Seven Inches of Minnesota Music: The Replacements "I'm in Trouble"
The Replacements are hands down one of the most revered and famous bands out of Minneapolis. Not only does the group forever cast a shadow over almost every barroom guitar-rock band that ever sets foot on stage in town, but their lingering legacy has done the same thing to the members of the band and their ever flourishing careers long after they originally called it quits in 1991.
For good reason, of course. Their music and songs are not only amazing and will forever resonate, but they often perfectly reflect the nature of living and coming up in the '80s in the Twin Cities punk scene. From the beginning, songs like those found on their 1981 debut LP Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take out the Trash offer a clear, though often hazy, dichotomy of the youthful mindset that attempts to be sincere amid psychological aloofness.
In other words, over and over their music illustrates the concept of Minnesota Nice despite our passive aggressive reality.
With that in mind, I had the chance to probe one of the original members of the Replacements, bass player Tommy Stinson, on their first single, "I'm in Trouble," from his hotel room in Orlando, Florida, where he was gearing up for a U.S. tour with another legendary rock band he's played with now for the last 13 years, Guns N' Roses.
The Repacements "I'm In Trouble" live at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 5th, 1981.
Gimme Noise: Hey Tommy! How you been? It's been a while. We've met before. I was at a party at Kii Aren's place. You'd just joined G N' R, and when I asked you what it was like do you remember what you told me?
Tommy Stinson: What did I say?
GN: You said, and this gives you an idea of how long ago it was, "If Axl Rose is Bill Clinton, I am sort of like his George Stephanopoulos."
GN: Tommy, are you there?
Stinson: [Long laughter]
GN: Do you remember that?
Stinson: [30 more seconds of laughter]
GN: Wow, you really crack yourself up!
Stinson: Wow, I guess so. I said that?
GN: I can't make that up.
Stinson: I guess so.
GN: Well hey, you're a busy guy and we have a lot to cover, but I want you to think back to when you started with the 'Mats and the first single you guys put out "I'm In Trouble". What do you remember about those first days and making that record?
Stinson: Fuck man, wasn't that like 37 years ago! I barely remember anything about that time. What was I, 12 years old then? 13 tops maybe.
GN: Did you record the single first, and then put out the full length?
Stinson: Well, I think we made the record and had the single come out of that.
GN: Well that had to have been some fond memories.
Stinson: Back then, there was a lot of dealing with Bob and Paul and their personality clashes. That was so long ago I can't really describe it.
GN: I suppose. It was sort of like training for you for what your career is now, as far as dealing with big personalities and dysfunction.
Stinson: But I have fond memories of all that stuff. I always liked the song on the b-side.
GN: "If Only You Were Lonely"? Yeah, that's one of Paul's best songs.
The Replacements "If Only You Were Lonely"
Stinson: I like the simplicity of just a guitar and a microphone. I remember Paul did a show playing acoustic at that time. A bit reluctantly though. I don't think he felt comfortable to pull it off on his own.
Stinson: He was really never comfortable putting his dick on the line, ya know?
GN: Really? What do you mean?
Stinson: Ya know, it's the old rock star cliche. They're afraid of what people are going to say. Self consciousness is worthless. If you truly want to do what you want, you really can't be self conscious about it with your ego and what the world is going to think.
GN: Interesting. Because it doesn't seem like Paul Westerberg ever gave a rat's ass. I mean lately he's got the tape on his shoes and the 4 track reel to reel thing going, I wouldn't say he is doing that because he care's what people think.
Stinson: Paul? Oh, he cares a lot more than what he lets on.
GN: You definitely had to deal with a lot of rock stars and egos. But what about yourself? You have a new solo record coming out. I saw the show this summer in the Mainroom, the songs were great.
Stinson: Dude, it's been out since August! You haven't heard it?! Fuck!
GN: Oh man, I'm sorry. Hey, at least I was at the show!
Stinson: Yeah, Yeah. Whatever. Well it's called One Man Mutiny and I put it out myself. I didn't feel like dealing with a label anymore. So I just put it out. Whenever I feel like writing some songs, I write some songs, record them and put it out myself.
GN: Right on.
Stinson: Yep, and half the proceeds are going to a school I sponsor in Haiti. Forever until the end of time, it's going to support that school.
GN: Well that's cool. I'll definitely check it out. Is it on vinyl? Oh wait, I see on your website vinyl is coming out in November. Perfect. Well, let's bring things up to speed to the present and Guns 'N' Roses.
Stinson: Yeah man, It's a big fucking undertaking but it's a lot of fun once it's up and running. It takes a lot of work and we realize what's at hand here.
GN: I know there's a lot of criticisms and jokes about Chinese Democracy and whatnot, but I'm kind of fascinated at the longevity of the whole modern day GN'R operation.
Stinson: Yeah, we're in Axl's GN'R. It's his band. Our job is to play the shit out of what we got and have a good time with it. Axl has a good time with this band. He said the other day he really loves this version of the band.
GN: Well yeah. I sort of admire your acumen. A lot of people come down on that it seems like it's Axl and a bunch of random dudes. But I mean you've been in the band longer than Duff was on bass in the band at this point.
Stinson: Yeah, and I get why some people might not like it. I mean I don't intend on taking over the world. It's funny, as I look back I still think it was a good idea. It's been longer than I ever thought it would last for me. Ultimately as long as it's fun it's a good gig. If it was super painful I wouldn't do it.
Tommy Stinson killin' it with Guns 'N' Roses on "You Could Be Mine" in Orlando, 10/28/11
GN: It seems it's been off to a rough start. Some late starts and Axl fell on stage in Mexico. Is he doing ok?
Stinson: Oh he's fine. It's a bunch of things all at once. So shit happens. I tripped over a mic stand the other night and I'm doing great. For Axl, I don't think much has changed about what he does. He's up there because he really loves the music. He's having a good time and likes playing.
GN: So what was the whole Chinese Democracy process like. I bet that was interesting to be involved with for so long?
Stinson: The whole record was made as a mass collective writing experiment. Axl dealt with the old band and they'd fight over the songs. With Chinese Democracy he got everyone to contribute on each other's songs. Hash it out some more with everyone. A real throw everything in the soup kind of affair.
GN: Well yeah, that was what a lot of people said about it. There are tons of guitars and a lot going on, almost too much. Would you do it that way again?
Stinson: Sure. I mean it was a real collective. That's my favorite thing about it. We wrote songs together and left our egos at the door.
GN: Right on man. Yeah, I have to confess I still haven't heard it. I read so much about it though.
Stinson: Jesus! You haven't heard my new record OR Chinese Democracy?!?!
GN: Oh man. I'm sorry, I just haven't made the time. I will!
Stinson: What the fuck?!
GN: I'm sorry, I'm kind old school. I just have a record player, I listen to mostly old jazz and soul records.
Stinson: What the hell. You some sort of fuckin' luddite?! What do you do for music? I don't believe this. Why am I talking to you?
GN: Oh dude, come on. I have all the old 'Mats records!
Stinson: Hey hold on I have to take this call. I might hang up on you.
Calling him back I didn't have the heart to tell Tommy that I actually did recently procure a copy of Chinese Democracy on vinyl at the Electric Fetus sale from the cut outs section this summer. I just haven't popped the shrink-wrap yet to give it a spin.
Stinson: Hello?! Sorry about that but I have to do another one of these. Aren't we done?
GN: Sorry man, Just one more question.
Stinson: Ok, fine. shoot..
GN: Well I was wondering, which would be more likely: a reunion of the Replacements or a reunion of the original lineup of Guns 'N' Roses?
Stinson: At this point man, I would say probably, definitely...neither.