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The Replacements: Color Me Depressed or shocking band i should like but don’t…

I know, it’s terrible right? I mean, not only were they the early 80s saving grace rockwise but a) my friends were their friends and fans b) the Replacements had in Paul Westerberg a great rock voice, all hoarse and sexy, c) they looked the part, d) they rockd hard, e) they were more messed up then i was f) they had a sense of humor g) i loved their third album “Hootenany”. So what’s wrong with this picture?

I remember having a loud, drunken argument at a bar on Lexington and 30 something in 86 with Bill and Barry Holdship of Michigan’s finest “Let’s Talk About Girls” about the Replacements: I conceded everything they had to say about the band (up to and including that they might well be great guys) BUT they still didn’t have good enough songs to be a great band…

Fast forward twenty-three years and I am throughly enjoying the new Art Brut album when I notice a song called “The Replacements” about you know who and then I am half way through Juliana Hatfield’s biography when she cops to being obsessed with Paul Westerberg as a teenager (the guy looks like Snoopy the beagle so go figure).

Which took me back for another look at the Replacements.

And here is what went wrong between us.

Firstly, the 80s were the worst decade imaginable for music (at the time I thought I hated music, that I was being a contrary so and so, I wasn’t: everything sucked) and because there was no great competition people overreacted to the Replacements.

Next, the only time I saw em live was in 91 when I caught them opening for Costello at MSG. Now, I got that tix from work and it was in WWOR-TV’s suite and couldn’t have been more removed. Also, me and my buddy Mike Blauner had nailed a bottle of Sambuca and a coupla of six packs before the replacements even hit the stage and halfway thru the set I turned to Mike and asked what he thought and he said “”I didn’t realize they were on stage” and for good reason but even if we hadn’t drunk our weight in beer the replacements were having real problems connecting to the audience because all their stroppy sophormore prankishness was lost in the 20K seater (it was a pretty lousy night all round: Costello was plugging the iffy “Mighty Like a Rose” and needed a shave). I needed to have seen the band in a different setting earlier in their career to get a handle on em.

Also, and here I hit my mark, for every “Bastards Of Young” there were 10 “Gary’s Got A Hardon”. I am a classicist in one sense: I believe in the power of the song to withstand sloppy playing, drunkeness, looseness and experiments of any type but without the song it is real tough.

And finally, it was incumbent upon a successful rock band to be successful. The fans are ALWAYS RIGHT. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a hit or not, great bands will be found by their audience.

The Replacements looked like a great band and they quacked like a great band but they were only a good band and with the world at large (or at least my world at large at the time) spoonfeeding me “Let It Be” and “Tim” I just can’t hear it and I still can’t hear it..

Guitarist Bob Stinson died in 95, drummer Steve Foley in 02. The booze got to the alcoholic Stinson, prescription drugs to replacement drummer Foley and mores the pity that the dark side of the Replacement should have so many casualities.

Listening to the band these last couple of days I can hear what Juliana Hatfield and Eddie Argos were responding so viscerally to and watching old footage of the band live in the early years on youtube I can absolutely see what Hatfield found so physically attractive about the band.

You? get “Bastards Of Young” and “Color me Impressed” and see what you think.

Me? Color me bemused.

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