By Andrea Myers, as written for Reveille Magazine
If the Minneapolis music scene had a survival guide, one of the first chapters would likely cover the 1980s “heyday” in detail, and The Replacements would have a starring role.
The rise of stars like Prince, Husker Du, and especially The Replacements would all be broken down and explained, so that young local music fans like me could have some ground to stand on as we attempt to converse knowledgeably with the older and more seasoned local rock vets.
Because, in this town, if you are a part of the music scene, you are in one of two major camps: the people who lived through the heyday, and continue to insist that it was the greatest time in Minneapolis music history; and the people like me, who are plenty involved in today's vibrant scene, but are constantly living under the shadow of the past, the chip on every burgeoning band's shoulder, the legacy of what came before.
I don't know if the Replacements were the greatest rock and roll band to ever come out of Minneapolis. I am too young, too green, too inexperienced to make that kind of claim. What I do know, however, is that the mark The Replacements made on Minneapolis is serrated and deep, like a battle scar left over from all-night jam sessions, binge drinking benders and full-body, punk rock freakouts. You should have been here, the walls of old venues like the Seventh Street Entry seem to whisper to its younger patrons. You should have seen it.
Thankfully, after years of secondhand stories, rumors, and drunken ramblings, someone has thrown us kids a bone.
Reveille columnist and local music writer/songwriter Jim Walsh has just
put the finishing touches on his first book, "The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting," and gave Reveille a sneak peak at a few photos and clips from his book. The following is a question and answer session about the band and the book.
Reveille: When did you first see The Replacements live?
Walsh: July 2, 1980. Their first gig at the Longhorn, opening for the Dads. I went down with my band after practice. Our drummer, Rick, was 15; our guitarist, Kevin, was 16. They were awesome. Did a fast version of “Johnny’s Gonna Die” and covers by 999 and the Heartbreakers (Johnny Thunders, not Tom Petty). They were amazing. Danced on the floor with my friend Cecelia, with a few other kids.
Reveille: What was it about their live shows and music that set them apart from other local bands?
Walsh: Spontaneity. Spirit. In the book, Lori Barbero and Marc Perlman say it very well. Lori talks about hanging out in the Stinson basement, watching practice, wondering what was going to happen next. The first time Perlman saw them, they did “Hello Dolly” seven or eight times, driving many out of the room. He realized, “they were more than a band. They were a gang.”
Reveille: What kind of relationship did you have with the members of the band?
Walsh: I knew the drummer, Chris Mars, from high school. He and his brother Jim and I were friends. Mars introduced me to Paul for the first time after that Longhorn gig. I instantly recognized him as a kindred spirit — a shy dude who loved Minneapolis, wanted to rock, and
figure out girls.
Reveille: Do you still keep in touch with them? Have they seen the book or parts of the book yet, and what do they think?
Walsh: Paul and I stay in touch over the cosmic transom. We trade phone calls now and then. We’ve been through a lot together—weddings, parties, births, divorces, deaths, everything in between. I love him, always will. He saved my life so many times, through his music and his sense of humor, and just letting me know I wasn’t alone in feeling alone in a crowd, etc. I always look for Chris at Twins games; I was there last night. Slim is a touchstone for me, I can call him up and get a dose of grounding/wisdom/love. I’m in touch with Tommy’s ex-wife and girlfriend more than him, and they are aces. Beautiful, dark-haired Scottish/Irish lasses.
No one has seen the book but me, my wife (speaking of dark-haired beauties), my editor, Dennis Pernu, and the folks at Voyageur Press.
Reveille: I imagine tracking down stories for the book was quite challenging (and fun). Were any of the interviews particularly difficult? How did you decide who to collect stories from?
Walsh: It was a lot of fun through the Let It Be and Tim years, less so after that. Very difficult to relive stuff at the end, I had to take a couple of long walks after that. I got to know Bob (Stinson) a lot better. I’ve thought about/felt him a lot this summer.
It was sort of haphazard. Like the ‘Mats. I wanted to do justice to the band in form as well as content.
Reveille: What is your favorite story? Is there one in particular that really captured the essence of the band and the time?
Walsh: There’s a hundred of ‘em. More to come, I’m sure. Here’s a good one, from the book:
Jay Walsh: We were at a party in Kevin [Martinson]’s basement when our bands were just getting going—REMs, the Neglecters, maybe the Outpatience. Paul was there, too. People got up and played a tune and then passed the guitars around. I remember playing “Gloria” with Paul
and a few others. I was so proud ’cause it was the one song I could play without looking down at my hands. Then Paul did “Johnny B. Goode.”
He had the intro down cold and he knew all the words. He just ripped it. Sorta like that scene in Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox wows ’em at that dance. I got the same reaction when the ’Mats were in a bar, hitting on all cylinders. I looked around to check other faces, like, “Are you getting this? Are you taking this down?” It was like seeing [Minnesota Twins’ Hall of Famer] Rod Carew when he was 10, playing at Lynnhurst [a neighborhood park in south Minneapolis].
He was on another level even then.
Reveille: What is your all-time favorite Replacements song?
Walsh: "All He Wants To Do Is Fish." What are you listening to right now?
Reveille: The new Joe Henry album. I love his voice.
Walsh: Me, too. Joe has a great story in the book about the first time he heard "Let It Be."
Speaking of which, I was talking to a radio guy who goes to the bars to hear a lot of music. He's a big fan. He asked me what I was up to, and I told him I was doing this book and was in "Let It Be" mode. He said, "Was that the name of one of their records?" It astounded me, but also made me want to tell the story.
Reveille: How did the boys in the band react to their success nationally? Did it happen suddenly, or was it a gradual build? How did people back home react to the success?
Walsh: They wanted to rule the world, like any band worth their shit. So I don't think they view whatever success they had as being sufficient. They knew they were a great band, and they never broke through to have hits on the radio or any of that stuff. This was the time when Flock Of Seagulls, etc., was all over MTV and Top 40 radio.
It was a long, slow build. They made four records before people outside Minneapolis really perked up.
The opening of the book centers around Minneapolis, and how this prairie town is proud of its heroes, but wants to keep 'em down on the farm at the same time. Don't get too big for your britches, etc. Some of that went on, but for the most part, I think everyone was rooting for them, and when they went on "Saturday Night Live," it was, for many, like seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.
Reveille: Do you think the remaining members of The Replacements will play live together ever again?