houston Chronicle4.5/5 stars[11]
Allmusic3.5/5 stars[4]

Entertainment Weekly rated the album with a B+: "The album features only Nelson's warm, emotive baritone and the deft accompaniment of his acoustic guitar. All of these tunes explain how he came close to being a deity in his native Texas, bringing together hippies and rednecks in pure appreciation of his music."[9]

Meanwhile, Chicago Tribune rated the album three-and-a-half stars out of five: "Even before his staggering tax problems, Nelson had become such a cross-market figure that it was easy to forget that, at bottom, he is one of country music history's most literate and sensitive songwriters and succinctly evocative singers [...] [The album of songs], some familiar and some not, re-emphasizes that. It presents him at his most effective, with just his guitar and memories."[10] Houston Chronicle commented: "Nelson sounds so naturally relaxed you can picture him stretching out on your sofa when he's finished his tune. With no band to kick him from behind or schmaltzy string sections to waltz around, Nelson distills the deeply personal emotion in these songs to its universal essence, which is what great folk singing always has been about."[11]

Thom Owens wrote for Allmusic: "Over the course of the set, Nelson plays a handful of unusual tracks, several new tunes, and a few of his most familiar songs. The result is one of Nelson's most direct and affecting albums, featuring several of his finest vocal performances."[4]

Track listing[edit]

All the songs written by Nelson. "What Can You Do to Me Now" was co-written with Hank Cochran.[4]

Disc 1[edit]

1."Who'll Buy My Memories"3:12
2."Jimmy's Road"2:39
3."It Should Be Easier Now"2:16
4."Will You Remember Mine"2:31
5."I Still Can't Believe You're Gone"2:45
6."Yesterday's Wine"2:25
7."It's Not Supposed to Be That Way"2:16
8."Country Willie"3:43
9."Sound in Your Mind"3:08
10."Permanently Lonely"2:17
11."So Much to Do"2:05
12."Lonely Little Mansion"2:06

Disc 2[edit]

1."Summer of Roses/December Day"3:51
2."Pretend I Never Happened"3:02
3."Slow Down Old World"1:52
4."Opportunity to Cry"2:21
5."I'm Falling in Love Again"3:25
6."If You Could Only See"2:33
7."I'd Rather You Didn't Love Me"2:28
8."What Can You Do to Me Now"2:48
10."Remember the Good Times"1:32
11."Wake Me When It's Over"1:53
12."Home Motel"2:34


  1. ^ a b Draper 1991, p. 177.
  2. ^ "Nov 9, 1990:Willie Nelson's assets are seized by the IRS". History. A&E Television Networks. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  3. ^ Johnston, David Cay (November 4, 1995). "Tax Shelter of Rich and Famous Has Final Date in Court". The New York Times. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Minor, Paul 1992, p. 117.
  6. ^ Washington, David Kelly 1991, p. 191.
  7. ^ Media Week 1991, p. 41.
  8. ^ Britton, Alan John 2010, p. 60.
  9. ^ a b Nash, Alanna (Aug 2, 1991). "Who'll Buy My Memories? (The IRS Tapes)". Tinme, Inc. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  10. ^ a b Hurst, Jack (June 27, 1991). "Willie Nelson Who`ll Buy My Memories?/The IRS Tapes..." Tribune Company. Retrieved December 5, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Mitchell, Rick (June 10, 1991). "Willie Nelson/Who'll Buy My Memories?/The IRS Tapes/Nothing but the best for IRS/Willie's mail-order album could rank as classic". Houston Chronicle. Hearst Corporation. Retrieved December 5, 2011.


  • Britton, Alan John (2010). Uncle Art. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4520-8389-6.
  • Draper, Robert (May 1991). "Texas Monthly". Texas Monthly. Emmis Communications. 19 (5). ISSN 0148-7736. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  • Minor, Paul (November 6, 1992). "Willie Nelson, State Capitol". The Austin Chronicle. Austin Chronicle Corp. 12 (10).
  • Washington, David Kelly (1991). "The IRS Tapes". The Hollywood Reporter. Wilkerson Daily Corp.
  • "Media Week". 1 (32–47). A/S/M Communications. 1991.