Posts Tagged ‘The Replacements’

Yesterday marked 17 years since my life ‘turned on a dime’, getting diagnosed with cancer. As time rolls on, the less and less I hang onto that day; but the gratitude for recovery never leaves. So on occasion, I try to share a little piece of my story with the humble hope that, even in the smallest way, it helps someone, somewhere, going through their own tough battles. Aside from faith and family, songs are my refuge. It has always been my place to celebrate all I love in this world and my escape and defense mechanism against everything I find wrong with it.

About 8 months into my unexpected journey –- immediate surgery, weeks of radiation, losing 50 pounds, constant pain & nausea, lack of sleep and a tremendous amount of anxiety — a disciplined nightly exercise routine, set to a continuous soundtrack of music (“The List”), had finally started to have positive effects for me physically. But mentally and emotionally I was still struggling and needed some confidence against the uncertainties life now presented. That is when God’s grace again pointed me to a music piece critical in my recovery – Paul Westerberg’s Stereo/Mono. Westerberg (aka Grandpaboy) and The Replacements had always been my ‘go-to’ rock-n-roll inspiration representing the beautiful-struggle that comes with doing things your own way. The Good Lord apparently must have nudged the former ‘Mats front-man to release not only a new record, but a double-record at that – perfect timing and exactly what I needed for a little ‘attitude’ as I adjusted back into the world.

I know as an adult the term ‘attitude’ can seem sophomoric. But believe me, the first time life awakens you from the carefree invincibility of youth and you realize life truly has a beginning and an end, no exceptions, including for yourself, you are exposed to an unsettling new vulnerability that never leaves. Acceptance was absolutely necessary for coming to terms with this fact, but adopting a slightly defiant mindset helped me more convincingly begin to work through the onslaught of fears and doubts that came with everything I experienced, and spurred me to continue to move forward. Stereo/Mono contains 25 songs and I could post any one of them because they are all important to me, but this reflective track pretty much summarizes it best . . .

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Charlie Sexton came up through the roots music scene in Austin, TX and was taught how to play guitar at a young age by W.C. Clark, “Godfather of Austin Blues”. Before the age of 18, Sexton was an in-demand session player recording with the likes of Bob Dylan, Keith Richards and Don Henley and released his debut solo record PICTURES FOR PLEASURE (1985). The very 80’s sounding Top 20 hit “Beat’s So Lonely” from that record was featured in the classic John Hughes movie SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL.

My favorite Sexton story: When The Replacements fired original guitarist Bob Stinson, their management encouraged the band to hire a real ‘guitar-slinger’ as a new member. Surprisingly, the band was receptive to the idea. One of the most intriguing candidates was Charlie Sexton – but in typical bad decision-making fashion, the ‘Mats passed on Sexton without an audition after deciding he was “too good-looking” and not the right fit for their infamous shenanigans and drinking. Sexton continued on, most notably as a long-time member of Bob Dylan’s band.

The only real positive benefit for fans when a great band breaks up is often times the members splinter off and form their own bands or become solo artists. You now have exponentially more music to discover and listen to. In the case of The Replacements, Paul Westerberg continued as one of my favorites with his solo releases, plus as his musical alter-ego, Grandpaboy. Tommy Stinson, who was the real spark plug and energy of the ‘Mats, formed a couple short-lived bands, Bash & Pop and Perfect. Fortunately, his post-Replacements bands left behind some catchy, guitar-driven rock tracks in their wake before Tommy went on to join Guns ‘N Roses and Soul Asylum as bass player.

“Never Aim To Please” is the first track on Bash & Pop’s lone release Friday Night Is Killing Me. Right off the bat, Stinson and Company give you the best of what the band  has to offer — straight-forward, Stones-influenced guitar-riff rock with Stinson’s take-me-as-I-am attitude and lyrics. After so many years playing together with master songwriter and wordsmith Westerberg, Tommy naturally picks up and creates his own style of lyrical cleverness which is present throughout the entire 1993 release. Steve Foley, who replaced original drummer Chris Mars on the last ‘Mats tour, does a great job of lying down a tight back beat on drums.

I have heard it said before, if you look up the definition of rock-n-roll in the dictionary, a picture of Tommy Stinson will be there. I would have to agree and “Never Aim to Please” is one of the reasons why. Stinson also released a couple strong solo efforts in 2004 (Village Gorilla Head)  and 2011 (One Man Mutiny) which showcase his growth as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. Also be sure to check out the great session work Stinson and drummer  Josh Freese provided as rhythm section ‘hired guns’ for alternative band MOTH on their 2002 release Provisions, Fiction and Gear.

Interestingly (or maybe not), I had the opportunity to open up for Bash & Pop when they came through Cleveland on tour in 1992 prior to their debut release. I played drums for an alternative band NOTHING LIKE VAUDEVILLE and we played and hosted several Musicians Nights at Flash’s Concert Club, which was a popular venue and has since been torn down. The Club Manager asked us to open for some national acts, so we played on same bill as Tool in their very early days, plus Course of Empire, a cool band out of Dallas, TX featuring two drummers. When we were asked to open for Bash & Pop, it was decided by our lead guitarist/songwriter that musically it was not a good fit and declined the offer.  He was probably right the audience would have watched us with their heads tilted sideways in wonderment, but that was not uncommon for our band anyways. Turning it down was mind-boggling since the ‘Mats were a huge influence on me. I always joked with my former band mate that I could never forgive him.

 

Back in the late 80’s I could not have envisioned any real connection between Guns N Roses and The Psychedelic Furs. But in 1992, one of the coolest voices in rock, The Furs singer Richard Butler formed LOVE SPIT LOVE, a new band with Furs bassist (and brother) Tim Butler, guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer. The band released LOVE SPIT LOVE in 1994 and TRYSOME EATSOME in 1997. Both are excellent. With such a distinctive voice it would be impossible not to sound like The Psychedelic Furs. Love Spit Love brings the melodic alternative rock  sound of The Furs with an overall harder edge.  The musicianship of Fortus and Ferrer, along with a few excellent session players,  for the well-crafted songs of the Butler Brothers seems to be the key element. Fortus also co-wrote several of the songs with Richard Butler.

On the perfectly paced ‘Am I Wrong’ from their debut, guitar melodies mix with Butler’s vocals of being lost and struggling in life that seem to come more from a place of matter-of-fact awareness and surrender rather than sadness. Keyboard/string notes underneath beautifully heighten the song’s emotion. I love the simple structure of the song without a lot of musical changes or any true chorus — just the repeated line /Goodbye, lay the blame on luck/. 

Interestingly, Fortus and Ferrer went on the become members of the new creation of Guns N Roses, along with my favorite bass player Tommy Stinson, formerly of The Replacements. While I agree, the original line up and success of GNR can never be matched or duplicated, I laugh when some people naively assume Axl Rose just continued the band with a bunch of unknown hack musicians.  All of these guys all have been making great music for many, many years.