The Replacements

They found it, whatever that miracle was, at least for a little while

In the 12 months from Jan 1, 1984 to Jan 1, 1985 (inclusive so I could get the Green on Red album in), the 15 unreasonably fun and variously life-changing records below were released and quickly ended up moving from my peach crates to the record player and back daily, weekly, monthly, depending on how busy I was. I spent the fall of ’84 living with my parents looking for full-time work – so there was a lot of time for music. Alphabetically:

  1. The Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People

  2. Depeche Mode: Some Great Reward

  3. The Dream Syndicate: The Medicine Show

  4. Echo & the Bunnymen: Ocean Rain

  5. The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of…

  6. Green on Red: Gas, Food, Lodging

  7. Hüsker Dü: Zen Arcade

  8. Jason & the Nashville Scorchers: Fervor (EP)

  9. Los Lobos: How Will the World Survive?

  10. The Lyres: On Fyre

  11. Meat Puppets: II

  12. The Minutemen: Double Nickels on a Dime

  13. REM: Reckoning

  14. The Red Hot Chili Peppers

  15. The Smiths: Hatful of Hollow

But the one that hit harder than any of these, harder than Purple Rain, or Stop Making Sense or Three of a Perfect Pair, was The Replacements’ masterpiece Let it Be. I don’t think the record ever made it back into the crate after I brought it home. For months, it had to be at the ready, leaning against the base of the console. You could bounce, you could sway, you could laugh, you could pray. Paul Westerberg. meant. every. single. word. he. sang/croaked/screamed/survived. And Bob Stinson’s guitar was, well, it was, you know, I mean, perfect. Drunk, but perfect. Out of tune, but perfect. Perfect, but beyond perfect. It was like Warren Zevon’s London werewolf, it could rip your heart out, Jim.

The best worst thing about the record was that the so-called hit, “I Will Dare” (not here) isn’t close to the best song on the disc. A sign of the absolute ridiculousness of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is they included “I Will Dare” among their top 500 most influential rock songs, as if “Androgynous,” (sadly, not here) “Unsatisfied,” (here) “Sixteen Blue” (here) and “Answering Machine” (brutal to leave out) weren’t orders of magnitude more transformative. And their version of the KISS song, “Black Diamond” (here)… let’s just say Paul Stanley should have handed over all royalties to Westerberg, Stinson, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars. (Stinson’s guitar on “Black Diamond” is nothing short of transcendent.) A ton of trite shit has been said about the greatness of the record and none of it sells the record short, it just sucks that those writers flail about so badly in their efforts. “Adolescent angst,” “midwestern teen rage,” “as classic as a rock album can be,” “a time piece of post-industrial youth in the Reagan era”… ughhh. Here’s my flail – in the long decade where everything from X to Run D.M.C.; Laurie Anderson to The Waterboys; Romeo Void to Metallica; Public Enemy to Pylon; Uncle Tupelo to Negativland; and The Mekons to The Lime Spiders – and a ton of the bands I’ve already prepped ICA’s for – all peaked, this is my favorite.

At the time, surely too influenced by some reviewers, I took a few listens to Hootenanny (1983), and it didn’t grab me, and then their first, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981), which I plain old didn’t like (and still don’t.) I figured it took a little while for Westerberg and the band to find their feet and was really excited when Tim (1985) was released. It’s a really really solid “second record.” And it’s a miraculously good “second record” for a band just signed off an independent, Twin/Tone, to a major label, Sire. I think “Kiss Me on the Bus” (not included) is better than “I Will Dare.” “Swinging Party” (not included) is really good, “Bastards of Young” (had to be here) just short of great great and “Here Comes a Regular” (no choice, here) has left me devastated, periodically in tears, since its release… But Tim isn’t, couldn’t be, Let it Be. It took me a while to let it be just Tim.

I remember the hype for Pleased to Meet Me (1987), and my disappointment. They have a song titled, “Alex Chilton,” (not included) which is super cool, “The Ledge” (totally here) is really good and I’ve included “Skyway” here as the perfect song for the slot that emerged as I built the flow of the imagined LP. But losing Bob Stinson – and, don’t get me wrong, I really like Slim Dunlap (check out his solo records The Old New Me and Times Like This, they are a ton of fun) who replaced him – felt to me like it set the soul of the band awobble. Maybe it was the influence of Sire and it’s producers, maybe it was Westerberg trying to grow up, maybe it was that the band was exhausted, maybe it was that the record came out too soon but, whatever it was, I didn’t ever have the record as part of a meaningful rotation…. But it sold better than anything they’d put out before… as did Don’t Tell a Soul (1989) – from which “We’ll Inherit the Earth – Mix 1” proved the right song to get me from “Willpower” to “Black Diamond” and “Rock and Roll Ghost” wraps things up – and then All Shook Down (1990) sold even more. But for me, excitement-wise, they were largely done.

I’ve added a bonus cut/hidden track to the ICA – Hootenanny’s “Mr. Whirly.” I guess this makes it a CD ICA rather than an LP, but what are you gonna do? As All Shook Down came out, Nirvana’s Nevermind was exactly a year away. When I was putting this together, I went back to Hootenanny, and found it far better than I remembered, almost as good as Tim, in fact. I know Kurt Cobain was intensely cognizant of his influences but, while I am in no way anything like a completist when it comes to Nirvana, I can’t recall ever having run into a Nirvana cover of a Replacements song. It kinda weirds me out. A friend who Googles random things on the internet told me all he can find about Westerberg and Cobain is that, once, they silently rode an elevator together. Contingent rather than comprehensive research but possibly indicative of something. Nevertheless, give “Mr. Whirly” a shot, I’m pretty sure it’d fit just fine on any of the four long players Curt, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic released, and maybe should have been in the Unplugged set.

As always these are the most representative songs that fit/flow together best – in my estimation – rather than a greatest hits collection. A greatest hits/favorite songs collection would be quite different as implied in parenthetical comments above.

Side A

1. Willpower, Hootenanny (1983)

2. We’ll Inherit the Earth (Mix 1), Don’t Tell A Soul (1989)

3. Black Diamond, Let It Be (1984)

4. Bastards Of Young, Tim (1985)

5. The Ledge, Pleased To Meet Me (1987)

Side B

1. Sixteen Blue, Let It Be (1984)

2. Skyway, Pleased To Meet Me (1987)

3. Unsatisfied, Let It Be (1984)

4. Here Comes A Regular, Tim (1985)

5. Rock ‘N’ Roll Ghost, Don’t Tell a Soul (1989)

Hidden Track: Mr. Whirly, Hootenanny (1983)



  1. My 33-track Best of Replacements CD features only four of these tracks, which underlines the old truth that fans’ picks are often very different from a record label’s notions. Will be an interesting listen.

  2. Interesting read. I’ve got plenty of time for Hootenanny, sloppy as it is. And ‘I Will Dare’ gets all the recognition because it was the best song the ‘Mats ever recorded. I’d have liked to see ‘Kiss Me On The Bus’, but I can’t fault the thinking behind these picks. Nice writing as always, HSP.

  3. Great stuff, love the Placemats. Have contemplated an ICA myself previously but never got around to it. I think I’d need Kiss Me On The Bus or Left of the Dial plus the unreleased version of Can’t Hardly Wait.

  4. I was gifted a mix tape of
    ‘Mats songs by the guy who DJ’ed our local indie night at Uni. He also worked the counter at the local record shop and it was a smart business decision. The tape was called Victims of Restructuring. Alex Chilton, Skyway, Beer For Breakfast, Here Comes A Regular and Left Of The Dial was side two

  5. Amazingly, they popped up as an answer on University Challenge
    just the day before this ICA appeared. Somewhat inevitably I responded
    incorrectly whilst the young quizzers on TV shamed me.

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