So when I went looking for interesting bands of that decade, I kept running into two bands from Minneapolis, Minnesota: Husker Du and The Replacements.
Husker Du was alright with some interesting stuff, but I fell in love with the music of The Replacements. They played everything from blistering hard rock to countryish ballads, with an open honesty that made other bands of the era sound artificial, made of plastic. They played interestingly odd covers and great originals by frontman/singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg.
But The Replacements were their own worst enemies. When they played live, they were so blasted they could hardly stand up. When they finally got the opportunity to play the famous New York City club CBGBs, they would drop and then step on fart pellets they bought earlier at some “trick shop.” By the end of their second song, they’d cleared out the first four rows. They thought it was hilarious.
After their fourth album, they fired lead guitarist Bob Stinson because of his out of control use of booze and drugs. I find that ironic, since the entire band was made up of world class drinkers and drug users.
The band broke up in ’91. Sadly, Bob Stinson died of an overdose Feb. 15, 1995, in some fleabag, downtown Minneapolis dump of a hotel.
The Replacements, more than any band I know, have songs and albums that no one can agree on, except for Let It Be. For a good example of this, just compare the stars on albums in the ’94 and ’04 Rolling Stone Record Guides. The former rewards the later, better produced albums and the latter throws all of its stars at the rougher, earlier records.
The one thing almost everyone agrees on is the fact that Let It Be (in your face Beatles) is their Masterpiece. It’s the album that straddles both sides of their career with ballads, and a kick-ass cover of the early Kiss song “Black Diamond.” And you know they haven’t lost their sense of humor with songs like “Gary’s Got a Boner.”
If you buy Let It Be, make sure you get the re-mastered version; the original’s so rough you can’t hear how good the songs are.
It’s too bad that their double album All For Nothing/Nothing For All is out of print. The first disc is almost a waste of time; it’s just a post Let It Be “Best Of.” But the second disc is full of odds and ends, and rarities. It has great ballads like “Portland.” They even do a cover of the Disney song “Cruella deVille” from the movie 101 Dalmatians.
Paul Westerberg went on to make some decent solo albums. But they didn’t sell, because the fanatic Replacement fans still blame him for breaking up their beloved band.