Following last Friday's yearly tribute to the Replacements at First Ave--this year's headline featured a star-studded performance of the Replacements' debut album, Sorry Ma, I Forgot To Take Out The Trash--we thought it would be interesting to dig through the CityPages archives and look at some of the historical Replacements coverage during their early years.
The following article originally appeared in the February 18, 1981 issue of City Pages (then called Sweet Potato).
By P.D. Larson
Boy, are we lucky to live in this deep-freeze of a state! We've got a thriving arts and music scene, a relatively high st andard of living, clean air, the North Stars.
When analyzing Minneapolis' bustling local music scene, two characteristics are quickly evident: size and diversity. There are literally dozens of bands of all shapes, sizes, and musical inclinations--from the Teenage Boat People to Safety Last to Willie and the Bees, and all areas in between; there really is something for everyone.
The Replacements consist of four young lads from Minneapolis who are currently ripping up the local circuit with their blistering brand of rock--as one local observer put it, "punk without safety pins."
However, to call The Replacements punk rockers is a gross injustice, though early punk, especially the Sex Pistols, provide an important inspiration. It's true they play aggressive, relatively simple songs, but they definitely lack the sometimes rather absurd visual components and the sloganeering that shook up much of the music world a few years ago when "punk rock" first reared its short-lived head.
What The Replacements are is simply a fertile profusion of ideas and spirit masquerading as a rock band--a band with so much energy, spunk, and almost total lack of pretension, that seeing them live is a truly invigorating experience.
The Replacements have been around for a year or so, gigging heavily for about six months. Bob Sinson, 21, his brother Tommy, 14, and Chris Meyers, 20, played in a short lived jamming collective, Dogbreath. The group was lacking in the vocal and songwriting departments until Paul Westerberg, 21, entered the pictures. Their personalities quickly mixed and The Replacements were on their way.
Westerberg is the chief songwriter, vocalist, and a major guiding light in the group's arrangements. The situation is far from an autocracy; the entire group kicks ideas around during rehearsals. Paul simply sows the creative seeds and the songs grow in a collaborative manner.
Westerberg's lyrics are really quite good, possessing a good deal of humor and intelligence. Many of his songs are written with his audience in mind--simple words and themes that the listeners can directly relate to. His populist style draws on topics varying from teenage frustration to the lure of the night life. Paul doesn't attach a great deal of importance to many of his words, instead striving for the right "feeling." Very few of his lyrics contain any kind of message or profound revelations; as he says, "the message is, there is no message."
Paul works on many of his songs in his attic "studio," recording ideas simply, using only his guitar, voice, and two inexpensive tape decks. The finished products, after the rest of the band has thrown in their two cents worth, are witty without being smug, lightweight without being disposable, and most of all, enjoyable.
One of their best songs is "I Hate Music," which owes its existence to Paul's distaste for a good share of contemporary music, occasionally even his own compositions. "I hate music / Sometimes I don't / I hate music / It's got too many notes / I hate high school / Sometimes I went..."
"Love You Till Friday" is my personal favorite. It's a catchy exploration of the love-em-and-leave-em theme that is reminiscent of some of Generation X's earlier, lightweight songs. "Shut Up" also brings to mind early British Punk, though like most of The Replacements' songs, it lacks that genre's superfluous nihilism.
Other gems in the Replacements' songbag include "Careless," "Taking a Ride," "Hanging Downtown," "Otto," and "Johnny Must Die [sic]." All The Replacements' songs are simple, vigorously arranged bursts of high energy rock that accurately reflect the band's unpretentious, fun-loving attitudes.
Memorable Live Experiences
The Replacements are playing The Saints Roller Rink in Duluth in front of a predominantly teenage crowd, 700 strong, many of them with limited live exposure to "real" rock bands. Paul accidentally cuts, and subsequently bloodies himself after an encounter with the mike stand. Impulsively, he smashes his guitar on the stage, resulting in a premature end to their set. The young crowd is stunned; many of them "open-mouthed," according to Chris.
Friday, Feb. 6/Saturday, Feb. 7
Sam's proprietor, Steve McClellan, is a nice guy who seems to have a genuine interest in presenting good music and remaining on good terms with the bands--sort of a "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" attitude. The unique 7th St. Entry is quite popular amongst many local bands (including The Replacements) and, in many cases, is their only outlet for live expression.
This particular weekend will be the second occurrence of a new Sam's innovation: cameo appearances in the main room by live bands. The Replacements are scheduled to play two 10-minute sets each night in front of disco droids, K-Tel jet setters, pseudo-punks and tons of Mr./Ms. Goodbars.
Each night's first set was similar, The Replacements seguing into their first song on cue from the deejay, ripping through four more songs, and then quickly exiting stage left, leaving most of the one-third full "danceteria" either totally unaffected or mildly amused.
The second sets were played in front of considerably larger crowds and caused much bigger ripples. As The Replacements hit the stage there was a strange shuffling of dancers; many "regular" types split, their places being taken by people of a more "different" nature. Paul later admitted that the band does feed off audience reaction, and the band's second set performances certainly reflected this. The band played their five songs with a fine-tuned reckless abandon that caused most people to at least take notice. Saturday's second set was the best of the four, though all were equally hectic. The band received all-around favorite responses throughout the weekend, though most people still aren't quite sure what the purpose of the cameos was.
Paul was strangely ambivalent about the proceedings. Personally, I think most people enjoyed the sets, and if nothing else, they provided a refreshing alternative to the sometimes overwhelming throb of the Disco Beat.
The Replacements are in such an early stage of band evolution, the pre-vinyl stage, that their first love, and primary source of creative expression, remains the stage. Live, The Replacements are pure, youthful energy. Tommy is the immediate eye catcher, ferociously attacking his bass while leaping about in a style that perfectly mixes the best of Pete Townshend and Dee Dee Ramone. Chris' proficient drumming and sense of rhythm keep the band on track during their frequently frantic performances. Paul and Bob man the guitars, Bob doing most of the lead word, Paul taking the rhythm duties. Paul's vocals are loud and tough; a raspy shout of a voice that contains strains of Gen X's Billy Idol, Johnny Rotten, and even Curtiss Almsted. All in all, The Replacements' live show is loads of infectious fun both for the band and for the audience.
Memorable Live Experiences
This time The Replacements are working in a Minneapolis venue that will remain unnamed. About four songs into their set, the owner informs them to either "turn down the volume or get off the stage." Paul surprises the owner by quickly initiating a rather pertinent, financial discussion. The miffed owner quickly storms away. Paul replies by turning up his amp while the band launches into "Shut Up," replacing the title chorus with "fuck you," while the owner watches. After the song the band promptly leaves the stage, vowing never to return...
Monday, February 9
The Replacements are back again in Sam's main room, this time supporting Hüsker Dü and The Suburbs. The crowd is drastically different from the weekenders, many being avid fans of the local music scene.
The Replacements play a 30-minute opening set that is also quite different from their weekend experience. Enjoying the extended time slot, the band slows down and paces themselves in a much more relaxed manner. Consequently, they sound more confident and deliberate, while still retaining the energy from their "batten down the hatches" cameo performances. The band's sound is the best I've ever heard, due to the join-rental of a huge Marshall PA by all three bands. The Replacements make good use of their extra wattage, wishing no doubt, that the situation was a permanent one.
They play most of their favorites, along with great covers of Larry Williams' "Slow Down" and the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night." The sparse, early crowd receives the band well. For the most part this is a definitive Replacements performance, even though they had to stop a few songs short, due to a broken string. When asked to judge the band's performance Chris replies "It was nothing special."
Memorable Live Experiences
When asked what was the most unusual thing ever to happen on stage, Chris replied "Once we were all in tune. Oh yeah, and another time Bob remembered the songs.
After spending a few days with The Replacements, one becomes aware of an almost "fuck all" type of attitude. They don't take a whole lot too seriously, especially the rock scene. They all admit that they are progressing at a rate faster than they themselves ever imagined possible. Happily, they're more concerned with their own personal enjoyment and satisfaction than conquering the world in six months, at the risk of damaging their personal relationships.
That isn't to say they don't have great self-esteem; quite the opposite. It's just that they're all having a good time, releasing their pent-up frustrations and living their dreams, and don't want to rock the boat with egos and false pretentions.
The band is currently working on an album at Blackberry Way studios; this represents the next phase in their development. Chris is cautiously enthusiastic about this next step. Paul is becoming increasingly disenchanted with the foreign environment of the studio, preferring the spontaneity and immediacy of the stage. This dichotomy is just another example of the healthy tension that should exist in any band desirous of warding off complacency.
Regardless of this difference of opinion, The Replacements' immediate future looks bright. Their strong group personality is a result of Chris and Paul's dynamic, individual characters, Tommy's bottomless reservoir of teenage energy, and Bob's consummate guitar skills. Even their management is top-notch, nonetheless than Twin Tone magnate Peter Jesperson. But the thing that impresses me the most is the progress they've made in such a short time.
Rock 'n' roll comes quite natural to all of them, and it appears that in only one year they are well on the way to perfecting the fine art of seriously creating unserious music. The Replacements are not yet at the peak of their form, but with so much inherent enthusiasm and talent, the lofty heights of fame and fortune must no longer seem so fantastical to them.
Paul once told me that one of his, and the band's earliest goals was to someday help replace the AOR drenched, corporate bands that he so strongly despises with something new and fresh. Whether he knows it or not, he and the rest of The Replacements are off to a good start.