Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Replacements: All over but the shouting

Wherein Jesus rides beside me He never buys any smokes

What has always struck me as odd is that I only saw the Replacements once. This oddity is reinforced while reading Jim Walsh's The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History. I guess there are a few explanations for this: such as not really getting into them until 1984 with the release of Let It Be; I saw a lot of local music, but wasn't really a part of the scene; most of the people I hung out with weren't into the same type of music I was. Still, considering the amount of time I spent at Duffy's and The Uptown, I'd think I'd have hit at least one show by accident. But I didn't.

I have no concept of how this book works for casual fan or even for someone not from the Twin Cities. For me, part of the enjoyment is for the nostalgia of the time and place. So while I don't have any stories, I enjoyed reading those of other people. I guess I have half a story. Sometime around 1986 I spent a few months making pizzas at Green Mill in Uptown. (Crappy pizzas, eat at Davannis). One night one of the guys came in and said he almost bought Bob Stinson's guitar because he was trying to sell it for drug money.

A few selections from the book.

Part of the author explanation for why they were the best band in the world:
Because they weren't for everybody, and they didn't try to be. Because they made it look like it was fun to be alive, to be in a band. Because whenever you saw them play, you savored every moment because they were so powerfully awful, and so awfully powerful. Because when ever you saw them play, you savored every moment because you knew the clock was ticking. Because Steve Perry's cover story for the OCtober 1989 issue of Musician magazine called them "The Last, Best Band of the 80s" and the next month, Jon Bon Jovi wrote a letter to the editor that asked, "How can the Replacements be the best band of the 80s when I've never even heard of them?"

I spent more time at Duffy's than was probably healthy for me. Jay Walsh, author's brother:
So I went down to Duffy's after practice one night with a guitar tuner and told them I wanted to tune their guitars before they played. They played out of tune almost all the time. Sometimes they'd start OK, then they'd beat the hell out of the guitars and spend countless boring, fruitless minutes trying to tune up. It was just dumb luck if all sixteen of their strings were ever tuned together.

After I'd tuned the guitars, Paul was suspicious and he came up and said, "Play a C." So I played a C chord and he hummed the same chord on a harmonica. He kinda shrugged and said, "OK, I guess." Like, "OK, maybe this being-in-tune bullshit will be something different."

Well, they went out and played and they sounded like an aircraft carrier. Big, magnificent, and in tune. I remember them exchanging looks with each other and shrugging. Like "Wow, this is weird." After they played, Tommy said, "Man, we never sounded this good!" After maybe two years of playing around, they'd discovered that playing in tune could be fun too. But they reverted. I told them to buy their own fucking tuner. You could only baby-sit them so much.

Peter Buck, some guy they hired to play mandolin on Let It Be. I've also seen him play with Robyn Hitchcock:
They stayed with me for five days at my house in Athens [Georgia]. When they left, there were empty beer bottles adn records out of the jackets everywhere. As their van was pulling away, they stopped and Paul rolled down the window and said, "Uh, Peter? You might want to throw everything out fo the refrigerator. Bob's been opening up all the condiments and pissing in them everywhere we stay." So I did; haven't been able to eat mayonnaise since.

Minneapolis writer, P.D. Larson. Peter Buck is visiting Minneapolis and he and Westerberg get glammed up by a couple of women at First Avenue. They stop at a White Castle on the way home:
It was 1:45 in the morning, and we walk in there and it's rush hour. As I'm walking up to the counter, it suddenly dawns on me that Paul and Peter are still in costume. And this is two hours later, they looked even worse and were even three more sheets to the wind, and at this time Northeast was not the hip place it is now, but more like headbanger/heavy-metal territory.

So right away it was, "Who are you? What's your problem? Hey, faggot." And Paul was not terribly confrontational, but Peter for some reason, who was bigger than Paul, he was taing umbrage to some of the comments directed towards him. Then he started talking, and he had a fairly noticeable Georgia accent, adn that caused some friction as well.

Next thing I know, it's rumble in White Castle. There's swearing and voice raising and people being pushed and panicky-looking employees behind the counter reaching for the phone. And I'm standing there going, "Well, I could run out the door and pretend it never happened, and I'd be responsible for two of the key figures of '80s independent rock getting killed." But I corralled 'em and fortunately got 'em out of there.

I distinctly remember dragging Buck towards the car. I mean, he wanted to go. He was screaming, "You're're lucky."

Minneapolis writer, Bill Tuomala writing of the one Replacements show I was at. I remember thinking they must have been incredibly fucked up. Then after noticing they were laughing and having a good time pissing of the audience I began to have my doubts. I distinctly remember them ripping through an amazing cover of "Hello Dolly" and blowing the doors of a Prince song, before going back to screwing around. Weird experience realizing the band could care less about entertaining the audience. Made me like them just a little bit more.

The Replacements played the Orpheum in Minneapolis in November of 1987. They wore jumpsuits and were blotto drunk and quit playing their songs halfway through more often than not. The band went from downright goofy to determined to play lights-out at the change of a hat. In those instants that they held it together, like during a cover of the Stones' "Gimme Shelter," it was mesmerizing. There were a lot of people there bent on hearing their early fast songs and seemed to relish provoking the band...To end the show, the band just walked offstage without acknowledging that they had just finished the show. Many people booed, and Westerberg told the crowd: "We're not playing any more so fuck you."


Anonymous Leo said...

We've seen the Replacements the same number of times. They had only grown ever-so-slightly more concerned with entertaining the audience when I saw them at the Orpheum (or State? - Orpheum, I think) in '01.

8/11/2008 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger bill said...

I did see Paul Westerberg a few years ago down here in Atlanta and he put on an amazing show. One of the great American songwriters.

8/11/2008 10:08:00 PM  

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