Primer #2 - The Replacements

The Primer is a semi-regular column wherein contributors compile a 60 minute playlist of a band near and dear to their heart. Using personal listening anecdotes, notes about specific tracks and a brief overview of each artist, The Primer is both a way for our contributors to trace their musical genealogy and for our readers to gain a new perspective on an artist they may have missed or dismissed.

In the second installment of The Primer, teacher, musician, songwriter and audiophile Dan Palmer scrambles to the bottom of his affection for The Replacements

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The first time I heard of The Replacements was in a Rolling Stone review for their 1985 album,  Tim. While I thought they were intriguing, it wasn’t enough for me to invest in buying the album at the time.  Fast forward a couple of years, I was watching 120 Minutes on MTV, when they were featuring The Replacements. As I recall, this was the time that the guys in the band had shaved off their eyebrows. I thought that was pretty funny, and then they showed a video clip. The ravages of time have cleared my memory of what song I saw, but it was enough to get me to go buy one of their albums.

The guy at the record store just happened to be a huge fan of The Replacements, and proceeded to open up a copy of Pleased to Meet Me, their newest album, for me to listen to. From the first sounds of "I.O.U.", I was hooked. We listened to the album all the way through, and I had to buy it. The cool thing was that since it was an “open” copy, so I got a discounted price for it…go figure.

I quickly bought their other albums, and became a huge fan. When Don’t Tell a Soul came out, I thought it was a great album, even though many felt it was a sell-out.  I guess I can see that now, but I still thought it was miles ahead of the hair-metal crap that was crowding the airwaves.  

When All Shook Down came out, I loved the more stripped down feeling of it, even though it appeared the ‘Mats were done.  Surprisingly, they did tour on that album, and I saw three shows, even altering vacation plans to see them in Nashville.  Of course all things have to come to an end, and they did, too.  Sure, they’ve done some shows the past year or so, but it’s not the same, is it?

For this primer, I should provide some caveats.  First, this is not a greatest hits collection, per se.  Their albums always had throwaway filler songs, which could be pretty humorous to me.  These “fillers” were part of what attracted me to The ‘Mats, so I feel they must be included.  Another problem is that there are way too many songs to choose from.  I whittled down 2-1/2 hours of songs down to 1 hour.  Maybe somebody else can create a “replacement” primer to finish what I have started.  OK…here goes


1.) I.O.U. (from 'Pleased To Meet Me') (1987)

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Since this was the first Replacements song I heard, I figured that I should start with it. This is from 1987’s Pleased to Meet Me, which is probably still my favorite ‘Mats album. The crunchy guitar riff, followed by Chris Mars’ huge drums reminded me that good rock and roll was still being made.


2.) Run It (from 'Hootenanny') (1983)

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Ah yes, slightly more than 1 minute of punk madness. This is from their 2nd full-length album, Hootenanny. My favorite part is when Bob Stinson plays the “Dragnet” theme.


3.) One Wink At A Time (from 'All Shook Down') (1990)

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This is just great songwriting, along with a great melody. “She’s got the devil in her eye, there’s only one way to exorcise him…one wink at a time…”  Brilliant stuff.


4.) Gary's Got A Boner (from 'Let It Be') (1984)

I remember seeing Ted Nugent’s name as being one of the co-writers for this one. At first I thought that there was no way that The ‘Mats would have even met the Nuge. Then when I listened to it and heard the riff from “Cat Scratch Fever", I got the joke. This is another one of their more infantile efforts, but how can you not crack a smile?


5.) Swingin' Party (from 'Tim') (1985) 

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I’m going to confess something here. This is the only song that ever brought a tear to my eyes. OK, I’ll admit that I had quite a few beers in me, but did shed tears to this great song from Tim once or twice. This is one of those great Paul Westerberg lyrics that really show just how vulnerable people can be, especially when you’re an outcast. “If being alone’s a crime, I’m serving forever, if being strong’s your type then I need help with this feather.” I’m almost tearing up again right now.


6.) Alex Chilton (from 'Pleased To Meet Me') (1987)

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A great power pop song written about one of power pop’s reluctant guiding forces. Of course, I didn’t get into Big Star until a few years later, but this song was the impetus to find out about them.


7.) I Hate Music (from 'Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash') (1981)

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Another throwaway, but it’s a damned funny one. I still crack up when I hear Westerberg sing, “I hate music, it’s got too many notes.” And then to throw in the classic teenage angst of “I hate my high school, sometimes I went.” That’s right up there with Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.” And just remember, Tommy says so!


8.) Within Your Reach (from 'Hootenanny') (1983)

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A great song from Hootenanny. I loved the sound of the flange on the guitar, which seemed to add to the drama of the lyrics. Westerberg always seemed to wear his heart on his sleeve.


9.) Answering Machine (from 'Let It Be') (1983)

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Who hasn’t been frustrated with someone who won’t pick up the phone and having to talk to the answering machine? This is yet another great set of lyrics set to an abrasive guitar.


10.) Hold My Life (from 'Tim') (1985)

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The Replacements always seemed to be teetering on the edge of disaster. Their drunken shows were legendary by this point, and this song reflects that. In the chorus, Westerberg sings, “Hold my life, until I ready to use it; hold my life, ‘cause I just might lose it.” Pretty much sums it up.


11.) I Will Dare (from 'Let It Be') (1984)

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I thought it was pretty cool at the time to see that Peter Buck played guitar on this. Plus, Paul plays mandolin, several years before Buck used it for R.E.M., and plays it far better than Buck ever did, too. When they opened with this in Nashville, the crowd went nuts, and for good reason.


12.) Waitress In The Sky (from 'Tim') (1985)

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This is one of the more puerile songs in the Replacement canon. In fact, Rolling Stone even used that word about this song in their review. I always thought it was pretty funny, and they played this every time I saw them.


13.) Takin' A Ride (from 'Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash') (1981)

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The opening song to their first album, The ‘Mats came on hard and heavy. What middle-class outcast didn’t go out joyriding while blasting out loud music back then?


14.) Color Me Impressed (from 'Hootenanny') (1983)

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I always hated going to parties where all of the “cool” people looked down on the “losers.” This song speaks to that idea perfectly.


15.) Here Comes A Regular (from 'Tim') (1985)

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An ode to being a barfly. At the time that I first heard this in ’88, I hated the fact that Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” utilized the same chord progression, and was mostly acoustic, too. I thought they were a bunch of talentless hacks then, and they still are today. Their song isn’t worth the sweat from Westerberg’s ass, if you ask me.


16.) Talent Show (from 'Don't Tell A Soul') (1989)

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Just because I only chose one song from Don’t Tell a Soul doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I get it, most fans think that this is a horrible album, but I really liked it when it came out, and I still do. I guess most people have a hard time with the over-reach of trying to hit the ‘big-time,’ but these were still pretty good songs. “Talent Show” makes the list because it has such a great hook, and what musician hasn’t felt the little twinge of nerves before going onstage?


17.) Kids Don't Follow (from 'Stink') (1982)

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This is the great opening song to the EP Stink.  First, what a great title for an EP. Second, what a great song to kick it off with. Stink crammed 8 songs into 15 minutes, with much of them being hardcore punk throwaways. However, this song spoke to every misfit in the country, even if most of them never heard it. The opening bit, with the police trying to get everybody to leave the party, is priceless. Then I later found out that it was Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum yelling “Fuck you, man!” 


18.) Nobody (from 'All Shook Down') (1990)

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I don’t know why I like this song, but I do, and so it’s on my list. Another set of fine lyrics from Westerberg. It’s hard to believe that he’d matured so much in his subject matter in just 8 or 10 years.


19.) Can't Hardly Wait (from 'Pleased To Meet Me')

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This is probably my favorite Replacements song. The opening riff is insistent throughout the entire song, with a great melody to go along with it. The Memphis Horns add to the brilliance of the song, along with the strings. Hell, Alex Chilton even provides some guitar fills for good measure.


Dan Palmer is a voracious music listener that teaches school in Saginaw, Michigan and plays guitar and sings in The Crushtones.