Monday, February 18, 2019

Certain Songs #1459: Paul Westerberg – “Knockin’ on Mine” | Medialoper

Album: 14 Songs
Year: 1993

‘Mats fans who might have been somewhat scandalized by the slickness that encrusted Paul Westerberg’s contributions to the Singles soundtrack no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when they plugged 14 Songs into their CD player and the fuzzed-out electric guitar riff that opened “Knockin’ On Mine” came roaring out of the speakers.

This? This was more like it! An album opener to rival “Hold My Life” or “I.O.U.” maybe a tad bit slower, but rough-and-ready nonetheless, Paul’s voice somewhat buried in the mix, which at first is just a couple of guitars, bass and drums, the way the rock ‘n’ roll gods intended it. Whew!

And fittingly as the opening track to an album whose title was lifted from J.D. Salinger, “Knockin’ on Mine” is all about the pleasures of reading; admittedly a subject matter you’d expect Morrissey or Michael Stipe to tackle more so than Westerberg. But that’s part of the fun of 14 Songs: Paul is tacking new to him subject matter.

You read common knowledge, stockpile your brain
You get burned in the sun, you get wet in the rain
What they teach you to fix, needs to be broke
I say he who laughs first didn’t get the joke
Go on, untap your mind
Quit knocking on mine

This was all catnip to a ‘mats fan like me, who spends as as much of his life cramming information in through his eyeholes as he possibly can. Paul was hitting that sweet spot of smart words and straightforward tunes, with just the right amount of self-depreciation.

An English teacher from Vancouver
She asked me to write something for her students
I wrote knowledge adds, wisdom lets slide
She says now really? I wanna tap your mind
Quit knockin’ on mine

As “Knockin’ on Mine” progresses, you hear just bits and pieces of other instruments: an acoustic guitar strums in and out just before the first and second choruses, later on, a mandolin swoops in and out, seemingly at will, and of course, Paul overdubs a guitar solo just before he exhorts to go read porn out in a field.

And, best of all, he brings in a call-and-response chorus for the second half of the song, giving it the right amount of singalong oomph for the inevitable live performances.

Quit knockin’ on mine (knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine (knockin’ on mine)
Quit knockin’ on mine (knockin’ on mine)

All I know for sure was that “Knockin’ on Mine” made me incredibly happy every single time I heard it: pretty much delivered everything I could possibly want from Paul Westerberg at that moment, and while none of the other 13 songs quite reached those kind of heights, it was a great start to the album.

That said, it could have been the opening track to an even better album. In an alternate universe where All Shook Down was released as a Westerberg solo album, then maybe instead of touring and breaking up, Paul still did the Singles soundtrack, but after that they all decided to get back and record one last album. But with a caveat: since all four of them had been writing songs, they’d all contribute.

So ladies & gents, I present 1993’s World Class Fad, the final Replacements album:

  1. Knockin’ On Mine (Westerberg)
  2. First Glimmer (Westerberg)
  3. Never Aim to Please (Stinson)
  4. Rocking Here Tonight (Dunlap)
  5. Down Love (Westerberg)
  6. Tiny Pieces (Stinson)
  7. Man Without Ties (Westerberg)
  8. Reverse Status (Mars)
  9. Things (Westerberg)
  10. Fast & Hard (Stinson)
  11. Seeing Her (Westerberg)
  12. The Ballad of The Opening Band (Dunlap)
  13. World Class Fad (Westerberg)
  14. Friday Night is Killing Me (Stinson)

While that would have probably robbed the world of Tommy’s Friday Night is Killing Me, 14 Songs, Slim’s The Old New Me and the first two Chris Mars solo albums, it might have been a fitting way for them to go out, and maybe Chris Mars might have even decided to go on one final tour.

“Knockin’ on Mine”

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