Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Replacements Reissued

"How can The Replacements be the best band of the 80s when I've never even heard of them?" - Jon Bon Jovi, Musician Magazine (10/89)

The Replacements Twin/Tone catalog gets the deluxe Rhino reissue treatment today. Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, Stink, Hootenanny and Let It Be were a big part of my misspent youth in the 1980s. Now thanks to Rhino I can enjoy them remastered and with bonus tracks during my misspent middle age.

I can still can still recall straining to hear the mighty Replacements' glorious noise outside
a club in Washington D.C. after having my obviously doctored ID rejected by the club's bouncer. It was my 17th birthday, but I doubt I looked a day over 15.

"How young are you? How old am I?"

I can vividly remember the nervous feeling building in the pit of my stomach as the bouncer took what seemed like an eternity to study my driver's license. I had strategically placed a little daub of paint over the "9" in 1969 in order to make it look like a "7." After a long look at the ID the bouncer eyed me skeptically and said "Happy Birthday. How old are you today?" I was so flustered I didn't know what the answer was supposed to be. My throat was dry and my head was spinning. After a few seconds I think managed to say "umm." He told me to hit the bricks.

"19." Damn, the answer should have been 19. 19 would have been old enough to drink in the District of Columbia in 1986. More importantly, 19 would have been old enough to see The Replacements on July 30, 1986. If I had managed to keep my wits about me enough to say "19" I just might have gotten in.

"How smart are you? How dumb am I?"

I didn't know it at the time, but I missed my only chance to see The Replacements with original guitarist Bob Stinson that night. Think about that. I missed out on seeing The Replacements with Bob Stinson because I was too stupid to add 17 + 2. I suppose--given the band's occasional willful stupidity--that there is something appropriate about that. But that was small comfort to me on my 17th birthday.

The worst part of having my ID rejected was that it also kept my buddy Peter (whose doctored ID passed muster) out of the show. I carry that guilt with me to this day. A lesser friend would have probably just headed into the club anyway, but Peter stuck with me. (Then again, maybe he just needed a ride home, I can't remember who drove). It is one of my greatest regrets that I never saw the original Replacements line-up in their loud and sloppy prime. As greatest regrets go that's probably not such a bad one to have, but over twenty years later my ears still burn a bit when I remember getting turned away from that club. 
Mark Richardson at Pitchfork does a good job of reviewing the reissues. It's good to see someone who is (I assume) younger than me conclude that these albums have much more going for them than Gen X nostalgia. I generally don't like assigning number values to album reviews, but his ratings strike me as fair. It's important to keep in mind however that the albums' flaws are an intrinsic part their "lovable loser" appeal. "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" and "Gary's Got A Boner" may not be Cole Porter, but Let It Be wouldn't be as great without them.


wardo said...

thanks for sharing -- I'm putting these on my list!

Dumbek said...

hmmm - Was that at The Bayou? I somehow spaced on them coming to town (sometime in the mid-late-80s) and went down to The Bayou to try to get in. I lasted about 5 minutes before I gave up. There were just too many people outside and I was feeling lazy. Not a very valiant effort, but it's the closest I came to seeing them. They're up there on my "regrets" list.

Pete Bilderback said...

Yeah, I think it was the Bayou. As clearly as I remember the feelings associated with the event, the name of the club was lost in the mists of my memory. I remembered the club as having a lame name. It was a bigger club, and unlike the 9:30 or DC Space it there were no underage allowed inside. I never ended up going to that club again (even when I was old enough), which is part of the reason I couldn't remember the name. Pretty sure it was The Bayou though. Thanks!

I did catch The Mats a year or so later at GW with Slim Dunlap on guitar. But it wasn't the same.

Pete Bilderback said...

Thanks to Dumbek (and Google), I was able to figure out a little more about the show in question. The Skyway, a Mats fansite, has a list of known Replacements live recordings, and the Bayou show is on it. It turns out the show was July 29, the day before my birthday. But that matches up with my memory, when I was writing the post I was a little unsure if the date was on my birthday or the day before.

What doesn't match my memory, is that the gig was apparently on July 29, 1987 not 1986. This is a critical detail because that would place the gig on a date after Bob Stinson had been already kicked out of the band. Also, it would have been the day before I turned 18, not 17.

Which just goes to prove a point that I try to make over and over; that memories are inherently unstable and unreliable. We tend to remember strong emotions best, but often get the details very wrong. In addition, we "modify" our memories each time we remember them, and in the process tend to create more coherent and compelling narratives. This is no doubt why I remembered this as my last chance to see the band with Bob Stinson, rather than as just another gig with Slim Dunlap. This was one detail I felt quite sure of, which is why I placed the show in 1986 and not 1987. You have to admit, it makes a better story that way, even if it doesn't square with the events as they actually unfolded.

The things I got wrong in this post are entirely typical of the way people misremember things. The only thing I left out was dodging sniper fire on the way to the club. Fortunately, I'm not running for office, so none of this makes a bit of difference. I always try to be honest on this blog (except for the times that I don't, and those times I think it's fairly obvious). This time I was sincerely trying to get things right, and just goofed. Keep this in mind the next time you read a memoir with conversations that took place 30 years ago reconstructed in elegant detail.

Gotta try and get a hold of that recording to hear a bit of what I missed out on. Well, you all know when my birthday is anyway.

dan said...

Who's Jon Bon Jovi?

Pete Bilderback said...

I'm not sure, but I think Bon Jovi was one of the entertainers who dodged sniper fire with Hillary in Bosnia.

Biff Dorsey said...

I saw them at the 930 sometime in that era. Bob was still with them. They were very drunk, switched instruments and mostly did covers. I recall a somewhat ironic "Radar Love" and somewhat heartfelt "Hitchin' a Ride". Not a professional show by any means, but memorable.

Nazz Nomad said...

nice write-up.
saw em a few times back inthe day with "Smokin n Drinkin' Bob"

Mark N. said...

Another nice piece, Pete.

If you get a chance, read the new Replacements oral history, "All Over but the Shouting." It's fun and breezy (albeit a bit ramshackle--just like the Mats themselves).

Anonymous said...

Hi--Came upon your blog as I was nostalgically checking Replacements' tour dates. The '86 Bob Stinson show was at GW; the '87 non-Bob show was at the Bayou. I was at both, as well as about a dozen more during the '80s. IMHO, you didn't miss much if you missed the GW--or any Bob-era--show. The Bayou, however, remains one of the most transcendent concerts I've ever attended. There were still a couple of drunken covers, but they didn't comprise the whole show...

Anonymous said...

Sure, five years late to the posting... Saw them in 1986 in Columbus, OH. Drove in the freezing rain from Athens, where I was going to school. They didn't talk at all between songs. They were very loud - did most of "Tim" and much of "Let it Be" (my fave album of the 80s) and did "Take Me Home Country Road". How do the years go by so fast?