Monday, November 21, 2005

"A band whose idea of inspiration was crashing into a snowbank and coming out with a six-pack."

The title of this entry is a quote from longtime Village Voice critic Robert Christgau about The Replacements.

Here are the CliffNotes.

The Replacements (Bob Stinson - guitar, Tommy Stinson - bass, Chris Mars - drums, Paul Westerberg - everything else) formed in 1979 in Minneapolis. The road to first success was quick. Westerberg walked into a local record store called Oarfolkjokeopus and handed the man behind the counter a tape. That man liked it. And, more importantly, that man was Peter Jesperson who started Twin/Tone Records and released the early Replacements albums.

Open bar. Major label. Open bar. Saturday Night Live appearance. Goodnight, 1991.


Satisfied '75 was kind enough to send me this rare footage from their SNL appearance.

The band had been drinking. If you listen close, you'll hear Westerberg pull back from the mic, say 'fuck' on live television, and then stumble back to the lyrics of "Bastards of Young."

(Check out the B&W, one-camera-shot-of-a-home-stereo video for "Bastards of Young." This is one of three things: Simple. Brilliant. Simply Brilliant.)

Along the way, guitarist Bob Stinson got fired from the band for abuse and then died, years later, of an overdose.

One music critic compared Bob's departure from the band like "someone being kicked out of Disneyland for being too nice."

Stinson was replaced by local guitarist, Slim Dunlap.

Westerberg got it. Too late, but got it. In 1993, he said this to a local paper.

"I think during the course of the band it was easy for us to find scapegoats and point fingers at the record company or other bands or the fans, and that's all crap. You could list a hundred reasons, but the bottom line is we didn't go for it hard enough."

In '93, three of the four members released solo albums. Westerberg was an obvious. But, Mars and Dunlap also stepped to the songwriter/frontman role. Those albums are good. This was what this post was originally suppose to be about. But, it isn't.

The best post-Replacements album, also recorded in 1993, is Bash & Pop's Friday Night Is Killing Me. Funny thing, it is more of a solo album than any of the others. Tommy Stinson sings and plays guitar. He wrote all but one song - and that one, he co-wrote.


Slim Dunlap was once described as not good enough to play guitar like Keith Richards and not good enough to write like Paul Westerberg BUT ...

Chris Mars is talented. I loved those albums at first, even tenth listen. When I look at those titles now -- "Ego Maniac," "Whining Horse" and "Bullshit Detector" -- all I hear is let-it-go bitterness toward Westerberg.

Paul Westerberg. Fuck -- was, is and will always be one of the best songwriters. But, like a 5'6" wannabe-basketball forward once said to me, "that's wasted talented."

Moral of the story. Tommy Stinson was 13 when The Replacements formed. He followed, others led. He wasn't the most talented. He never got too big for his britches. But yet, when the dust settled, he's the one standing and I'm the one still listening.

Here are three tracks from Bash & Pop's album. I recommend picking up the remaining seven.

Side note: At their height, The Replacements played Keith Richards' birthday party. In contrast, David Bonderman, who runs an investment company in Fort Worth, shelled out millions (newspapers reported anywhere from $6.75 million to more than $10 million) to have the Rolling Stones play his 60th birthday party in 2002. Wonder what The Replacements got?


At 11:29 PM, Blogger sasefina said...

Nice post. The Replacements are a band that, whenever I hear them, I always wish I listened to more of. I also have a couple of Westerberg's solo albums on my iPod and I never play them, but when one of the songs comes up on shuffle I inevitably remark to myself what a good song it is.

Wasted talent. God, that's depressing.

At 12:23 AM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

right on. nice post...looking fwd to hearing these bash n' pop tunes.

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous mark said...

I love this band. Always will. Paul is genious, as are the rest of them in their own way. Basn N Pop is a wonderful album! as for not listening... i still listen to the replacements, paul and bash n pop constantly. as for mars, i agree, sour grapes. lets be honest it was and is all about paul. he's the magic.

At 9:18 AM, Blogger CHW said...

Excellent post. They were true rock 'n' rollers. Wish they stuck around.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Luke said...

As one who's not familiar with The Replacements and Paul Westerberg -- other than having heard for so long how great they are/were -- care to share what made them so? I remember seeing Bobcat Goldthwait (remember him? Me neither) disparaging Dave Matthews on TV once (as Bankston pointed out: I retain the most useless detritus in my noggin...the valuable stuff all gets lost). He declared Matthews to be a cheap rip-off of Westerberg..."Paul Westerberg Lite" was his characterization, as I recall. And not knowing enough about Westerberg, I always wondered what that meant. Enlighten me, please.

At 11:19 AM, Blogger jsbankston said...

Actually, it's the stuff I consider unimportant, like names and faces and 99% of all conversations I hear, that I don't mind forgetting. It frees up mental space for stuff I do value, like "Hawaii Five-O" episode synopses and where the toilets and elevators are in the floor plans to the White House.

Just don't hold me to remembering that Thanksgiving is Thursday.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger TripleJ said...

Here's some of factors:

1. Their songs had hints of so many different genres: mainly jazz and punk.
2. Westerberg could write about the awkward moments of life without sounding like he was whining.
3. Unpredictable. There's something to be said for not knowing what someone is going to do.
4. Consistency. Plenty of under-3-minute gems like "Kiss Me on the Bus," "Waitress in the Sky," "Here Comes a Regular," "Left of the Dial."
5. They'd take a clean, crisp pop song and soak in booze.
6. 3 of the 4 members didn't know how good they really were.

The SNL clip is a perfect example of all that made them great. They were so loose - but yet playing perfectly crafted tunes.

Here's another link to some of those early shows in Minneapolis with Bob Stinson on guitar. Go to early video clips.

I had the good fortune of catching them on their last tour. The show was in Dallas. By this time, that 'thing' was missing. The show was not even close to sold out. The energy was lost. Westerberg appeared sober and hating it ... and he spent the entire time bitching about the sound. The only Replacements-like moment came when the girl I was with, drunk before she even walked in the door, flipped over a pole backwards in her mini-skirt to reveal she was panty-less. We were close enough to the stage that Tommy Stinson saw it happen, and cracked one of the only smiles of the night.

Seldom_Seen, I would suggest picking up a copy of Tim.

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I actually saw them three times on that last tour and all three shows, they seemed to be having a blast-Nashville and Cincinnati in particular. The only other time I saw them was opening for Tom Petty on the Don't Tell a Soul tour-wow-I think they only played 4 or 5 songs, if that. They apparently had on the Heartbreakers' wives/girlfriends clothes. Hammered is putting it mildly.

At 12:15 PM, Blogger Josh said...

i have nearly all the post-replacements releases and a ton of the replacements stuff. they will forever be my favorite band. my favorite song by bash and pop though is definitely "friday night is killing me." way too good for words.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

TripleJ - we heard "kiss me on the bus" in the car yesterday on 103.1. I was excited.

At 4:39 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

There are hideous gaps here and there in my education. I am a film nut, and may even claim to be a film expert, but there's a lot of films from the late 60s and early 70s I have for some reason missed.

Same with certain aspects of music. I know, for instance, almost nothing about the various schools of techno and dance music. And there are certain bands, like The Replacements, that I've heard little or nothing from.

There is no particular reason for these gaps, certainly not any hostility towards learning about them.

A buddy of mine saw The Replacements play in Houston, I think, and right in the middle of a song, Westerberg, stopped everything, and apropos of nothing, spat, "Darkness at the break of noon/Shadows even the silver spoon/
The handmade blade, the child's balloon/Eclipses both the sun and moon/To understand you know too soon/
There is no sense in trying." Then he went right back into the song as if nothing had happened.

The audience, which was pretty young, was completely baffled, and my friend said he was the only one there laughing out loud.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger jsbankston said...

So what I'm taking from this is if I become a Replacements fan, drunk, panty-less women will throw themselves at me. But does the potential for fun outweigh the cost to my upholstery?

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Dave said...

Damn, dude, GREAT post! I've always said that if someone stuck a gun to my head and demanded I name my favorite band of all-time, I'd say the Replacements.

I think you pretty much cover all of the reasons why. Great songwriting (first and foremost); that fast, loose, I-don't-give-a-fuck feel; and, let's face it, you just can't beat the 'Mats for true rock 'n roll tragedy (wasted talent, indeed).

That SNL clip is fantastic, and, as you point out, a perfect demonstration of what made them a great band. It's a feel thing -- they manage to barely, just barely hold that song together 'til the end. Yet if they played it any more cohesively, it wouldn't sound nearly as good.

Strangely, I've actually seen that SNL performance before. No, not when it originally aired, but sometime in the last -- geez -- five to seven years, I wound up watching that very same SNL rerun on E! or Comedy Central or some cable channel. I had no idea the Replacements were going to be on, mind you, I just happened to be watching.

When I saw Paul Westerberg step to the mic, I almost fell out of my La-Z-Boy. It was like God reached down, took the remote from my hands and said, "You've been a good boy today, Dave. Here's a little something for your trouble..."

Anyway, thanks again for the great post, which, unfortunately, I didn't discover until today. I'm adding your blog to my Favorites.


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