Often remembered as Paul Westerberg's group before he embarked on a modest but intriguing solo career, the Replacements were a significant '80s band, though not all that commercially successful.
A discussion of the Replacements usually focuses on the belief they should have been bigger. No doubt. However, there were some brutally simple reasons for why this didn't happen.
First, drug and alcohol abuse fueled a rowdy, unpredictable reputation. You aren't going to get many new fans (who've paid hard earned money or their weekly allowance) if you can't finish the songs. Seems you can only be a decadent Rock star after you've made it and the fan base is intact. Second, the Replacements shied away from the promotional game until it was too late - and even those efforts lacked a full commitment.
Back in '79, the Stinson brothers, guitarist Bob and bassist Tommy, were in a Minneapolis garage Punk band with drummer Chris Mars. Soon guitarist/vocalist Paul Westerberg joined rounding out the early line-up.
The Replacements began their recording career in '81 with "Sorry Ma, I Forgot To Take Out The Garbage" on the indie Twin Tone label. This hardcore effort built the group's local following but did little nationally. The same held true for their next effort, the EP "Stink." The far more accessible "Hootenanny" appeared in '83 and incorporated Folk, Country and even some pop elements. Next up, "Let It Be" won critical praise and landed the group on Sire Records.
Their major label debut "Tim" was another critical fav but the group couldn't capitalize on it. A drunken appearance on Saturday Night Live had Westerberg saying the f-word (a good way not to get invited back). Sloppy, chaotic concerts and incomprehensible videos, which garnered little airplay, followed.
Then there was the infamous '86 appearance on Saturday Night Live. Drunken, out of tune, but entertaining performances of "Bastards Of Young" and "Kiss Me On The Bus" got the Replacements banned from the NBC show for life.
With the "Tim" tour completed Bob Stinson was fired for his drug and alcohol abuse (he died in '95). '87 saw the release of "Pleased To Meet Me" with the Replacements operating as a trio. The album was their most consistent and solid effort but failed to impress commercially. For the supporting tour Slim Dunlap was hired on guitar and became a permanent member at the tour's completion. The group's last stab at mass success came in '89 with the release of "Don't Tell A Soul" album. Cleaned up and making MTV ready videos, the Replacements were rewarded with a charting Rock single, "I'll Be You." Unfortunately, the song did not carry the album and it became painfully clear the Replacements were never going to connect with the music public in a big way.
Westerberg wanted to go solo but Sire killed the idea (they didn't want to "break" a performer from a "marginal" band") and advised Westerberg to focus his energies on the Replacements. The virtual solo album "All Shook Down" resulted. It used the Replacements but it also had numerous outside musicians performing under Westerberg's direction. This subdued effort resulted in Mars' departure claiming Westerberg had too much control. Steve Foley replaced him. But with the thing long out of steam, the Replacements disbanded in '91.
However, their hard-edged, blasting sound accented by Westerberg's plaintive lyrics and enthused vocal style had an enormous influence on Rock's next generation, including Kurt Cobain.
Westerberg's solo career began promisingly with the song "Dyslexic Heart" on the "Singles" soundtrack but his solo albums couldn't live up to the promise. It was the Replacements all over again. Tommy Stinson found it even tougher going with his two post-Replacements bands, Bash & Pop and the mid-90s Perfect. Stinson was also part of an early edition of Moth but was long gone by their debut album.
Over the years, The Replacements standing grew. So much so, that Rhino Records released a 'best of' compilation titled "Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?" The '06 set included two new songs, "Pool & Dive" and "Message To The Boys."
Written by Westerberg, the tracks were recorded by Westerberg, Stinson and Mars at Flowers Studio in Minneapolis. Session drummer Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails) also participated but Dunlap and Foley did not.
Just a couple years later ('08), Foley died from an accidental overdose of a prescription medication. That same year, material Westerberg recorded with Tom Waits in '88 was released on his solo effort "3oclockreep."
Westerberg and Stinson reformed The Replacements in '12 and the following year they issued a five-song EP, "Songs For Slim," as a benefit for Dunlap who had suffered a paralyzing stroke. The EP featured two Dunlap songs and a cover of "Lost Highway," a Hank Williams song written by Leon Payne.
The Replacements played live in '13 for the first time in 22-years when they performed at the Chicago stop of Riot Fest. Their last show before initially disbanding was at Grant Park, also in Chicago.
And 28 years after their now legendary performance on SNL, the Replacements' profile rose significantly when they appeared on NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. They played "Alex Chilton," a track about the Box Tops/Big Star frontman, from "Pleased To Meet Me."
Still on a slow roll, the Replacements launched their Back By Unpopular Demand Tour in '15. Their first U.S. trek in 24 years began at Seattle's Paramount Theater.
Stinson's Bash & Pop returned in '17 with "Anything Could Happen."
1981 Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash
1984 Let It Be
1987 Pleased To Meet Me
1989 Don't Tell a Soul
1990 All Shook Down
2006 Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?
2013 Songs For Slim
Considering their relatively minor commercial success, it might be surprising that the Replacements had a nearly decade long recording career. But the Replacements' importance and reputation is built on their last Twin Tone release, "Let It Be" and their first two major label albums, "Tim" and "Pleased To Meet Me." These albums are as good as it gets and it gets pretty good.
"Let It Be" shows the group moving away from its Punk roots toward a broader more appealing sound, but still Rocks hard. It contains the thrashing "Favorite Things" and Westerberg's "I Will Dare." As the Replacements' primary songwriter Westerberg wrote all but one song on "Tim" ("Dose of Thunder" is a group effort). There's the shuffling "Waitress In The Sky" and Rockers "Bastard of Young" and "Hold My Life."
Not entirely a one man show, "Tim" also features "Kiss Me On The Bus" with Stinson's enticing '60s style guitar.
The lean "Pleased To Meet Me" is their most cohesive effort. No unbelievable highs but mercifully no thudding lows. The boppin' "Alex Chilton" and Rocker "Never Mind" are the CD's prime tracks. Looking for more, go earlier rather than later, and pick up "Hootenanny."
"Radio Hook Word Hit" and "I'm Not Sayin'" from the "Songs For Slim" EP are core Replacements, expected and appreciated. They shift gears on "Busted Up," a timeless '50s Rockabilly romp, before going back to the late '40s to burn up "Lost Highway." And to complete the circuit, the closer "Everything's Coming Up Roses," leans agreeably Country.
The compilation "All For Nothing/Nothing For All" is a two CD set. It has the Replacements best songs, including "Talent Show." The other CD highlights the group's more off-beat creations like "Beer For Breakfast" and "All He Wants To Do Is Fish." Some people (major fans) have a great affection for this side of the Replacements but it's not for everyone. Without the second disc this compilation would be hard to fault. In the end, it's better to go with the original albums released between '83 and '87.