Saturday, January 11, 2014

Color Me Obsessed

By Pauly
New York City

I watched a good doc -- The Replacements - Color Me Obsessed -- which included interviews with a few guys from Husker Du (except Bob Mould). However, no one from the actual Replacements were interviewed and the producers never got permission to use The Replacements' music. Despite those two big drawbacks, the doc was essentially an oral history of the band as told by their friends/family/peers/music journalists.

The Replacements were spawned from the mean streets of Minneapolis in 1979. Bob Stinson was worried that his kid brother, Tommy, was going to end up in jail unless the wayward teenager found some direction. Tommy was only 11 when Bob (himself a high school dropout who was a budding musician and guitar player) handed his kid brother a bass guitar and the two started jamming. Music kept Tommy off the streets and the two brothers formed a garage band. Literally. They called themselves DOGBREATH and jammed in their garage every day. As legend has it, Paul Westerberg  heard random music while walking home from work. All these twisted and disturbing noises were coming out of the Stinson's house, but Westerberg hung outside to listen. He loved the weirdness so much he returned day after day. Just to listen. Eventually Westerberg joined the band and the rest is history.

In 1980, the group changed their name to THE IMPEDIMENTS and eventually settled on THE REPLACEMENTS. Due to an error on one of their gig posters, among their faithful and ever growing fan base, they were often referred to as THE MATS.

The Replacements were a unique post-punk band. They were accomplished musicians for someone in the punk scene (it was less about virtuosity and more about sheer, raw, energy and explosions of FUCK EVERYTHING), yet they always emphasized a 'who gives a fuck attitude.' They never cared what anyone thought about them or their music. They were in it for the fun. That philosophy doesn't always mean you're going to get the best possible music, because most of the time, the actual music suffered when the band had tons of fun and consumed redonk amounts of liquor. Majority of the time, the music was an afterthought and the hijinks on stage were the focal point.

Someone described The Replacements as the "best live band and the worst live band." That was generally the consensus of most punk bands of the era. For example, The Germs had become notorious in the LA punk scene for their epic shows because riots always broke out, and you never knew what was going to happen or if the lead singer was going to break a beer bottle and carve out chunks of his own flesh. But the Replacements were not the types of guys who were up on stage for shock value. They were in it for the fun. No human grenades like GG Allin, who'd be covered in blood and feces by the end of the show (most of it was his own). But then again, the MATS would get so blistering drunk that they'd beat the shit out of each other onstage, which sometimes spilled into the crowd.

One music writer put it best, "The Mats were like a drunken art project or performance art on some level."

The emphasis was fun. The songs were catchy and lathered in angst. The Replacements bass player, Tommy, was still an angry teen when he joined the band. Tommy's peers were the target audience -- disaffected youths -- so the crowd latched onto The Replacements because it was a band that had 'one of them' in it.

I loved their attitude: "We don't really care what you think... we're having fun."

That's a bare-bones philosophy for both art and life. It's something I try to employ as much as possible. It falls in line with the Luis Guzman line from Boogie Nights... "If you dig it, it's cool."

Lesson from The Replacements: If something is fun... then keep doing it.

Seriously, who gives a fuck if others don't dig it? I'm not really one to hide a guilty pleasure. Why feel guilty about something that brings you happiness? That's why if you get worried about what the masses think, they'll sneer at your fun because 1) they're not having fun, or 2) incapable of fun, or 3) simply outright jealous, or 4) miserable fucks that want you to sink to their level so they rain on your parade in hopes you give up on having fun.

Good rule of thumb... if it's not fun, then try to find some fun in it. But if something is not inherently fun, or you can't squeeze the fun out if it, then it's probably best you skip it.

Anyway, those guys in The Replacements didn't really care about hitting it big. They had plenty of opportunities to go mainstream. They had the talent, but they lacked the ambition. Best example of that attitude is their first and only music video. They had a huge shot with MTV, but instead of shooting an edgy video, all they did was have a camera film a stereo speaker while the song played. It's kinda funny. It's definitely punk rock (FUCK THE MAN!), but it's also incredibly stupid. If you don't want to make a video... then don't make videos. But if you get a shot, you should make it count. But that's the beauty behind the twisted genius of The Replacements.... they didn't give a fuck.

The Replacements were one of a handful of performers banned from Saturday Night Live. The MATS' drunken hijinks did not bode well with SNL suits. They totally trashed their dressing room and went berserk backstage. Bob supposedly took a dump in an ice bucket and sent the bucket down to the lobby in the elevator. The Replacments joined the ranks of other bands banned from SNL like Elvis Costello (The infamous Radio, Radio stunt), Cypress Hill (smoking weed onstage), Fear (trashed the set), and Sinead O'Connnor (ripping up picture of The Pope). Elvis eventually got un-banned, but the rest of those musicians are persona non grata at 30 Rock.

G-Money gave me a bunch of Replacements albums. He was a big fan, especially Westerbeg's contributions. "Amazing melodies, good lyrics and brilliant but unbelievable ballads like Answering Machine."

I stumbled upon Westerberg in the early 90s when he emerged as a singer/songwriter. I knew he was from this crazy Minnesota punk band in the 80s called The Replacements, but I had never heard of any of their stuff until I finally dabbled in punk when I moved to Seattle in the late 90s.

The funny thing about The Replacements is how they never really got too big, yet they inspired many bands in the 80s-90s. I guess they were Minnesota's Velvet Underground in that regard... a band that inspired multiple generations of bands.

It's also interesting to note that Westerberg had a huge solo career while Tommy Stinson ended up playing bass in Guns N Roses (touring band) for 17 years. Sadly, Tommy's older brother Bob became a cautionary tale. He was a bad alkie, so bad that he got kicked out of the band that was notorious for being a band of drunks. Bob never really had post-MATS success akin to Tommy or Westerberg. He struggled with the bottle for many years and lived a sad existence in Minneapolis in a tiny apartment above a bowling alley or liquor store. Chuck Klosterman wrote something about how his friends in Minneapolis would get drunk then drive over to where they thought Bob lived and they sat outside in a parked car hoping to catch a glimpse of the former guitarist from The Replacements.

One last note.... The Replacements were fans of Big Star. So much so, they wrote a song called Alex Chilton. Ah, it all comes full circle.

Check out this week's writing music: The Replacements.

And here's there underground hit Fuck School:

1 comment:

  1. They are playing at Coachella this year. Should they finally schedule a hometown gig, have a spare bedroom if you need it.