In His Own Words: James Gunn on the All-Time Classicness of The Replacements
The Replacements are available on iTunes
I just finished Bob Mehr’s fantastic biography of the Replacements, “TROUBLE BOYS”. It is one of the most thoroughly researched and well-written books about ANY band, and it just so happens to be about one of my favorites of all time.
I first heard the Replacements in 1984 when “Let It Be” came out, and they seemed like the band which was made just for me. Rough and ragged but pure rock with pop melodies and rife with emotion and despair with occasional glimmers of hope and humanity. I instantly collected the three LP’s that had come out before that, and continued to buy each of their albums the day they came out until they kinda-sorta broke up in 1990. As far as I’m concerned, “Let It Be” and the three albums after it – “Tim,” “Pleased to Meet Me”, and “Don’t Tell a Soul” are four of the greatest rock and roll albums ever produced. (“Don’t Tell a Soul” was often maligned when it came out as too slick and overproduced and lacking the ‘Mats’ spirit. Although it has been a tad too engineered, to me, it’s overall the band’s most consistently great album and the one I listen to the most today.)
I always thought it was amazing that the Replacements weren’t bigger. Songs like “I Will Dare” or “Unsatisfied” should stand beside “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in the pantheon of rock and roll classics and “I’ll Be You” should have been a breakthrough pop song like the Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” Yes, I know we always become resentful when our secret, special bands become enormous and we suddenly have to share them with the world – I’ve experienced it numerous times over the years from Jane’s Addiction to Portugal the Man – but the Replacements were so great it would have been, for me, worth it to share them.
Like I said, I was always surprised the Replacements weren’t bigger – before reading TROUBLE BOYS. After reading it, I’m surprised that they ever became as big as they were. The band were famously besotted alcoholics. I saw them once in 1985 where they were so drunk they didn’t finish half the songs. But that was only the beginning of their outlandish self-destructiveness. They had a problem with authority that went so deep, they actively would alienate radio disc jockeys and TV shows that were doing nothing but trying to help them. It’s hard to believe that when I saw them – and to me and my friends they were huge rock stars – their guitarist, Bob Stinson, was still working as a fry cook on the side. In fact, they all had problems meeting ends meet – but when you find out one of their rituals was burning their per diems for absolutely no reason — you start to understand why. Not to mention they never met a piece of equipment – whether it be a guitar, a recording studio, or a motor home – that they didn’t eventually try to destroy.
But none of this stopped Paul Westerberg from being up there with Elvis Costello and Prince as the best songwriters of the 1980’s, and the Replacements being an all-time classic rock band, no matter how many people acknowledge it.
So, anyway, the book inspired me to create a playlist of some of my favorite Replacements songs. There are many others I wanted to include but didn’t. Some of you don’t have Spotify, so this is the list:
I Will Dare
Color Me Impressed
If Only You Were Lonely
Achin’ to Be
I’ll Be You
Kids Don’t Follow
Kiss Me on the Bus
Can’t Hardly Wait
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you can find more inspiring artist quotes in the gtc archives