The Replacements were one of the most talented rock bands from the 80s. Remaining members Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have just announced a new EP under the old band name.
The limited-edition digital EP will have two songs written by Slim Dunlap, the band’s guitarist from 87-91, and a few covers. Proceeds will go to Dunlap who’s recovering from a stroke he had in February.
I’ll let you know as soon as the new songs drop. Meanwhile, here’s a short bio on the Replacements and a rundown of their best songs.
Minneapolis rockers the Replacements made seven albums between 1979 and 1991. Their sound was basic, romantic and rebellious.
Paul Westerberg wrote and sang the songs. His voice and guitar-playing have the quality of feeling both familiar and new. Edgy and comforting. Primal and thoughtful.
The lyrics come from a poetic soul who’s repeatedly disillusioned. Someone who keeps being knocked down, but always gets back up.
There’s something propulsive about the Replacements. They’re the voice of every young generation. You can get their essence from the hit “Bastards of the Young.”
Paul Westerberg founded the band in 1979 with Chris Mars (drums) and brothers Tommy (bass) and Bob Stinson (guitar).
They originally named themselves The Impediments, but changed it to The Replacements after collectively being banned from a bar for partying too hard.
Their first record Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash came out in 1981 on the Minneapolis label Twin Tone. The next year they released the Stink EP. In 83 the album Hootenanny defined their sound with a stripped-down mix of rock, folk, country and pop.
The song “Color Me Impressed” would, almost 30 years later, become the title track to an intimate documentary of the band. Here are the Replacements performing the song live in 1983.
It was in 1984 that the Replacements true sound crystallized with the release of their critically-acclaimed album Let it Be. Paul Westerberg’s new pop sound, especially on “Answering Machine” and “I Will Dare” got them international attention. These are still two of the band’s best songs.
Big label Sire signed the Replacements in 1985 after Let it Be. The resulting album Tim had even more good songs.
Disillusioned hits “Hold My Life”, “Androgynous”,”Kiss Me on the Bus”, “Bastards of the Young” and “Left of the Dial” had a hand in making the Replacements famous.
My favorite from Tim is the ballad “Here Comes a Regular.”
After Tim the Replacements started to self-destruct. Their set on Saturday Night Live was a drunken disaster. Westerberg even said the “F” word. They refused to be filmed in detail for MTV.
Bob Stinson was fired from the band at this point. You can hear all the sordid details in the radio story I made for KEXP Documentaries for their series Death, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll.
The 1987 album Pleased to Meet Me is by far their best release. Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars recorded it as a trio.
The summer of 1989 I was on break from U.C. Berkeley and had a temp job at a scary/normal office supply company in the boonies. The identical women in pastel businesswear threatened to kill my soul.
I spent lunchtimes curled up at a corner table reading Nietsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra with Pleased to Meet Me running through my headphones on repeat. It worked as a rebellious/artistic force field. I think now I’d have a bit more compassion for those poor pink ladies.
“I Don’t Know”
Do we give it up?(I don’t know)
Should we give it hell?(I don’t know)
Are you makin’ a fortune?(I don’t know)
Or don’t you wanna tell?(I don’t know)
One foot in the door
The other foot in the gutter
The sweet smell that you adore
Yeah I think I’d rather smother
The whole album Pleased to Meet Me is good. There are a few duds on there but I don’t mind them in context.
Favorite songs are “I Don’t Know”, “Alex Chilton”, “Skyway”, “Can’t Hardly Wait” , “Valentine”, “Nightclub Jitters”, “Nevermind” and “The Ledge.”
In 1989 the Replacements seemed to have submitted to their new fame. They made a batch of pretty-boy videos. Although their records were more stripped-down than most 80s music, the sound on the record Don’t Tell a Soul was overproduced.
The band seemed to sag under the weight of new responsibility. You see this phenomenon in commercial music a lot, an artist who has lost their spark, smothered by the demands of fame.
After Don’t Tell a Soul flopped with critics and fans, Westerberg wanted to do a solo release. The record company refused – so he did it anyway.
All Shook Down was recorded with the Replacements members and a bunch of studio musicians. Chris Mars quit after the album, stating that Westerberg was now in full control of the sound. In 1991 the band officially broke up.
At this point both Westerberg and Mars went off to start solo careers. Tommy Stinson formed a band called “Bash and Pop” then one named “Perfect.” Sadly, Bob Stinson died from a drug overdose in 1995.
The Replacements remain one of the greatest rock bands in history. Here’s the full free album stream for their breakthrough record Let it Be. May the force field be with you.
To get in on the bidding for the limited-edition EP recorded in September, or to follow the path of Paul Westerberg’s successful solo releases visit paulwesterberg.com.
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, kexp.org. Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features for Experience Music Project, the University of Washington and NPR.