The Replacements. Well that’s probably what you call them. But if you were there, then you know that they’re simply The Mats. You can have Seattle and Athens because for my money there was no more influential time and place for music than Minneapolis in the 1980’s. Prince, The Time, Husker Du, Slave Raider,Soul Asylum…. and the Mats. If Prince was the king of the Minneapolis music scene, then the Mats were surely the court jesters. On any given night when you went to see them play you had no idea what you may be in store for…it could be one of the best shows you’ve ever scene or it could be a complete drunken train wreck that would devolve into the boys telling the audience to fuck off and smashing their shit. Therein lies the beautiful contradiction that was the Replacements. I was fortunate enough in the late 80’s and early 90’s to see some of the debauchery first hand. There was a time when I held a residence in the infamous C.C. Club where I was known to deal in the exchange of pharmaceutical powders. The C.C. Club sits on the corner of 26th and Lyndale in South Minneapolis, 2 blocks from where on I lived on 28th and Lyndale. But the real significance is what sat across the street. Kitty corner from the bar was Oar Folkjokeopus and Twin/Tone Records, which was basically the center of the Minneapolis rock universe. Because of the bars proximity to these sacred rock institutions, business was very good for awhile. On any given night Paul Westerburg from the Mats, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum and/or Peter Buck from REM could be in the joint. It was amazing how on any given night or day who may walk thru the door of the C.C. Club in those crazy decadent days.The after closing parties could be legendary and last well after the light of the South Minneapolis sunrise. Of all those people my favorite probably was the beautiful wreck that was Bob Stinson who unfortunately could never learn how to put the brakes on that lifestyle and ended up dying in that same South Minneapolis neighborhood at the tragically young age of 34. Some of those guys probably still owe me money…but with guys like that, fronting them was always a chance to hang out with these local rock Gods…and where rock Gods were, women were always near by. But that’s all another story for another day.
By the time Don’t Tell A Soul was released the band was barely hanging on. It marked the debut of Slim Dunlap on guitar, as Bob Stinson was no longer with the group. There was no mistaking that this record was the band taking their shot at the big time. Unfortunately (or fortunately maybe) it was a swing and a miss. While it would be the groups highest charting album and produce their only Billboard Hot 100 single ( “I’ll Be You” reached #51) it just wasn’t enough. The end really was the disastrous tour they had as the opening act for Tom Petty. The album itself is one of the groups weakest efforts. But just like the band itself…in the midst of shit grows beauty. “Achin’ To Be” is one of my all time favorite Mats songs. It captures classic Westerburg lyricism at it’s best (thought about not understood… she’s achin’ to be)…pure gold. While I also love ” I’ll Be You” and “Talent Show” the rest of this record it is uneven. It would be the last real Mats record. There would be one more album released, All Shook Down, but it was really a glorified Westerburg solo record that carried the Replacements name.