There are many incarnations of The Replacements. There are also many opinions as to which incarnation is the greatest.
I’ll be honest—it depends on my mood.
Today, what I really needed was plenty of thrash, with a little rockabilly and attitude thrown in. That means the original incarnation in their humble beginning. ’81 ’Mats, courtesy of Twin/Tone (twintonedigital on YouTube).
“During the first week of September 1981, Twin/Tone took the mobile recording unit and rented a bunch of video gear and recorded 15 bands live (five nights) at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. These clips are presented as they were recorded live… in set order and very much with the tuning that troubled the night. The Replacements were the middle band of three (Husker Du closed the show) and played two 25 minute sets,” is the official statement on their YT channel.
What I’ve always loved about this footage is just how well it captures the ’Mats raucous spirit. Tommy is like, 14; Bob’s playing is solid and dangerous, Chris is a snarling drum MACHINE (that’s not a dis) and baby-faced Paul is sweating, screaming and still seems gentle somehow.
Favorite cuts: part 3 kicks off with “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” arguably the best track on Sorry Ma…just listen to Paul scream! A while later, they cover “Maybelline.” And don’t miss “I Hate Music,” another gem. Does it get any better than this?
Click on the video above to start watching the entire six-part series. Kudos to Twin/Tone for recording all this, and for sharing it!
I was 15. The year: 1989. My teen angst bullshit craved something more than The Smiths, R.E.M. or even The Violent Femmes. I could only listen to my mom’s early Kinks and Chess blues records so many times.
Enter The Replacements.
As with any meaningful music discovery, the doors were opened by the older generation. In this case, my best friend at the time’s hip, older sister (She hung out with skateboarders! She drank!) Most important—she passed along her tape of The Replacements’ Don’t Tell a Soul. I was hooked.
Obsessively, I read and reread the liner notes. I stared at the photos. Who was that person backstage wearing a work shirt, fishnets and work shoes? I wanted to be her (“You be me for awhile, and I’ll be you,” right?).
Still got it — Don’t Tell a Soul tape from 1989.
The songs rocked and rolled (“The rock’s easy, but the roll is another thing…” ― Keith Richards). My faves: Talent Show, We’ll Inherit the Earth and Anywhere’s Better Than Here. There were ballads, too. Rock ’N Roll Ghost is still a tear-jerker.
Of course, for many long-time fans, Don’t Tell A Soul was The Replacements’ “sellout” album. Totally get that. But for a 15-year-old white girl from the Chicago ’burbs, it was real, honest music — more “rock” than anything else out there at the time.
I immediately dove into The Replacements’ early albums and never looked back. That’s how my love affair with The Replacements began.
“We’ll inherit the Earth, but don’t tell anybody…”
Everyone looks so sad here.
April 10, 2015 is a big day. The Replacements play Portland, Oregon for the first time in I dunno know how long. The last time I saw them, they left the stage and had their roadies finish the set (the infamous ’91 Taste of Chicago Fourth of July show). I wept.
Fast forward 24 (?!) years, and we find what’s left of the ’Mats—Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson—joined by some ace replacements—Josh Freese on skins* and Dave Minehan on guitar.
Unlike many reunion tours, this one seems less about $$$ and more about just fucking playing. Both Paul and Tommy credit their dear friend and former Replacements axeman Slim Dunlap with inspiring the reunion. Dunlap suffered a stroke in 2012 and can now only speak in a whisper.
“You think you have it bad, and then you go and see him [Slim] and you go, ‘All of my troubles are insignificant.’ That’s part of the reason we got together. Not so much the making money, but for the reason that we could – we can stand, and we can play. Whether we’re good or not is irrelevant,” Westerberg recently told Daily Dish.
Funny thing—they’re good. And more relevant than ever. In fact, the general consensus since their 2013-2014 festival stint—they fucking rock.
What can we expect at the Portland show? Hopefully, it will be better than their last gig in Portland (1987!). The show was so bad that The ’Mats actually wrote a song apologizing for their bad behavior. You can listen to that countrified little ditty above.
“It’s too late to turn back, here we go/Portland, oh no…”
See you April 10, boys!
* Original drummer Chris Mars declined touring due to his successful art career, but remains supportive of the reincarnated ’Mats.