Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nurse the Hate: Trouble Boys

One of the wisest decisions I ever made was to not meet Paul Westerburg of The Replacements.  I say this as a fan.  The Replacements have been a consistent soundtrack to my life since I was given a cassette with the “Tim” record by a friend in 1985.  The B-side of the tape had Fear’s “More Beer” record.  What a great tape.  I spent a lot of time walking around with that in my trusty Walkman.  When I hear “Here Comes A Regular” I think of the smell of leaves.  After I tracked down the “Let It Be” record and “Hootenanny” LP, they were in constant rotation.   Then after introducing the records to the deadbeat guys I lived with at the time, there wasn't a night we went out that those records didn't play at some point.  We were all down with the band.  When “Pleased To Meet Me” was released, it might have been played every day for months.  It’s all we listened to for a year I think.

I just read “Trouble Boys”, an amazingly well researched bio on the band.  I was able to place myself in various moments in their past.  It’s hard to believe that the band was fraying at the edges when I saw them in an auditorium in Kent where I had taken a psychology class just a few hours before.  Who thought it was a good idea to book them there?  It didn't matter.  They were on the “Pleased To Meet Me” tour and they totally destroyed.  They were everything a rock band is supposed to be.  Dangerous, unpredictable and ready to fall apart at any moment.  Then they would bring it together for a song that would rip your heart out.  Damn.  What a great band.  I was lucky enough to see them at the right time in both of our respective lives.

“Trouble Boys” is really well done.  It’s sort of odd.  Despite myself and all my close friends being consumed by the band, we knew almost nothing about them.  “Four guys from Minneapolis that loved drinking to the point of self destructive behavior” was about the extent of it.  That was the common tale repeated in the infrequent press mentions.  The book really lays it out though, staring straight at some really ugly behavior and incidents.  The stories from their heyday are like the band’s music itself, a combination of humor, lack of abandon, sadness and fear of success.  It is really interesting how the band wanted to be huge, but at the same time refused to help themselves to the point of destroying their opportunities for larger audiences over and over.  They shoot themselves in the foot over and over and over.  The story of their Saturday Night Live taping alone is worth the purchase of the book.  The doomed Tom Petty tour opening slot is also a pretty good read no matter if you care about the band or not.

I remember that The Replacements were opening for Petty at Blossom the same night as Social Distortion played Peabody’s Down Under.  The choice was easy for me.  Drive and hour and pay $30+ to see a 40 minute Replacements set in a two thirds empty pavilion or drive 15 minutes to go see Social D for my first time in a small club while on the guest list.   Sorry guys.  I remember seeing Tommy Stinson with the Warner Brothers record rep walk in the club towards the end of the Social Distortion set completely fucked up while wearing the crazy plaid suit he used as stage clothes at the time.  He ran into one of those rails Peabody’s Down Under had by the men’s room and flipped completely over like a gymnast, landed on his feet and kept walking like nothing had happened.  It was pretty incredible actually.

I saw the band one last time before they broke up.  The show was at the Agora with the Goo Goo Dolls opening.  It was sort of depressing actually because I think even the band knew that the audience they had created would be exploited by the Goo Goo Dolls radio friendly sensibilities for great financial gain while The Replacements moment for seizing destiny had passed by in a boozy haze.  They played really well but that element of beautiful chaos was gone.  I knew when I left that room I would never see them play again.  I remember telling my roommate that at the time.  It was like leaving a terminally ill friend at the hospital.

Years later I was working at a radio station and Paul Westerburg came in to promote his new solo record.  He was finally playing ball with The Industry although with a disdainful edge.  There he was, right over there.  He was walking down the staircase as I was walking up.  I would have liked to have conveyed how much those records meant to me, but there was no way I could have done that without it being a disaster.  "Hey, um... You remember that Let It Be record?  Yeah... That was really good."  Still it would have been good to let him know I appreciated it or something.  This guy had created something I loved.  Was there a way to make a gesture?  I had a perfect opportunity to start a conversation but knew it would be a mistake.  If he acted like an asshole, those records would never be the same.  They would be ruined.  It was too big of a risk.  I walked right on by.  It was the only thing to do.

A couple years ago I drove to Toronto to see a festival gig The Replacements headlined (with The Stooges/Rocket From The Crypt and a bunch of other good bands).  It was their first “reunion”, though it was just Paul and Tommy.  It was shaggy, loud, and great.  Those songs have aged really well.  When I heard “Left Of The Dial” roar out, I couldn’t believe how much it touched me.  I’m just glad I didn’t start sobbing in that dusty Toronto field.  There in an undeniable magic those guys have together.  Damn I love that band.

After I finished the book, I listened to all of the records over again, though I never really stop listening to them completely.  When I meet someone that doesn't know the Replacements or their music it is incomprehensible to me, probably like it is to people that are enthralled by cult type bands like Big Star, 13th Floor Elevators, or The Gourds are when faced by people somehow unaware of their personal touchstones.  That band always meant a lot to me, and after reading this background on them they probably earned my respect (and disdain) even more.  Oh, and one more thing...  I'm glad I didn't meet Westerburg that day.  It would have gone poorly.  Really poorly.  I still have my records.


At March 25, 2016 at 9:38:00 AM EDT , Blogger dbowling said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At March 25, 2016 at 9:41:00 AM EDT , Blogger dbowling said...

The song "16 Blue" hypnotized me and took total control of my car's CD player. Much the same way that the Beatles "Thank You Girl" did and my cheap 45 RPM record player.

At March 25, 2016 at 9:59:00 AM EDT , Blogger Greg Miller said...

I Will Dare is what made me buy in completely.

At March 31, 2016 at 9:45:00 PM EDT , Blogger ChefDave said...

I wasn't very familiar with The Replacements so listened to a ton of their older albums on Spotify today for hours. Great stuff.
Kurt Cobain must have been a huge fan because it sounds like Nirvana was simply their cover band.


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