THE REPLACEMENTS: The Return Of America’s Most Notorious Band

DETROIT, MI – Paul Westerberg is back. Tommy Stinson is back. In a BIG way. They are the founding two members of The Replacements and I gotta tell ya I am glad to see them come back. This Minneapolis band goes back to 1982. They made a big splash on the rock scene in Sept. 2014 by coming on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. They were previously kicked out of 30 Rock and banned from Saturday Night Live for being drunk out of their minds and using profanity on network TV. But that’s what they did. That was The Replacements.  I will touch upon the ban from SNL a little later because I find it fascinating.

 
LIVE ON THE TONIGHT SHOW - 2014 - Playing - "Alex Chilton"

 

In the 1980’s you couldn’t be outrageous enough. The more the better…. They came on in the last five minutes of the broadcast and ripped through, “Alex Chilton” off of the, “Pleased To Meet Me” album. Despite the rumors on the web this was not a new song… far from it. This album goes back to 1987. The Mats were only doing what came naturally and if it was a bit destructive then that’s what was going to happen.  This was not a graceful bunch of guys and they were for Generation X kids. There’s a good chance your uncles hated these guys and what they stood for. They made the Rolling Stones look clean. Stuff would break and there would be plenty of foul words used and for some people that was over the top offensive – like the producers at NBC.

The biggest foul mouth on board that night in studio 54 was not in the Replacements but was none other than Sam Kinison. This was an era of success and before the web was around there was rumors. I grew up hearing stories about how Kinison would order up a limousine and empty out the bar so he could get loaded after the bars closed. Did that really happen? I don’t know but that is what I heard. So when the green room was stocked with booze and the Replacements showed up they helped themselves. In the words of band mate Bob Stinson, “We went to town…” and they lived up to their reckless bad boy image. They did two songs that night, “Bastards of Young” and “Kiss Me On The Bus” and you can see lead singer Paul Westerberg using the F bomb away from the mic but it got captured on the broadcast.  I think they sounded pretty good actually

 

What Brought The Replacement’s Out Of Hiding?

The Replacements showed up at the 2013 Riot Fest in Chicago. I saw the poster and it didn’t register. They were wearing these carnival barker type striped jackets and had the moppy hair. There was no mistake of who it was. The cartoon picture of them that was featured on the poster kind of reminded me a bit of The Kinks. These guys were in line for the next level of Classic Rock whether anyone wanted to admit that or not. As other acts waltz into their 70’s, sometimes not so gracefully, the Replacements are next in line for rock royalty.  They could come off like clowns and then knock you over with sincerity, prolific lyrics and heart. They ripped into, “Taking A Ride” off the Twin Tone release, “Sorry Ma Forgot To Take Out The Trash” and the audience loved it. These guys were missed.

The Replacements also broke up on stage in Chicago during the “Taste Fest” in the 90’s. Paul Westerberg did some solo work and it was great but it was a different direction. Bob Stinson sadly passed away due to alcohol and drug abuse. Christopher Mars became a painter and was delivering his artistic sense to a brand new audience. Bob Stinon’s replacement, (no pun intended) – Slim Dunlap ended up getting a stroke. Tommy Stinson had some success with Bash and Pop. The radio was now filled with all sorts of wannabes of the early Alternative rock sound. It is obvious that the Replacements have influenced a variety of bands in the 90’s and in the 2000’s. Some of them are really obvious like Soul Asylum and the Gin Blossoms… I mean come on.  Now a days you got Deer Tick and their sounds almost mimic the Replacements note per note as in the song, “Never Mind”…  That sort of thing is respected I suppose because these two acts are on the same bill.

 
THE REPLACEMENTS - "I.O.U."

Yes, that is … The Replacements are back. They are touring again and that is amazing because it has been really silent in the last two decades. These guys, “Broke the mold” and set a new standard for everyone else to follow but then fell apart. It is almost like they are coming back to reset that standard and to show other bands how to do it. In fact you can actually hear one of the producers instructing Paul Westerberg to – break the mold – on the end of the track, “Something to Du”.

The Replacements have been labeled a punk band and a post punk band by journalists. The guys in the band think of themselves as a loud rock band and nothing more. The punk thing got tossed in there because of their attitude and the time they came onto the scene. In some sense they were punks because they were very disorderly. Just recently some recordings came to the surface on YouTube.com which shows them doing covers of famous bands under the chemical influence of just about everything. It is very noisy, loud and terrifying but at the same time amazing. They follow a very loose framework of a song and the fill it up with a lot of noise. The vocals at times are just awful and way off course but then loop around and every once in a while land on key. Its enough to hold the song together. Even when they were terrible they were… well, great.

What Made Them Great In The First Place?

In my college days I discovered them while reading the entertainment papers. The word on the street in Ann Arbor back in the 80’s was that this was the band to watch. The article went on to say that sometimes they were great and sometimes they were terrible but you never knew what you were going to get. That made me take an interest in them right away as a band to follow. A lot of rock musicians insist on precision. You had guys in the 80’s like Neal Peart from Rush bellyaching over being off by a tenth of a second on this drums, (despite the fact that most of live audience was stoned out of their gourds) and guitar maestros like Eddie Van Halen who took their craft seriously. The Replacements had a great sound too but would often get wrapped up in manic mood swings. Other times they seemed to beg for forgiveness with songs like, “Skyway” and, “Can Hardly Wait”. They always had a way to redeem themselves no matter how terrible they behaved.

They failed forward from day one like on their first EP, “Stink”. I’ll admit the truth to you I bought that album because it was cheap. I was standing in the aisles of the old School Kids Records in Ann Arbor and I had about $20 bucks on me and I already bought some full length LPs and that one popped up with a $6 dollar price tag on it. I snatched it up. I figured this way I could get a taste of what this band was all about since I had already read about them. That is the DNA for the entire career of this band. If you listen closely they are bashing authority in a big way with, “Fuck School” and the Minneapolis PD opening up the album with a threat on the audience. If you dig a little deeper you get some heart and soul to this band on, “Go”. It is a very intense, brooding and introspective number and that sound is something that would get explored with on upcoming albums. That is what made them interesting. They weren’t all about thrash, noise, anger and rage because at times they would stop and think deeply about things.

The chord changes and bridges were interesting because by putting such personal depth into the songs it lifted them out of the  - punk category. At times you felt as if you were looking into someone’s diary. Rolling Stone Magazine loved these guys or so it seemed. The reviews I read for, “Let It Be” were thoughtful and had more praise than some of their Led Zeppelin write ups. They were definitely going somewhere important and were headed for the big time.

MTV wanted videos. The Replacements were against the whole system of producing a gimmicky video to sell anything. So when their number was called they submitted, “Bastards of Young” for the on air rotation. The video was nothing more than the lead singer with his back to the camera for the entire time, smoking, and facing his stereo propped up on milk crates while the song blared on. Their performance on Saturday Night Live made them forgettable. Not unforgettable. Forgettable.

After getting banned from SNL for life there was no where else to go but down. You can read about this a little bit on the linear notes for their b-side compilation album, “All of This For Nothing”. I didn’t even know they got banned from SNL until decades later. I gotta be honest. I blamed their demise after the album, “Don’t Tell A Soul” which I found personally disappointing overall. I figured the party was over but what they reveal about SNL was kind of interesting. Comedienne Nora Dunn snubbed them and so did the rest of the cast. The band was trying to get in view of the camera as the end credits rolled but the cast wouldn’t step aside. They make it sound like the cast of SNL snubbed them because they were some lowly bar band. I totally didn’t catch the connection that they were dead drunk on air.

The 90’s hit hard with bands like Weezer and the Offspring and the Replacements faded from view. They went off the radar. I look back on their wild climb up to the top and I missed the mayhem with their sound. It was part of their entire star power. I remember watching them on IRS’s The Cutting Edge and seeing them on camera right after they shaved off their eyebrows and spray painted their boots bright blue and red. They had a dangerous unpredictability that seemed to have vanished when the last album came out, “All Shook Down”. To be fair that album had some really interesting songs on it but I didn’t recognize them.

But I recognized the guys on the 2013 Riot Fest stage and I most definitely identified them on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The band I saw on those performances were the same guys I was nuts about in 1986 – 1989 and with saying that The Replacements are back. I welcome seeing them again and get a charge out of seeing the latest reactions from new fans.

 
 
 
 
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The Replacements | The Tonight Show | 2014 Tour| Paul Westerberg

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