Posts Tagged ‘Paul Westerberg’

This EXCLUSIVE bundle comes with a 10″x14″ paper placemat that is a replica of the original Pleased To Meet Me promo item from 1987, a bumper sticker, a 3″ Patch and a limited edition cassette. The cassette features a previously unreleased interview with Paul Westerberg recorded just before the release of the Pleased To Meet Me album. Brief excerpts from the interview were originally included in a radio promo LP that was released in 1987 but this marks the first time that the complete interview has been made available.

Pleased To Meet Me is the critically acclaimed fifth studio album by the American rock band The Replacements. Released in 1987 by Sire RecordsPleased To Meet Me is the only album recorded by the band as a trio, after original guitarist Bob Stinson acrimoniously left the band.

Following last year’s widely acclaimed Dead Man’s Pop release, Pleased To Meet Me will be receiving a similar ‘deep dive’ treatment with a 3-CD/1-LP deluxe boxed set, which will tell the story of the album in ways not previously possible with more than 50% of the content previously unreleased

  • New remaster of the original album by Justin Perkins, who was also behind the boards for our Dead Man’s Pop regimaging
  • 1986 demo session with Bob Stinson – his last recorded Replacements performance
  • Additional 1986 demos with the band as a three-piece outfit (sans Bob)
  • Previously unreleased rough mix of the album with alternate track listing
  • Studio outtakes from the album recording sessions (Memphis, 1987)
  • Rare single mixes

The making of Pleased To Meet Me was a transformative journey for The Replacements, one that began with the combustible Minneapolis combo on the brink of collapse and culminated in one of the definitive albums of the band’s career. That transformation is chronicled in-depth on the group’s latest boxed set, Pleased To Meet Me (Deluxe Edition).

More than half of the music (29 tracks) on this Deluxe Edition set has never been released, including demos, rough mixes, and outtakes as well as Bob Stinson’s last recordings with The Replacements from 1986.

The music is presented in a 12 x 12 hardcover book loaded with dozens of rarely seen photos along with a detailed history of the Pleased To Meet Me era written by Bob Mehr, who authored The New York Times bestseller, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.

Pleased To Meet Me was recorded over three months at Ardent Studios in Memphis with legendary producer Jim Dickinson before it debuted in June 1987. The collection opens with a newly remastered version of the original 11-track album along with a selection of B-sides and a version of “Can’t Hardly Wait” that was remixed by Jimmy Iovine. All of the music included in this boxed set has been remastered by Justin Perkins, who remastered the band’s widely acclaimed 2019 boxed set, Dead Man’s Pop.

The second disc explores the creative process behind Pleased To Meet Me with 15 unreleased demos recorded at Blackberry Way Studios in Minneapolis during the summer of 1986. The first seven of these demos represent the last recordings made by all four original members of The Replacements. After those demo sessions stalled out, singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson and drummer Chris Mars made the painful decision to part ways with lead guitarist Bob Stinson after recording five albums together.

The disc’s remaining eight demos feature the band as a trio and include “Shooting Dirty Pool,” two versions of “Kick It In,” and “Even If It’s Cheap,” whose opening line (“Pleased to meet me/the pleasure’s all yours”) would ultimately inspire the title of the album.

The collection’s final disc features 13 previously unreleased rough mixes by studio engineer John Hampton that include the majority of the album along with non-album tracks like “Election Day” and “Birthday Gal.” These rough mixes are also featured on the 180-gram vinyl record included in the set.

Rounding out the collection are several unreleased tracks (Westerberg’s “Run For The Country” and “Learn How To Fail,” Stinson’s “Trouble On The Way”) along with a selection of outtakes (“Beer For Breakfast” and “I Don’t Know”) that debuted on the 1997 compilation, All For Nothing/Nothing For All.

This limited edition and EXCLUSIVE bundle comes with a 14-track cassette featuring highlights from the box along with two additional unreleased tracks: the outtake “Asking Me Lies” and an instrumental of “I Won’t” (Bearsville Version). The cassette also features the original, unused cover art for Don’t Tell A Soul.

Former Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson is the first to admit that his band’s sixth album is not his favorite. When the Replacements made 1989’s Don’t Tell a Soul, their record label was pressuring frontman Paul Westerberg to write songs that could get played on the radio, and the group ended up compromising on the mix of the album. Producer Matt Wallace’s mixes were dismissed, the tapes went missing for years, and the label hired hit-maker Chris Lord-Alge (Steve Winwood, James Brown) put his spin on it. The end result, Stinson and his bandmates felt, was an album that sounded overcooked.

Despite this, or maybe because of this, Don’t Tell a Soul was the group’s highest-charting release, and the jaunty “I’ll Be You” (with memorable wordplay like “dressin’ sharp and feelin’ dull”) and the gentle “Achin’ to Be” were some of the band’s biggest commercial hits. Stinson initially had mixed emotions when he saw the contents of a new box set built around the album, Dead Man’s Pop, but ultimately he came around on it. “The amount of unreleased stuff was surprising,” he tells us from his home in Hudson, New York. “Some of that stuff was seriously never meant to see the light of day for obvious reasons. But when you package it up and look at it in its totality, I get why fans would like that.”

Back in 1987, Minneapolis rock and roll renegades The Replacements famously stole their Twin/Tone master tapes and threw them in the Mississippi River. A year later—while wrapping up work on their Warner Bros. album, Don’t Tell A Soul—the group absconded with a collection of their reels from Paisley Park studios. Thankfully, those tapes were spared a watery fate, and instead stashed away for decades by the band. Now they’ve been recovered to form the basis of The Replacements first-ever boxed set, Dead Man’s Pop.

Although Don’t Tell A Soul ultimately became the group’s best-selling effort, The Replacements were unsatisfied with the sound of the record. The band has radically reimagined Don’t Tell A Soul to create a 4CD/1LP set that features the album mixed as it was originally intended (Don’t Tell A Soul Redux), along with a collection of previously unheard tracks (We Know The Night: Rare & Unreleased), and a classic concert from 1989 (The Complete Inconcerated Live).

The box features a newly completed mix of the album by Don’t Tell A Soul producer Matt Wallace (based on his 1988 Paisley Park mix); a disc of unreleased recordings (including a session with Tom Waits); plus the band’s entire June 2nd, 1989 show at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In total, the box includes 60 tracks–58 of which have never been heard before.

Dead Man’s Pop features a version of the album mixed the way they had originally intended it to sound, by Wallace. It makes the songs fuller — more like a band — without a lot of the production trickery of the time. There’s also a disc of outtakes, B sides and some radically different-sounding demos the band cut in Bearsville, New York with producer Tony Berg; the volume also features the band’s legendarily sloshy jam session with Tom Waits. It ends with two discs of the full University of Wisconsin performance that ended up on the promo release Inconcernated.

It’s meant for Replacements completists, and Stinson can respect that people would want to hear these things, even if they were a bit shocking to him. “I respect what we have left as a legacy,” he says. “And the diehard fans really appreciate all the bumps and barnacles, and there’s plenty of them out there. I think for a band of our stature — or lack thereof stature — it’s a cool thing. A lot of times, reissue stuff can be sort of trite. I think the ticket is really what Bob [Mehr, producer and Replacements biographer] unearthed and what the people involved thought would be a good thing to include. I think they used good judgment on it.”

Presented in a 12 x 12 hardcover book – loaded with dozens of rarely seen photos – the set features a detailed history of the Don’t Tell A Soul era written by Bob Mehr, who produced the box with Rhino’s Jason Jones, and also authored The New York Times bestseller Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.

Mehr writes: “While it’s impossible to unhear a record that’s been around for three decades, this version, Don’t Tell A Soul Redux, is the album the band made and intended to release. In addition to Matt Wallace’s mix, Redux also restores several crucial elements from the sessions, including original drums tracks, vocal takes and tempos that were altered in post-production…[and] the band’s original sequence of the album.”

Wallace says: “The true spirit of The Replacements was always there on the recordings we did back in 1988, and now you can hear and feel it clearly…This was the project of a lifetime for me when we recorded it 30-plus years ago, and it’s even truer today as we’ve finally fulfilled our original vision.”

Paul Westerberg, Slim Dunlap, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars started recording Don’t Tell A Soul in June 1988 with Tony Berg at Bearsville Studios, but the chaotic sessions were cut short and mothballed. Nine unreleased tracks from Bearsville appear on Dead Man’s Pop, including early versions of “I’ll Be You,” “Darlin’ One” and “Achin’ To Be” and the previously unheard “Last Thing in the World.” The collection also features tracks the band recorded with Tom Waits, five of which have never been officially released: among them, “Lowdown Monkey Blues,” “We Know The Night” and a cover of Billy Swan’s “I Can Help.”

The final two CDs of Dead Man’s Pop capture the band performing live in Milwaukee during the “Don’t Tell A Soul Tour.” A few songs from the concert originally appeared on the promo-only EP Inconcerated Live (1989), but the bulk of the 29 tracks included have never been released. The entire show has been newly mixed by Brian Kehew (Ramones, The Faces).

Additionally, Dead Man’s Pop will include Wallace’s Don’t Tell A Soul Redux mix on 180-gram vinyl.

The Replacements began to turn away from their early punk aesthetic on “Hootenanny”, the second studio album setting themselves up for stirring new successes. Unfortunately, this album also marked the beginning of the end for the band’s seminal lineup.
They had begun their discography with the hardcore, thrillingly haphazard 1981 album Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, followed by the similarly constructed Stink EP a year later. This was booze-addled co-founding guitarist Bob Stinson’s forte, the place where he felt most at home. Frontman Paul Westerberg had other ideas.

“It had been a year or six months of touring and doing the Stink thing,” Westerberg says in the excellent “Trouble Boys The True Story of the Replacements”, “and the last thing I wanted to do was really bash out another one like that. … It was impossible to sing that shit anyway; it was ripping my throat raw.”

The Hootenanny, album was issued on April 29th, 1983, It re-drew the Replacements‘ musical boundaries. Suddenly, they were dabbling in pop and old-school rock sounds, and country and folk, too. Some of it was quite frankly ironic, but the album still represented a huge leap forward – and it completely reshaped the Replacements‘ audience.

They’d gotten there by finally speaking to their own deeper, quite fundamental contradictions. After all, this was a band that could somehow come off as both sensitive and sarcastic, darkly poetic and strikingly sophomoric. Westerberg’s roving muse was actually matched by the built-in musical tendencies of bandmates Bob Stinson, his bass-playing brother Tommy Stinson, and drummer Chris Mars.

“If it doesn’t rock enough, Bob will scoff at it,” Westerberg says in Our Band Could Be Your Life, “and if it isn’t catchy enough, Chris won’t like it – and if it isn’t modern enough, Tommy won’t like it.”

Having already changed recording venues in favor of a mobile 24-track unit at a warehouse in Roseville described in the liner notes as “a warehouse in some godawful suburb north of near downtown Minneapolis, The Replacements began trying on new personas: “Willpower” brought to mind the Psychedelic Furs at their most atmospheric, while “Take Me Down to the Hospital” revealed a blues base. “Mr. Whirly” boasted an overt Beatles influence a parody of the Beatles track “Oh! Darling” (with the opening bars of “Strawberry Fields Forever”) and bears the writing credit “mostly stolen” on the record label

, and “Buck Hill” referenced surf rock. “Color Me Impressed” rankes as one of Westerberg’s best early paeans to outsiders. “Within Your Reach” even included a bit of synth.

As he plumbed deeper emotions, Westerberg headed toward something that might be called singer-songwriter punk. “There was less concern of trying to make an album that was all fast rock and roll songs,” Westerberg adds in  Trouble Boys. “The record was going to be whatever turned out best on tape.”

At the same time, however, Hootenanny still remained connected to their unstructured roots. The title track, a chaotic blues shuffle in which all of the Replacements switched instruments in order to annoy their fastidious co-producer Paul Stark, was placed at the top of the record. They then charged right into “Run It,” an unapologetically hardcore romp. In these moments, the late Bob Stinson transformed once more into a revelation of guttural expression, weird angles and coiled aggressiveness.

“I mean, what he played just came from somewhere else,” said former manager Peter Jesperson “It was instinctual, more than most people that I’ve ever experienced. He just played a weird amalgamation of things that he admired, filtered through the weird Bob Stinson brain.”

Through it boasts a surprisingly jazzy approach, the lyrics of “Lovelines” were also pure punk: Westerberg reads classified ads, verbatim, straight out of Minneapolis‘ City Pages, you can even detect the sound of turning pages as the song ends. They begin “You Lose” with Westerberg talking back to the control room. “Are we going to record this one?” he asks. Then, as the music suddenly surrounds him: “I see. Well, in that case …”

Meanwhile, the Replacements were still an on-stage mess, as they consumed staggering amounts of alcohol before performing. “If it’s a small crowd, it helps sometimes because you see double,” Westerberg once quipped. “Then you can fill the joint.”
That’s part of why almost all of Hootenanny was cut live, with minimal overdubbing of lead vocals and guitar. They were constrained, quite frankly, by Stinson’s outsized appetites. “The major consideration was how drunk Bob was going to be when he came to the sessions,” Stark said in Trouble Boys, “and how much you could get out of him before he got too drunk to work. With Bob, we only had about 20 or 30 minutes to record every night.”

Bob Stinson had tried to go on the wagon the summer before, but fell off again. At one point, Tommy Stinson was desperate enough to discuss replacing his brother with Dan Murphy of the band Soul Asylum. But Tommy, then still in high school, wasn’t in any position to redirect his wayward sibling. Up to this point, The Replacements had been limiting their schedule to regional weekend runs so the younger Stinson could be back in class on Mondays.
So, Stark adjusted. “We realized [Bob Stinson’s] lead guitar playing was best between his fifth and seventh beer, and after the seventh beer he was worthless,” Stark says “If he hadn’t had the four, he was worthless, as well.”

It all came together, somehow. Paul Westerberg felt like they’d finally stumbled onto something special, something uniquely their own. He later called Hootenanny “the first album that sounds just like us.” Certainly, it set the table for 1984’s breakthrough Let It Be. A year later, the Replacements were signed by a major label.

Still, seeds of discontent were already sown. Bob Stinson had flatly refused to include the Westerberg ballad “You’re Getting Married” on Stink. (“That ain’t the Replacements,” he reportedly said. “Save it for your record, Paul.”) Westerberg actually recorded this album’s more sensitive “Within Your Reach” all alone. The pair were clearly headed to a critical juncture: “When we played the loud, fast shit, it was his band,” Westerberg says in Trouble Boys, “but I felt like I can only do so much of that. I have to do this [ballad] crap, too.”

Westerberg closed out Hootenanny with “Treatment Bound,” a brutally frank admission.”We’re getting no place fast as we can,” he lamented. But that would change soon. Hundreds of college-rock stations added Hootenanny to their playlists, and it got great reviews. Meanwhile, Tommy Stinson quit school. The Replacements were his full-time job now.
In the spring of ’83, they made their first East Coast trip. The Replacements played CBGB that June. By the fall of 1984, they had released one of the most important albums of the era. Within two years after that, however, Bob Stinson had gone. He didn’t live another full decade.

The Replacements
  • Paul Westerberg – rhythm guitar, vocals (drums on track 1, all instruments on side 2, track 1)
  • Bob Stinson – lead guitar (bass on track 1)
  • Tommy Stinson – bass (rhythm guitar on track 1)
  • Chris Mars – drums (lead guitar on track 1)

Hootenanny sold more than 38,000 vinyl copies. In 2008, The album was remastered and reissued by Rhino Entertainment, containing seven additional tracks.

The Replacements

The legendary Replacements embarked on a highly anticipated national tour, fulfilling the wishes of a legion of fans who were either too young or too naive to see them the first go-around. The shows, luckily, were still beautiful fuck-ups. What with Paul Westerberg smoking cigarettes between songs, during songs, even inside a camping tent that was erected on the stage for some reason, and Tommy Stinson leaping around like a kid during “Bastards of Young,” there was little left to be desired. As a message to fans, Westerberg donned a new white shirt each night of the tour, with a spray-painted letter on the front and back. By the end of the tour, the message read, “I have always loved you. Now I must whore my past.” Perhaps that’s enough said.
Record Store Day 2015 Release on 10″ black regular weight vinyl 4 song EP. Originally released in the UK as a 7″. Unlike many of their underground contemporaries, The Replacements played ‘heart-on-the-sleeve’ rock songs that combined Westerberg’s raw-throated adolescent howl with self-deprecating lyrics. They were a notoriously wayward live act, often performing under the influence of alcohol and playing fragments of covers instead of their own material.

This is one of the most beloved songs by the Replacements is “Alex Chilton”. This hook-filled number from their 1987 LP, Pleased To Meet Me,  is a tribute to Memphis musician and fabled cult hero, Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star). It’s been performed during virtually every ‘Mats concert since its release. This includes their 2013-2015 reunion, in which it carried a new weight, as Chilton had passed away in 2010. In 2014, the Replacements appeared on The Tonight Show, and “Alex Chilton” is what they played.

Replacements leader Paul Westerberg first met Alex Chilton at a 1984 gig in New York City. Westerberg, not knowing exactly what to say, blurted out, “I’m in love with that one song of yours—what’s that song?” Chilton would produce the demos for the next Replacements album, Tim   (1985), and sang back-up on their ode to college radio, “Left of the Dial”.

The Replacements recorded Pleased To Meet Me in Memphis at Ardent Studios, the same studio as Big Star. The man behind the board was Jim Dickinson, who produced the storied third   Big Star album. Alex came into the studio a few times while the Replacements were working on the record (and laid down a guitar fill for “Can’t Hardly Wait”), but the band avoided the awkwardness of playing “Alex Chilton” whenever AC was around. Chilton eventually heard the track while on tour with the ‘Mats in April of ’87. He conceded that it was “a pretty good song,” and seemed to appreciate the gesture, which was to both honor him and increase his exposure.

Image result for the replacements band

The Replacements were always going to be a risk for any label to sign in the mid eighties. The band’s reputation for sloppy live shows, drunken interviews and overall contempt for anything resembling self promotion was already legendary. Not that any of this ever worried the band, when Sire eventually signed the Mat’s in 1986 they seemed more concerned with keeping up with their local rivals Husker Du (who had just signed to Warners) than proving any doubters wrong.

Paul Westerberg always seemed to understand that for the kind of band he was going to run, danger was a part of deal. Indeed, the Replacements seemed to revel in it. One of their very first songs was a tribute to Westerberg’s great hero and soon-to-be inevitable heroin casualty Johnny Thunders. On “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” Westerberg sings with an offhand casualness: “Johnny always takes more then he needs / knows a couple chords / knows a couple leads / and Johnny’s gonna die.” The sentiment is decidedly not, “Hey, we should probably do something before Thunders finally kicks it!” It’s more like he’s noting the weather outside, an absolutely prosaic dispatch. Westerberg even ends the song with a sort of cheerful refrain of “bye, bye” — it was 10 years before Thunders would finally leave the building, but the Replacements had already skipped ahead to the eulogy.

For all of the tremendous hilarity surrounding the band’s legendary antics, the Replacements’ story is far more tragedy then comedy. The band wasn’t a suicide pact, but they were a sort of four-man Russian Roulette game. Excess bordered on mandatory. A much-repeated (and unconfirmed) story tells of Westerberg confronting the deeply troubled and dependent founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson before a show when Stinson had just finished 30 days in a detox clinic. Westerberg brings him a bottle of champagne and tells him: “Either take a drink, motherfucker, or get off my stage.” It doesn’t matter so much if this is true or not, simply because it is plausible. Being wasted was Bob Stinson’s brief in the Replacements — he really wasn’t good enough a technical player to keep around sober and levelheaded. The fact that he was eventually fired for being overly erratic is an unamusing irony.

All Shook Down [Explicit]

‘All Shook Down’ (1990)

The band’s final LP gets punished for what it’s not – a real Replacements record. Paul Westerberg began ‘All Shook Down’ as a solo effort and only shifted to include his bandmates during sessions. On its own merits, and stripped of ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’’s misguided bombast, the album is pleasant. It is fine. The steady “Merry-Go-Round” has a nice hook and Paul’s sleeve-hearted storytelling is solid – even if, as he looks back, Westerberg takes his band’s legacy more seriously than the boys did in the moment). But middling tempos and hushed shuffles make ‘All Shook Down’ the audio equivalent of beige. Stuck between being a Replacements record and a solo debut, the album doesn’t satisfy in either way. Westerberg’s pen is typically astute and nimble here, noting the soon-to-be-disastrous marriage depicted in “Nobody” and the fractious future of an unsettled newborn in “Sadly Beautiful.” It’s an album reckoning with the consequences of all that has come before. On the final track the band would ever release, “The Last,” Westerberg ruefully acknowledges: “It’s too late to run like hell.”

Juliana Hatfield dedicated an entire chapter of her 2008 book “When I Grow up”: A Memoir to Paul Westerberg, and in interviews, she frequently talks about his and the Replacements’ influence on her. She was asked to open for Westerberg on a solo tour after the Replacements broke up, but the tour ended up being cancelled after he threw out his back. Now, however, they’re finally in a band together, The I Don’t Cares, and they released their debut album, “Wild Stab”,

Wild Stab is a jangly, jaunty, lo-fi sprawl. Its 16 tracks sound slapped together with a healthy coat of Mod Podge, delivered straight from a basement studio. Some songs sound remarkably similar to each other, while others stick out at odd angles. It’s as if fussing over an album would’ve made it seem too much like a “statement”; instead, Wild Stab just feels like a couple of pals rockin’ out and having fun, but not worrying too much about the final product. That’s not to say that these songs are anything less than professional — Hatfield and Westerberg are too good to drop any stinkers. This is largely Westerberg’s show, with Hatfield mostly harmonizing her way through. But the result is just as smooth, an album as fun to listen to as it likely was to make.

Replacements; Disastrous; Saturday Night Live; Debut

The Replacements were one of the most exciting bands to bubble up from the American underground in the Eighties. By the middle of the decade, their chaotic live shows were becoming the stuff of legend, and the band’s resident genius, singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg, was writing raggedly heartfelt songs that suggested something resembling an actual commercial breakthrough.

In 1985, the band released their major label debut, Tim, and hired an established New York management company called High Noon — in the process moving longtime manager Peter Jesperson into a murkily defined role of “band advisor.” But guitarist Bob Stinson’s drug and mental health issues were spiraling out of control, internal tensions were ripping the band apart, and their legendary tendency towards self-immolation was about rear its ugly head at exactly the wrong time — their first national TV appearance ever. When Warner Bros. Records landed them a slot as musical guest on an episode of Saturday Night Live in early 1986, their performance enraged the show’s producers and threatened to submarine the Replacements’ chance at mainstream success.

In mid-December of 1985, the Replacements wrapped up a month-long tour with two triumphant nights at Hollywood’s Roxy. The year-end accolades for Tim were starting to pour in: it would place second in the Village Voice’s “Pazz & Jop” poll, just behind Sire labelmates Talking Heads. But the praise had done little for the album’s commercial prospects: Tim had stalled at a modest 30,000 copies after three months, failing to crack the Billboard top 200. The label needed something to kick-start sales.

In California, Westerberg and Jesperson were summoned to Burbank to meet with Warner Bros. creative director Jeff Ayeroff, who wanted to change the band’s hardline stance against making a video. Silver-haired and hulking, Ayeroff exuded a sort of Zen-hipster arrogance. He’d already overseen video campaigns for the Police’s Synchronicity and Madonna’s Like a Virgin.

“I don’t wanna hear about the fact that you don’t want to make a video,” Ayeroff said. “I want to talk about the video that you will eventually make.”

“Tell you what,” said Westerberg, without missing a beat, “you get us on Hee-Haw and I’ll lip-synch to ‘Waitress in the Sky.'” At this, Jesperson burst out laughing. Ayeroff wasn’t amused. Nevertheless, a serious conversation began about Warner Bros. getting the band on television. “The compromise was that we’d do live TV if they could swing it — thinking that they couldn’t,” said Westerberg. “Me and my big mouth.”

First, Ayeroff sent a letter to Saturday Night Live music booker Michele Galfas touting the group. Then the ‘Mats’ product manager, Steven Baker, and Warner A&R head Lenny Waronker pressed label chairman Mo Ostin to put in a call to the show’s creator/producer, Lorne Michaels. “Mo was the one who got them on Saturday Night Live, because he had such a strong relationship with Lorne,” said Waronker. “There was an understanding how important they could be for the company.”

Replacements; Disastrous; Saturday Night Live; Debut

Based on Warner Bros.’s faith, Galfas put the ‘Mats on a shortlist of acts for the show — without having seen the band play live. “That,” said Galfas, “may have been a mistake.”

The show’s eleventh season team included a mix of first-generation SNL writers and producers, hot young actors (Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr.), veteran performers (Academy Award nominee Randy Quaid), and rising stand-ups (Dennis Miller, Damon Wayans). The opener had featured Sire Records supernova Madonna as host and musical guest. The premiere was a ratings winner, but a critical loser.

In early January, NBC chairman Grant Tinker was asked for his assessment of Saturday Night Live. “It’s a hard job to keep a show like that fresh and alive. … I’d like to give it the benefit of the doubt,” said Tinker ominously, “for a little while.”

As 1986 dawned Bob Stinson’s drinking escalated, and his involvement with the Replacements became even more strained. The band had effectively recorded Tim as a trio. Now Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson and drummer Chris Mars were rehearsing without him on a regular basis.

With Bob in tow, they did return to the stage on January 11 at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro. The one-off gig was a tune-up for an East Coast tour scheduled to commence later in the month. When the group arrived back home from Chicago, they got word that a last-minute slot had opened up on Saturday Night Live. The Pointer Sisters, scheduled for that week’s show, had to cancel. The band was going to make their national television debut, fittingly, as replacements.

Harry Dean Stanton would host the January 18th edition of SNL. One of the more offbeat choices in the program’s history, the fifty-nine-year-old character actor was enjoying a late-career surge thanks to hip directors like Wim Wenders and John Hughes. The episode would also feature controversial stand-up comic Sam Kinison as a special guest, as well as the Replacements — a potential powder keg of a lineup.

The ‘Mats arrived in New York on Wednesday and did a run-through at NBC’s studio 8H Thursday morning. It was clear from the outset that this was not the wild-and-crazy SNL of the seventies. “They’d stocked the dressing room with breakfast stuff — fruits and juices,” recalled Peter Jesperson. “Bob wanted beer. And the people at SNL were really, really appalled by this. I had to go down and find a store in Rockefeller Plaza and get a six-pack.”

“They didn’t like us too much down there,” Bob Stinson would recall. “They pretty much ignored us, thinking we would probably crumble — when, in fact, it was quite the opposite.”

The show’s uncertain status was palpable even to outsiders. “We could feel that the show wasn’t funny and wasn’t popular at the time,” said Jesperson. As it turned out, a number of NBC affiliates had already committed to preempting Saturday Night Live that week in order to air a syndicated cerebral palsy telethon. (The episode was shown on late-night tape delay in numerous markets, including the band’s hometown of Minneapolis.)

Oddly, the ‘Mats toyed with performing “Answering Machine” on the show. Warner Bros. was understandably miffed that the group would use the SNL spot they’d lobbied for to play a number released on the band’s former label, Twin/Tone. Finally, the band settled on “Bastards of Young” and Tim’s putative single, “Kiss Me on the Bus.”

During rehearsal, Westerberg recalled SNL’s soundman working on a crossword puzzle. He’d occasionally glance at the decibel meter, then yell at the band to turn it down. “They told us the scream at the beginning of ‘Bastards of Young’ wouldn’t come across on TV,” said Paul.

The ‘Mats’ lawyers and label benefactors showed up Saturday to wish them luck. The band members’ significant others had flown out for the occasion; even Twin/Tone’s Paul Stark made the trip. Coincidentally, Stark had attended prep school in Minnesota with SNL writer-producers Tom Davis and Al Franken, and he spent time catching up with them on set.

By that evening the band’s reputation as a handful was clear to everyone on the show’s staff. None of the Replacements realized they’d be trapped on the eighteenth-floor set from sound check till showtime. When Warner Bros. publicist Mary Melia arrived to look in on them, Tommy, Paul, and Chris were on a dressing room couch, watching uncomfortably as Bob paced like a caged animal. “He was out of his mind to leave,” said Melia. “Bob was scary.”

To soothe the band’s nerves, soundman Monty Lee Wilkes smuggled some alcohol into the studio in a little road case. As the ‘Mats began to dip in, the show’s host said hello. When “Harry Dean stuck his head in, we asked him to have a snort,” recalled Westerberg. “He slammed the door behind him and proceeded to gulp.” Word began to circulate that the host was getting drunk mere hours before the live show. Panic ensued until a production assistant dragged Stanton out of the band’s dressing room.

Sufficiently lubricated, the ‘Mats’ dress rehearsal set went off smoothly. Bob had wowed everyone by donning a striped lady’s unitard. The only hitch occurred during “Bastards of Young” — Bob was late coming in on the solo. Westerberg would make sure he didn’t miss his cue during the live broadcast.

Episode seven of SNL’s new season was yet another dog: weak commercial spoofs, a one-joke send-up of Miami Vice set in Cleveland, a hackneyed Western gunfighter skit. Stanton was still wearing his frontier finery when he introduced the band just after midnight.

As the group blasted the opening notes of “Bastards of Young,” the cameras practically recoiled at the volume. Following the dress rehearsal, the ‘Mats had secretly turned up their amps; it took a few seconds for the engineers to turn the sound down.

Mars, looking pale and antic in denim overalls, bared his teeth as he played; Tommy bounced around vigorously, ignoring any notion of camera blocking, and was mostly out of frame; Bob hunkered down to wrestle manfully with his guitar, a comic counterpoint to his flowing, feminine outfit.

Westerberg performed in a state of drunken insouciance. Several times during the song he walked away from the mic in the middle of a verse and casually strolled around the stage as if they were jamming in Ma Stinson’s basement and not to a television audience of eight million. “We just pretended we weren’t on camera,” he recalled.

As the solo break approached, Westerberg shouted toward Bob, just off mic: “Come on, fucker.” The epithet, delivered as he turned his head, slipped past the censors. “It wasn’t really something I planned,” he said. “It was more me saying to Bob, ‘Let’s give it to ’em with everything we got.'”

Quickly, however, the show’s producers realized that an obscenity had gone out live on the air. Producer Al Franken, standing in front of the band and gripping a clipboard, began to frown. Westerberg gave him an exaggerated vaudeville wink.

After Mars bashed out the climactic machine-gun coda, “Bastards” careened to a halt. Tommy and Paul bowed comically. Bob followed with a backward somersault, revealing a tear in the seat of his outfit — his bare ass flashed briefly on-screen. The crowd, packed with ‘Mats partisans, cheered wildly. Most people in the studio audience had missed Westerberg’s obscenity. But Lorne Michaels hadn’t.

SNL had a troubled history with the F-word. In 1981 cast member Charles Rocket had said it during a Dallas spoof; the slip led to Rocket’s firing and loads of bad press for the program. “The whole deal with the network, in my mind, is that we operate on a level of trust,” said Michaels. “We have live air.” The producer was already on edge about SNL’s precarious position with NBC. Any kind of controversy, especially now, could be a fatal blow to the show.

Jubilation followed the ‘Mats to the dressing room. Everyone agreed they’d delivered a momentous performance. Newly minted Replacements co-managers Russ Rieger and Gary Hobbib were busy shaking hands and slapping backs when there was a knock at the door. “An assistant told me, ‘Lorne Michaels wants to see you in the hall,'” said Rieger. “I’m thinking he wants to congratulate us.”

Instead, Michaels stormed up and began to berate Rieger loudly: “How dare you do this? Do you know what you just did to this show? Your band will never perform on television again!”

Rieger was genuinely perplexed as to the cause of Michaels‘ anger. “Finally, I figured out that Paul had said ‘fuck’ on the air,” said Rieger. “I immediately started apologizing. Michaels wouldn’t hear of it. Since we were a new band and young, and a favor for Warner Bros., he could unleash. And he did.” Mid-tirade, Michaels caught a glimpse of the dressing room — the band had “redecorated” it. “He saw that and reamed them a new asshole,” said Hobbib. “It was horrible.”

Michaels’s fit cast a pall over the band, but there was still another song to do. After Kinison’s stand-up set and several more sketches — including one called “Barroom Drunk” — the ‘Mats went back out to play “Kiss Me on the Bus.” Perhaps a bit unnerved, the band botched the count-off and had to start the song twice. They quickly recovered, though, and played a gleeful, grooving version.


They were quite a sight too: during the break, Paul, Tommy, and Chris had all changed clothes with one another. “I was in the bathroom getting high,” said Bob. “I had no idea those three had switched clothes, I didn’t even know until I saw the playback.”

During the guitar solo, Michaels and the network censors held their collective breaths as Tommy sauntered toward Westerberg’s microphone. Grinning, he sarcastically whined, “Darn it!” The performance ended with Bob shouting, “Thank you!” and hurling his Les Paul behind his head — the guitar crashed in a heap of feedback. “Rock-and-roll doesn’t always make for great television,” said Westerberg. “But we were trying to do whatever possible to make sure that was a memorable evening.”

The ‘Mats returned to the stage for the end-of-show good-night. Aside from Bob, mugging behind cast member Joan Cusack, the rest of the band joked among themselves on the fringes, departing before the credits finished. Afterwards, band and entourage headed to the post-show wrap party at Café Luxembourg. When Michaels saw Rieger, he summoned him over to his table. “He proceeded to dress me down a second time in front of a bunch of people. I looked at him like, ‘Are you getting great pleasure out of this?’ But there was nothing I could do. All I could think about was him calling Mo Ostin.” Michaels may have been running hot, but the rest of the cast was decidedly cold. “We were ignored by everybody,” said Michael Hill. As Bob Stinson put it: “They put their noses up at us, and we spit up their nose hole.”

Later that night, Bob Stinson returned to the Berkshire Hotel and, in a chemical-fueled rage, proceeded to tear up his room, breaking a door, smashing a window, and shattering a pair of phones. He then got into a violent argument with his fiancée Carleen Krietler, who emerged the following day visibly battered. “She came out all bruised up,” recalled Tommy. “It was troubling how much they fought. It was really dark and fucked-up.”

Westerberg had been shielded from Bob’s previous assault incident and the extent of his mental and emotional troubles. But now everyone — including the label — was becoming aware just how deep his problems ran.

On Monday, when Michaels got the $1,100 bill for the hotel damages, he hit the roof again. He was threatening to ban not just the ‘Mats but any Warner Bros. act from appearing on SNL. In one night, the Replacements had managed to destroy a decade of cozy relations between the show and the label. “After that, we had to start over with half the executives at [Warner Bros.],” said Gary Hobbib.

“I didn’t get it,” said Steven Baker. “I saw the performance and thought the Replacements were great.” Eventually, the hotel damages were paid for, the label issued apologies, and Michaels was soothed. “He was willing to let it go because of Mo,” said Baker.

A couple of weeks later, Baker was invited to dinner with Ostin and Michaels at the Ivy Restaurant in Los Angeles. SNL cast members Jon Lovitz and A. Whitney Brown joined them. When they found out about Baker’s role in the Replacements’ booking, the table began to tear into him. “They were being jerks,” said Baker. “I remember saying to them, ‘If John Belushi was on the show, he probably would’ve been up there playing with the Replacements.’ They had no sense of humor about it.”

A couple months later, NBC’s brass decided to cancel Saturday Night Live; only a last-minute reprieve gave Michaels another year to right the ship. SNL would soon return to ratings glory and cultural prominence.

The Replacements wouldn’t appear on American television for another three years.

Trouble Boys; Replacements; Bob Mehr