That Shaped Modern Music!
Replacements Never Got Their Due
A Great Night
I have been listening to a
wide variety of "alternative" bands lately, from
the 80's, 90's, and 00's. Bands like Taking Back Sunday,
Nirvana, Blink 182, Green Day, Offspring, Foo Fighters,
Weezer, White Stripes, etc. And the more I listen, the more
I continue to realize how much The Replacements influenced
modern rock music. Will they ever be written up in the same
breath as, say, The Beatles, Madonna, Nirvana, Run DMC,
bands that have been credited with "starting" a
genre of music? No, probably not. But they opened the doors,
and influenced many of the significant music makers in the
late 80's and 90's which in turn influenced the bands of
today. Here's one person's recollection of a great rock 'n
March 1988 - And the greatest
band in rock 'n roll history is about to play the cozy
Beacon Theater in NYC. I have tickets, and a date (with a
young gal originally from the Minneapolis area, which is
where The Replacements were from, ironically). I'd seen The
'Mats several times live with mixed results. But that was
one of the great things about their live shows. It was true
rock 'n roll, and you never knew what you were going to get.
We had planned to grab a bite before the show, and we parked
in a nearby garage about 2 hours before the show, but while
walking on Broadway, a monsoon hit! We were right near the
theater and tried to enter to escape the storm, but the
doors were locked. We saw an usher and started banging on
the doors, showing our tickets. He took pity on us, and said
we could remain. He said the bands just finished sound
checks, so if we wanted to sit in our seats, we could.
We entered the theater, and
dried off. Once normal, we went to our seats. We were about
4 rows behind the sound mixers, on the floor. The sound
engineer was testing levels, and a song was playing that I
did not know. Minutes later, a voice yelled out from behind
us - "Hey, play some f…ing Elvis!" We turned
around to see a slightly drunk, somewhat cocky young man
making his way toward the sound engineer, carrying a bottle
of beer. Any Replacements fan would know it was their bass
player, the enigmatic Tommy Stinson.
He sat down next to the sound
engineer, and started talking to him. This was my chance to
meet one of my rock 'n roll Gods. I did what every normal
male would do - I used my date. I gave her a briefing, and
she went first. I followed behind. We went down the aisle
right behind them, and my date introduced herself, said we
were big fans, and that she was from Minnesota. They started
chatting about their home towns, and a few minutes later,
Tommy threw his head back, totally splashing my face and
body with his long blonde hair, and extended his hand,
saying only "I'm Tommy". I said, "I
know", and we went on to a five minute conversation. He
said he was going to hang out to watch the opening act, punk
legend Johnny Thunders. Thunders rarely played live, because
of his massive drug addictions. He simply could never
practice or devote enough to a tour. This was a rare
appearance (and one of his last live appearances before his
death). The Replacements wrote a song which they dedicated
to him which was included on their first 1981 album release.
The song is titled "Johnny's Gonna Die." He could
not stop talking about how excited he was to see Johnny
Thunders perform again. Then he told us they were going to a
party at the China Club after the show, and we were welcome
to join them. Say what? I was in heaven.
Tommy sat there for all of
Johnny Thunders' set. The set was amazing, and I only wish
Johnny Thunders would have lived a little longer, and
cleaner. He was an amazing talent. The Replacements were
beyond amazing. This was one of their famous "on"
nights, as opposed to nights when they forgot the words, or
chords, to their songs, or simply ripped up the set lists
and played a whole evening of covers. Everything clicked.
From rousing versions of newer classics like "I'll Be
You" and "Achin' to Be," to older standards
like "Black Diamond" and "Left of the
Dial," everything clicked, including some of the most
innovative guitar work I'd ever heard from
recent-Replacement Slim Dunlap. Paul Westerberg ("Paul
Is God") was basically perfect. Chris Mars (the
drummer), generally the most consistent musician of the
bunch, was just that.
We hung around the side doors
after the show, trying to see Tommy, and thinking whether we
should try to crash the China Club. After all, we were
invited. After a half-hour or so, we decided against it.
Tommy was doing an awful lot of drinking, and it's doubtful
he would have remembered us. And I didn't want anything
tarnishing one of the great nights of my life.
If you're a Replacements fan,
I hope this brings back a memory or two. If you've never
heard them, you owe yourself! Two months ago, WEA and Rhino
Records released a new greatest hits titled "Don't You
Know Who I Think I Was - The Best of the Replacements."
Unlike many greatest hits packages, this includes several
lesser known (but true core fan favorites), and two never
before released tracks. It's a great start, and an essential
buy for tru current rock music fans, all for about the price
of three coffees at Starbucks. Please check it out!