Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Certain Songs #1867: The Replacements – “See Your Video” | Medialoper

Album: Let It Be
Year: 1984

. . .

We don’t wanna know

April 19, 1985.

That was the first time I saw the Replacements. At the Star Palace in Fresno, CA, a 500-seat club that our college radio station, KFSR, managed to sell out for a band based 2000 miles away that only we played. There were a lot of other things going on that day: the same radio station was choosing a new station manager, and the band that would eventually become The Miss Alans — who just released their first album in nearly a quarter-century — was playing their first gig ever that night.

But the most important thing to me: I was getting to interview Paul Westerberg. Live, on the air, in the KFSR studio. Just him, answering my questions (with, of course, a bunch of people hanging around the station.)

Now, by this time, I’d read the RJ Smith article more than once, as well as everything else I could get my hand on them, as by this time Let it Be was becoming one of my all-time favorite albums. So I knew how prickly Paul Westerberg could be. How wild they could be. So I was prepared for anything.

Except for what I got: a very quiet, very respectful Paul Westerberg. Here’s what I wrote about for Matt’s Skyway newsletter, a decade or so later:

Paul was nice. He was sober and respectful of my questions and gave (what I remember) intelligent and thoughtful answers. He spoke quietly and chain-smoked (even though I was a militant non-smoker and there was no smoking allowed in the studio I didn’t even say a word) throughout. I think he knew he was in the presence of someone who loved his music, and not some MTV VJ wanna-be. Later on, two or three different people told me that he thought the interview was “cool.” No higher praise I could have received.

He answered all of my fanboy questions seriously, and even — while I was playing a song — told me what the final line of the second verse of “Answering Machine” was, sheeplessly pointing out that he rhymed “vices” with “ice.”

And in case you’re curious, they straight-up killed that night, playing their songs and a couple of covers like they were trying to be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on the planet. I saw them five times before they broke up and never did see an auto-destruct show, about which I still have mixed feelings.

For years, I often wondered what the reason was for all of this good behavior, and while Paul had offhandedly mentioned there’d been some trouble with the previous night’s gig in Davis, I wouldn’t know for sure until I read Trouble Boys.

As you can imagine, I was incredibly happy to read about what had happened the night before, because I never thought I was ever going to know.

And of course, I recorded that interview. And somehow, accidentally taped over it with a Camper Van Beethoven interview I did a few months later. And then lost the tape. Look, I was lucky to survive my 20s, but of all stupid shit I did in the 1980s, that’s at the very top.

In any event, “Seen Your Video,” comes blasting out of the speakers after the fade away of “Unsatisfied,” Bob crawling up and down his guitar, Tommy making run after run on his bass, Paul slamming out the background chords, all of which is setting up what would probably be a pretty cool song the second it started.

Except it didn’t. Oh. So they’re doing an instrumental. OK, there was an instrumental on Hootenanny, too. And after awhile, there was a cool shiny guitar hook. And then the song stops for a second, and all you hear is Tommy’s bass and Chris’s kick drum, along with some tinkling piano and dissonant guitar.

And then Paul announces: “All day, all night, all music video.”

You see kids, back in the day, the “M” in “MTV” stood for “Music” and MTV played videos all day and all night. That was actually their thing: playing music videos 24 hours a day. And The Replacements weren’t having any of it, as with a Tommy cackle, they finally launch into the song proper — its melody echoing the shiny guitar hook from earlier — every word of which each person reading this post knows.

Seen your video
Your phony rock ‘n’ roll
We don’t wanna know
Seen your video
Your phony rock ‘n’ roll
We don’t wanna know
We don’t wanna know
We don’t wanna know
We don’t wanna know
We don’t wanna know
We don’t wanna know

Now, I wasn’t against videos or MTV or any of it, so it wasn’t like I really had a dog in this hunt, but if the ‘Mats wanted to declare themselves against appearing in videos in the same way that Neil Young would later declare himself against commercials, that was fine by me. And I’ve loved the fact that I’ve always heard the second “phony rock ‘n’ roll” as “fooling rock ‘n’ roll” which, if true, would somehow even be better.

Oh, and the cool spooky background groan of “knoowwwwwwww” for each of the closing repetitions of “we don’t wanna know” was also pretty awesome.

In any event, “Seen Your Video” is somehow both a goof and a manifesto at the same time, and, of course, a bit of an albatross, given that they started making videos — anti-videos, to be sure, but still technically videos — on the very next record. But that never bothered me, just one more contradiction from the Replacements.

Seen Your Video

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