. . .
Can you stand me on my feet?
“Color Me Impressed” just might be Paul Westerberg’s greatest song.
It’s the late spring of 1983, and my college radio station, KFSR has been on the air for about six months. Long enough for me to start becoming friends — in some cases, life-long! — with the other DJs, one of whom had joined the R.E.M. fan club. And they had gotten a letter from R.E.M. that listed a bunch of other bands that R.E.M. liked, one of which was The Replacements. And since Hootenanny had just come out and we got multiple copies, I took one home.
And fell instantly in love.
What I loved was its raggedy eclecticism — the way that each song was totally different from the previous song, like they just decided to record whatever came to their minds that day. Beholden to no specific genre, no specific style, and yet somehow holding together by the singer, who had just a classic rock ‘n’ roll voice, and the lyrics, which were funny and smart, even when they were dumb.
Everybody at your party
They don’t look depressed
Everybody dressin’ funny
Color me impressed
According to Jim Walsh’s oral history of the ‘mats — All Over But The Shouting — “color me impressed” was something that Peter Jesperson’s girlfriend at the time used to say, probably at least semi-sarcastically, but it was a cool enough phrase for Paul to apply it to a party he probably barely remembered.
Stayin’ out late tonight
Won’t be gettin’ sleep
Givin’ out their word
Cuz that’s all that they won’t keep
After the piss-take title track and the joyful joyride of “Run It, the glorious descending riff of “Color Me Impressed” completely explodes out of the speakers accompanied by a whistle that almost sounds like someone’s trying to imitate a rap record’s scratching and utterly roaring intertwined guitars. And with Chris Mars pounding his snare into tomorrow, “Color Me Impressed” is an anthemic-sounding description of a coke-and-booze party that Paul no doubt barely remembered.
Put the party on the mirror
Oh shit, pass the bill to Chris
Intoxicated lover ending our french kiss
Of course, as Bob Mehr pointed out in Trouble Boys, one of the effects of the coke was to let Paul drink even more than he otherwise would have, leading to his ask on the bridge, accompanied by some stop-time snare slams by Chris.
Can? You? Stand? Me on my feet?
Can? You? Stand? Me on my feeeeeeet?
This is followed by Paul howling “evvv-reee-bohhh-deee” into the void as Mars punches and rolls and Bob kicks out a trademark solo blitz — which stands out as the only time you can really separate one guitar from another — before diving back into the song, which reprises the first verse, and ends with Paul singing “color me impressed” almost wistfully, while Tommy slides a couple of killer runs in.
And for me, way back in 1983, it was more than enough for me wanna see what else was happening on Hootenanny, and definitely a song that I played the fuck out of on the radio, as I began to evangelize them more and more as the year went on. Especially since a song this amazing was only, like, my third favorite on the whole album. And, of course, it’s arguably one of their most beloved songs, and I also remember being extremely happy when I saw Wilco pull it out as an encore way back in the late 1990s.
“Color Me Impressed”
“Color Me Impressed” live in Minneapolis, 1983
“Color Me Impressed” soundcheck at Maxwells, 1986
“Color Me Impressed” live at Riot Fest, 2013
Wilco (with Tommy Stinson) – “Color Me Impressed” live 2013
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