Home > Uncategorized > ….I think he might have been our only decent teacher…

….I think he might have been our only decent teacher…

So yea. It’s one of them dark times. Sleep should have come but didn’t. Beer is running out. Work in a few hours. What now?

The Replacements on my Ipod. “Let it Be” and “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me”. On a loop for the last few hours. “Gary’s Got a Boner” standing side by side with “Skyway”. Enough to drive a good man to drink. Or a not so good man for that matter. This is the 80s we are talking about. Drinks were routine, with or without being pumped up by “Gary’s Got a Boner”. I need a benzo and some ambien. That generally does me good.

paulwest55544I was in college. I had a walkman. One of the first. I came in as a freshman blasting REM’s Murmur cassette, pretending I knew the words to “Radio Fee Europe” and “Sitting Still”. A guy from Old Forge pulled me aside and said 2 things. The first was that he could hear every note and word going into my ears, from about 20 yards away. He wondered if I was deaf. I told him I wasn’t sure but selective hearing was my strong suit. He then said “I know REM, I love them” and I felt crushed because I felt like they were my discovery and nobody else knew them. But Vince pretended he could decipher Stipe’s lyrics too….so we decided to join forces. We’d sit down…rewind over and over again….get something like “up to bar and Katie bars the door” or some shit like that and then felt like jackasses caring what this this weird guy with eyeliner was mumbling to the rest of us unwashed. Hasn’t he ever heard of a lyric sheet? But really….who cared? It sounded damn good unintelligible or not. Me and Vince soon had lots of company. REM broke big and nobody gave us any credit for being the top boys. We sulked a little and skipped a lot of classes to recover. Vince was an Italian from Old Forge. A prince of a guy. I wish I knew where he was today. The man had his priorities straight and probably ended up as demented as me. The poor bugger.

thereplacementstommyairREM broke big. The Replacements never sobered up enough. REM loved the Replacements, and the Replacements loved REM. Both bands had the same goal. Do this music thing in a different way. Kids are in college? Ok, that’s where we’ll go, even though the REplacements consisted of 4 high school drop-outs. Delicious irony. Years later Craig Finn suggested we “Raise a glass to Joe Strummer…..he might heave been our only decent teacher”….and that sorta made sense, since you’d find Westerberg and Stipe and their respective bands listening to the Clash on the bus, while not having the remedial math skills necessary to keep from getting blatantly fucked over in contract talks by their record companies. And while all this was going on Bon Jovi was selling a gazillion copies of “Slippery When Wet”….a record with naked chicks on the cover who looked just like the naked guys in the band. Westerberg and his boyos had one more chance, on SAturday Night Live, but they proceeded to get so drunk on live television that NBC banned then the same way the Holiday Inn banned to Who when Keith Moon was alive. It seemed harmless enough but guys who wore suits for a living were pissed. Who were these Minneapolis neanderthals? Well….just kids really. Kids who didn’t trust you or anybody else. And kids who when told to go right, went left just because the last time they did what they were told you stole money out of their pockets. Kids who liked free booze but disliked just about anything else unless it came in the form of an unmarked envelope with no return address.

Just honest rebellion. You want to treat REM and the Replacements as circus performers? Two of the greatest American rock and roll bands on the planet? Good luck. I hope you don’t get hit in the face with piece of food while the camera is running. Westerberg and company sounded fine to me. They were banned forever afterwards according to rock and roll lore….even though the seemed relatively tame during their two songs. Not stone sober mind you, but upright and speaking english…and clearly making their own noises….not like Ashlee Simpson lip syncing and hurrying on to McDonalds to beat up on the minimum wagers. The Mats certainly sounded way better than…say…..Steely Dan or Paul Simon warbling through ‘Slip Sliding Away’. Not sure what all the fuss was about…..maybe the fact that the Mats were wearing each other’s clothing at the time and looked to be explaining to the rest of us, in 3 minutes or so, why selling your soul may not in fact be a good idea. It was like a masters class in “go fuck yourself 101”, and only Elvis Costello could match in in SNL lore when he broke free from his set list and played just what they didn’t want him to play. If only Johnny Rotten had showed up with his “I hate” Pink Floyd t-shirt right then we may have moved cultural mountains.

But no. It’s over. Bob Stinson went to war with his liver and lost. As in dead. Rock star dead. His brother Tommy went to war with Axl Rose as part of his touring band and was finally able to make some real money. Westerberg stayed in his basement and recorded a series of quirky solo albums, minor masterpieces some, that nobody ever paid any attention to. Every few years he shows up and threatens a Replacements reunion, but it just sorta fades away. This year the band got together for a special show at Coachella, and about 200 people showed up….roughly the same amount of folks that come to see me when my first band played a bar gig. Westerberg seemed pissed off. I felt nothing. The young 20 something half dressed in designer denim seemed more interested in being seen than in seeing, and when the bank broke into “Alex Chilton” there couldn’t have been 5 people there who knew what the fuck Westerberg was singing about.

I’m in love. With that song. And I always will be. And I don’t have the balls to ask Westerberg or Stinson for anything. Surely I owe them a helluva lot more than they owe me. That old walkman copy of “Let and Be” and “Tim” and “Pleased to Meet Me” made college bearable. As did feeling that I was in on a big secret. Just wait. The explosion is coming. Just like REM. Remember when I predicted that one? Shit yea…..I remember.

But no. But I’m glad. I don’t have them to myself again, not by a long shot. That’s selfish.

The Replacements could be the American Clash. But that’s not my call. That’s yours. In the cars and bars and bedrooms of your formative years. Who was your finest teacher?

Do you think Cobain and Vedder came from another planet? No….they had their ears towards Minneapolis. To Westerberg and Husker Du, who invented whatever the fuck “grunge” became, but lacked the blue eyes or the flowing locks to bring it to the mainstream.

Make no mistake. Westerberg is a giant….the way Cobain and Vedder are giants. Westerberg and his band were passed over the rock and roll hall of fame induction this year. Kiss got in. So did Cat Stevens. Cat Fucking Stevens. Peace Train my ass. How about taking on some of your mullah and telling them they’re bat shit? No? Then take your peace train and ram it up your ass. If Woody Gutrie was alive he’s take his guitar that kills fascists and put a knot in your head with it.

Alex Chilton ain’t in the hall of fame either. Neither in John Prine. Or Los Lobos. Who does the voting here?

One foot in the grave / the other one in the gutter…

In a bit…

–tf

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