We Are The Sons Of No One

In 1989 The Replacements released their final album, Don’t Tell A Soul, a record that was recorded in LA, buffed up in the mixing process and had the aim of making Sire a little money from a band a seemed to sabotage their career at every opportunity. Founding guitarist Bob Stinson (above right) had been replaced by Slim Dunlap. Chris Lord- Alge mixed it, adding some late 80s West Coast guitar band sheen and a big drum sound to give it in Lord- Alge’s words ‘a three dimensional, radio ready sound’. The songs contain some typical Paul Westerberg moments- Talent Show, We’ll Inherit The Earth, Rock ‘n’ Roll Ghost, Achin’ To Be- but it sounds (and always has) a bit flat and lifeless, songs for a teen TV show. Westerberg was trying a little too hard to write hits and then shrank away from the record when the released mix was aimed at giving him exactly that. I know there are people who love it and it must have been popular in the US where single I’ll Be You made number fifty- one on the Billboard chart but it’s my least favourite Replacements album. It sounds defeated, and not in a celebration of the underdog way. Having said that, I must have listened to it a fair amount because re-listening to it this week, I knew all the songs and what was coming next.

The album has now been re-released in a new form across four discs including a live show, outtakes and unreleased songs (with some from a late night drinking session with Tom Waits) and Don’t Tell A Soul in a completely different mix by producer Matt Wallace, closer to what Westerberg intended at the time. It’s definitely rawer and more immediate, bits of studio chatter intact, the band sound closer to the mic and less smothered by the late 80s. This one stands out, a song for drumming your fingers on the steering wheel to, heading off down the road with the stereo turned up loud, singing along to Westerberg’s outsider words ‘we’ll inherit the earth/we don’t want it/ it’s been ours since birth/what you doing on it?’

We’ll Inherit The Earth (Matt Wallace Mix)

But then go further back into the band’s back catalogue and you’ll find albums that need no re-polishing, no redux versions and no excuses made for them. 1984’s Let It Be is wall to wall, mid 80s brilliance, their final album for indie label Twin/Tone. A year later they made their first for Sire (and last with Bob Stinson on guitar) a record called Tim, and within its grooves among other moments you’ll find Kiss Me On The Bus, a genuinely great teen romance song, and this, a song that has underdog punk swagger and speaker rattling guitars to spare.

Bastards Of Young

 

Jesus Rides Beside Me

Live albums don’t tend to take up much of my time- often they’re the sort of record that get played once or twice and then filed and I don’t own very many. If it’s a recording of a gig you attended, I can see the point and I can happily spend time listening to, say, bootlegs of New Order in the 80s but too often they don’t do too much for me. I’m sure you can all make suggestions to counter that view (and I’m happy to be corrected). But there’s a release coming up of a gig The Replacements played at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey in April 1986 and the songs that have been posted on Soundcloud have got me interested. The studio versions of some of The Replacements songs didn’t always do the songs justice- I’ve posted the unreleased rougher Tim version of Can’t Hardly Wait before and it is miles better than the released one on Pleased To Meet Me. The outing Can’t hardly Wait got at Maxwell’s sounds close to definitive.
Pitchfork have a riotous sounding run through Bastards Of Young here. The Replacements For Sale: Live At Maxwell’s 1986 is a double cd, out at the end of the month, making October looking like it’s going to be as expensive as September has been. The tracklist is a pretty perfect selection of songs with I Will Dare, Unsatisfied, Answering Machine, Takin’ A Ride, Color Me Impressed, Left Of The Dial, Kiss Me On The Bus, Black Diamond, Waitress In The Sky and Fuck School among the 28 songs.
In 1986 the band played Saturday Night Live. They were drunk and swore on live TV and got banned from ever playing on the show again. In a funny little coincidence they are introduced playing Bastards Of Young by the great Harry Dean Stanton who died yesterday aged 91. It has to be said, they sound better drunk than many bands sound sober.
By the time they played Kiss Me On The Bus Paul, Chris and Tommy had swapped clothes…
I don’t think Saturday Night Live went out at a funny angle- the Youtube uploader’s done it to avoid copyright issues.
Harry Dean Stanton, RIP.

47

I’m bookending this working week with The Replacements. After posting the outtakes on Monday I was listening to a couple of their albums and I Will Dare came on with that little guitar riff at the start and then Paul Westerberg sings…

‘How young are you?
How old am I?’

And today, as it happens, I turn 47.

The number 47 doesn’t seem to have very much going for it. As Wiki points out it is the fifteenth prime number, the thirteenth supersingular prime and the sixth Lucas prime (nope, me either). It is strictly non-palindromic and in binary is represented as 00101111. A U.S. Maths professor used it to prove something funny to his students about numbers and this led to a long running visual gag in Star Trek. It is the atomic number of silver (my hair may be going that way). Mars has a forty seven year cycle around the sun. The Brooklyn hip hop collective Pro Era used 47 repeatedly because they felt that it represented perfect balance in the world and tension between the heart and brain. They also had a 47 logo that looked a tad swastika-like. It is the international dialling code for Norway. The Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn are forty seven degrees apart. There are forty seven Ronin in the Japanese story of the same name. More up this blog’s alley, FAC 47 was the Factory anvil badge.

Frankly, there are more interesting numbers than 47. I’m spending the evening of my 47th birthday watching Jane Weaver play her psychedelic/electropop/folk music at Band On The Wall. I’ll let you know how it was.

I Will Dare is a cracking little song off 1984’s Let It Be album. The guitar solo was played by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck who was astonished by the amount of alcohol The Replacements could put away. And as he pointed out, R.E.M. were hardly the soberest band in the mid 80s.

I Will Dare

Perfectly Lethal

I’m not sure The Replacements made a perfect album but they came pretty close with 1984’s Let It Be (and in typical fashion the soul bearing and emotion of Answering Machine, Androgynous and Unsatisfied were undercut by thrashy instrumentals like Gary’s Got A Boner and Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out and a Kiss cover). The strength of the album is also shown by the songs that didn’t make it. Perfectly Lethal is driven by Bob Stinson’s ragged guitar playing and the sense that they might be about to fall apart but are enjoying the ride.

Perfectly Lethal

They didn’t always get it right on their albums with production and song choice. The version of Can’t Hardly Wait they recorded for Tim but didn’t include is vastly better than the one that came out with horns on it on Pleased To Meet Me. What rational band would record this song and then decide to leave it off an album. It’s all part of what makes them one of my favourite bands.

Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)

Within Your Reach

I was flicking through my records on Saturday looking for something else when I found what I wasn’t looking for but pulled it out and played it anyway- Hootenanny, the second album by The Replacements. Hootenanny is a halfway house, a stepping stone from the breakneck punk of their early years to the slightly more considered sound of Let It Be and Tim. Hootenanny is still ragged, a bit of a mess in places with some songs that sound tossed off for a laugh but it also has the first of what would become Paul Westerberg’s signature aching, yearning guitar songs. Within Your Reach is just Westerberg too with a drum machine, flanged guitar and a trademark romantic lyric.

Within Your Reach

Prince Paul And King Paul

I saw this recently, an excerpt from Bob Mehr’s excellent sounding new book on The Replacements, and it made me smile…

‘Prince was rumoured to have lurked in the shadows at some of the Replacements shows at First Avenue, but it was in the bathroom of a club in St. Paul where Westerberg finally ran into him.
“Oh, hey,” said Westerberg, seeing the dolled-up singer standing next to him at the urinal. “What’s up, man?”
Prince turned and responded in cryptic fashion: “Life.”

Paul Westerberg called time on The Replacements re-union recently having fell out of love with it again. He called the re-union ‘whoring himself’. I’ve said it before- The Replacements were such a great little band. Paul’s gone straight back to work, recording and releasing an album with Juliana Hatfield as The I Don’t Cares. This upbeat song has clanging Westerberg guitars, a bitter-sweet lyric and drawly vocals from the pair of them. Good stuff.

King Of America

Can’t Hardly Wait

The reformed Replacements (frontman and songwriter Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson) play two nights at the Roundhouse in London, tonight and tomorrow. Which is great if you’re within spitting distance of Camden on a work night, but less so for the rest of us. Still, I hope it’s great and everyone has  a ball. The Replacements were such a great little band whose songs touch chords and tug heartstrings. A lot of their best songs- and therefore some of the best songs of the US in the 80s- were let down by bad or dated production. This is as true of Can’t Hardly Wait as any, marred on the official Pleased To Meet Me version by horns and a too poppy production. This version, recorded during sessions for the previous album Tim but not included, is much better.

Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim Version)