I remember eyeing the rock n roll rags on the magazine rack at the drug store when I was kid. Rolling Stone, Spin, maybe Circus or something, and it was very affective. I remember one time in particular, picking up a copy of Rolling Stone, and thumbing through the pages until I came to a piece on a band, and in one of the photos, one of the dudes was letting spit hang towards the ground, the other guys were cracking up, and seeing that it all made sense to me. From that moment, it was all about the sort of goofy coolness, not taking it too seriously, after that, anything else just felt a little bit wrong to me. I wish I could remember who the band was. I’ve googled “Rolling Stone band photos spitting” and stuff kind of like that. Anyway, to the me The Replacements, more than any other band, represent the “we’re cool, but aren’t trying to be” vibe.
I heard about the Replacements before I actually heard them. And from the way they were discussed, and the fact that I didn’t hear them on the radio, I knew they must be a cool band. The kind of band you didn’t hang posters of, but that your friend's older brother that mostly kept his door shut, and killer tunes always spilled out of his room, a muffled cocophony of drums and guitars and shredded vocals, would probably be into. I’d also heard that they were a punk band. Which I didn’t know much about at the time.
I heard my first replacements song in the 6th grade, except I didn't know it was the Replacements when I heard it. I had rented “Say Anything,” which instantly became my favorite movie. There’s a scene towards the end, where Lloyd and Diane are sharing a single bed, early in the morning, and that scene, even more than the jambox scene, felt like what love was going to be. I was twelve years old, picturing myself a few years down the road, with a real girlfriend, spooning in the bed I grew up in, on some weekend when my parents took off and left me alone. And, a few scenes later, as Lloyd is telling his sister goodbye before he heads off to England, there was a song in the back ground, with this really cool sounding guitar, which I would soon find out resulted from a “flange” or “phaser” effect, and a drum machine, and it felt perfect for that moment on screen. The song was “Within Your Reach” by the Replacements. Back then, I couldn’t just google “Say Anything Soundtrack,” or go to Spotify and just listen. And, the snippet of the song, didn’t even have words, it was just the music. So, at this point, all I knew, was I liked the movie, and I liked the way that background music sounded.
A few years later, when I got to high school, and grunge and alt rock had hit the main stream, but was still “cool,” everybody was blasting the soundtrack to the new Cameron Crowe movie, “Singles,” which featured Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. But, the songs from the movie that I really dug were the ones by Paul Westerberg. I liked his voice-it was raw but melodic and there was a certain snark to it. I liked that the songs had a 60s pop sensibility, but still had an edge-the acoustic strumming with the dirty electric appealed to me as well. And, as much as I enjoyed listening to Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and all of that stuff, and didn’t make me want to pick up my guitar and start a band. That was the other thing, I had been playing guitar for a little over a year, and I was at the point where I could just listen to a song (some songs, anyway) and play them. That’s what I liked about the Westerberg songs on the soundtrack, it sounded like something that I could make happen. And I don’t mean it sounded easy or something, it just seemed like the kind of songs that were begging to be banged out and just played. Eventually, I discovered that Paul Westerberg was the lead singer of the Replacements.
Still, I had yet to discover the Replacements. About a year after that, I was on a Mission Trip in South Dakota, and we flew into Minneapolis. We vistied the Mall of America, and at Sam Goody or one of those Mall record shops, I found a tape of “All Shook Down” in one of those bargain baskets. Man, discovering the Replacements in Minneapolis, that’s pretty apropos. A lot of Replacements fans can’t stand “All Shook Down” and say it’s not a real Replacements record, because most of the original line up didn’t play on it, or they only played on one song. And yeah, it is essentially a Westerberg solo album, but I liked it when I bought it 25 years ago and I like it now. I mean, it doesn’t make sense for Paul to continue to write songs like “Kid’s Don’t Follow” or “Fuck School” a decade later. Punk doesn’t really work for people much passed 25. And looking back, “All Shook Down,” is not one of the great Replacement’s albums, but, it’s still a good album. I still like the songs. But, sure, I prefer “Tim.”
So, in High School, I wore out my tape of “All Shook Down,” driving around in a 1990 white Chrysler Lebaron. But, I didn’t really dig into the replacements until I got to college, and purchased all their music on compact disc. Besides having this really dirty edge and energy, they still had great songs. And, in South Carolina, at the time, I couldn’t find too many people at the time who were interested in the Replacements at all. Most of the people I knew were listening to Widespread Panic, or one of the many regional acoustic duos. So, the whole Replacements thing still felt like a privilege. And that's why they are still so cool, because they never got so big that it felt like it was too much. The Replacements were never a “T-shirt” band, you know? A Replacements t-shirt would have defeated the whole purpose. Putting on the t-shirt, is trying too hard to let people know you’re in on it. And, once you’re trying that hard, well, it’s just not cool, anymore. A better representation would be a set list, or a story about getting to the dirty club early in 1987 and having beers with the Stinsons. Something along those lines.
The Replacements influence on what I create does not come through so much musically, not at all in an obvious way. But, I’d like to think there is a certain irreverence that I took from the Replacements. A certain mistrust of the mainstream bowling bowl that we all get pounded with. A sly and subtle wink or nod to doing it your own way. I’d like to think so, anyway. But, once I start thinking, I’m already way less cool than the Replacements.