Album: Songs For Slim EP
Since there wasn’t really ever any danger of the Replacements touring off of the back of the career-spanning greatest hits album that came out in 2006, most Replacements fans probably thought that was pretty much it. And in fact, at the end of 2007, I wrote a piece for Medialoper called “Why The Replacements Saved My Life,” which was spurred by a Rolling Stone anniversary issue that featured a thing called “The Indie Rock Universe: An Illustrated Guide” that had no mention whatsoever of The Replacements.
That set me off at the time on a “no respect” rant, but what I didn’t realize was that the next dozen years of The Replacements as going to be possibly even better — in terms of popularity and respect — than even their first dozen years. This was spurred by two things.
First, Paul & Tommy buried the low-simmering feud that they’d had going on — Tommy even played bass on a couple of songs on Paul’s Open Season paycheck gig — and when the reissues came out, they even rehearsed, as the festival offers started getting more and more lucrative.
Said reissues, which came out in a pair of bursts in 2008 — Twin/Tone in April, Sire in September — were single discs of the original album and selected songs “from the vault” (which was kind of annoying, as the new versions of “Answering Machine” and “Here Comes a Regular” and an annoying “walk to the vault and open it” sound effect at the end), some of which were fantastic and some which weren’t. But the remastered versions of the original albums were strong enough so that a whole new generation of folks could discover them. And some did!
Secondly, the fans couldn’t let them go. And some of them were now in position to explain why. Or least let the other fans explain why, as a pair of oral histories came out in different mediums. The first one was Jim Walsh’s 2007 All Over But The Shouting, an actual hard-cover book about the Replacements. The next was Gorman Bechard’s 2011 Color Me Obsessed film, for which I was interviewed for in 2010.
Despite the fact that I don’t think I gave a very good interview — I think I was supposed to get a video copy of the whole thing — I did show up three times wearing my Hold Steady t-shirt: once in a montage of songs they covered where I said “Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat,” once where I praised the willingness of the ‘Mats to extend their musical palette on Pleased to Meet Me and once where I dissed the production of Don’t Tell a Soul.
And hey, I got an IMDB page because of it, as well!!
And then, in 2012, Slim Dunlap had a stroke and as a result, the trajectories of both the Replacements and their fans collided.
Because we’re so shitty with healthcare in this country — medicare for all now, god damn it! — Slim’s finances needed shoring up, and so Songs For Slim was born: a series of singles featuring a slew of luminaries covering his songs, highlighted by the first standalone Replacements release since 1990. With side one featuring Paul and Tommy (plus Kevin Bowe on guitar & Peter Anderson on covering Slim’s “Busted Up,” as well as Chris Mars doing a one-man band version of “Radio Hook Word Hit”) and side two a few more covers, Songs For Slim was good fun, and the whole thing raised nearly $200,000 for Slim. Good job everybody!
For my part, my favorite song from the EP was the cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “I’m Not Saying,” which rode Paul’s big, sustained guitar chords and his delivery of Lightfoot’s typically sturdy melody all the way across the song. It also marked the second entry in an incredibly weird niche for Paul Westerberg: covers of lesser-known songs by other songwriters that were also covered by Nico, since Paul had also done “These Days” on Come Feel Me Tremble.
In any event, the offers for a live Replacements reunion had never abated, and indeed, with each passing year, had only intensified and finally — with blessings from Chris and Slim — Paul & Tommy grabbed Dave Minehan and Josh Freese and went back out on the road.
Well, not exactly back on the road: they played three Riot Fest shows in 2013. And reader, I thought about going, but I’ve aged past my ability to deal with the logistical nightmare that is a music festival. So I missed them, though I wept real tears watching footage of “Left of The Dial” from one of the shows.
After three shows in 2013, they picked back up in 2014, but at that point, I wasn’t in any shape to even head down to Coachella. In February of 2014, a massive rainstorm caused leakage so severe that Rox and I had to live in a hotel for three months while our house was being renovated.
During that three months, the Replacements announced a non-festival show in their hometown. And for some reason, I thought “aha, this is it! This is how I’m going to finally see them again.” I somehow got tickets, hotels got booked, and we made a long weekend of it, ending up in Chicago for a couple of days as well.
I’m not going to go into great detail about the sixth time I saw The Replacements — the night before the show featured a special screening of Color Me Obsessed other than I got to see my long-time Prodigy friends Scott, Ranjit and Anne, as well as meet people like Joey and spent the day and night hanging out with Larry and Kevin and then abandoned everybody to wander the outskirts of the crowd by myself, soaking in one great song after another, not being able to stand still as Certain Song after Certain Song poured off from the stage.
When it was over, I was positive that it was I’d been able to pull off a small personal miracle: getting to see the Replacements one last time. Happily, I was wrong, as there would be one last tour: the “Back By Unpopular Demand” tour in the spring of 2015. And so the seventh and final time I saw The Replacements was at the Hollywood Palladium, which happened to be the first place I saw my final show by the Replacements.
It was a fun, rowdy show, and ‘the Mats were in fine form — though I might have been a bit worse for wear because of the demon alcohol — Paul sporting one of those lettered t-shirts that might have been his way of saying “goodbye” again: “I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED YOU. NOW I MUST WHORE MY PAST.”
In any event, there were stories about them taking the momentum from the live shows into the studio, but outside of a 24-minute Soundcloud-only jazz song called “Poke Me in My Cage” credited to Paul, Tommy and Josh Freese, nothing came from it. Though if that’s the last new Replacements song ever put out, color me impressed.
That said, both Paul and Tommy put out their best new music in years immediately following that: Paul with his Juliana Hatfield collaboration called — of course — The I Don’t Cares, and Tommy with the second Bash & Pop album. Meanwhile, in the middle of this, Bob Mehr finally put out the long-gestating book, Trouble Boys, as fine of a rock ‘n’ roll biography as I’ve ever read, and I’d been reading rock ‘n’ roll books obsessively for nearly 50 years. Those who have been reading these posts know that it’s been a primary source for a lot of song backstory.
And right now, we’re in the middle of a gold mine of reissues. Both Live at Maxwells and Dead Man’s Pop were revelations, and had the live album and the Matt Wallace mix come out in the 80s, things would have been different, that’s for sure. Unless, of course, they weren’t. And who knows what we’re going to learn from the upcoming Pleased to Meet Me reissue?
I guess we’ll find out, because one thing is for certain — has always been for certain, really — it’s a mugs game to make predictions about what’s gonna happen next with the Replacements. Which is just one of a million reasons it’s so much fun to be a lifelong fan.
“I’m Not Sayin’
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