Rebels without a clue: By the early ’90s, the Replacements were still considered “one of the hottest underground bands in the world”

By on October 4, 2019

“Ten years ago, the Replacements played their first ragtag gig in a church basement in Minneapolis,” says Night Flight’s Pat Prescott in her introduction to “The Replacements: VIdeo Profile,” which we found in this syndication-era episode from 1993, now find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

“Much to everyone’s surprise, including their own, the ‘Mats became one of the hottest underground bands in the world,” Ms. Prescott continues, telling us this “pack of wild cards” were “hitting the Nineties with All Shook Down.

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All Shook Down (1990) turned out to be the band’s last studio album.

After a long farewell tour, the ‘Mats — a nickname, given the band by their loyal fans, which originated as a truncation of “The Placemats,” a mispronunciation of their name — played their last show on July 4, 1991.

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Night Flight’s profile for the Replacements — Paul Westerberg (lead vocals, guitars), Tommy Stinson (bass), Slim Dunlap (guitars, 1987–1991, replacing Bob Stinson), and drummer Steve Foley (who’d replaced Chris Mars, 1979–1990) — is focused exclusively on their Reprise-era music videos.

It doesn’t include any clips from the band’s time with Minneapolis-based Twin/Tone Records (1981-1984).

Featured here along with interstitial interview segments with Westerberg are portions of “The Ledge” (from 1987’s Pleased to Meet Me), “I’ll Be You” and “Achin’ To Be” (from 1989’s Don’t Tell a Soul), and “Merry-Go-Round” and “When It Began” from All Shook Down.

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“We write about what we want to write about and we act the way we are,” Westerberg says during one of the segments.

“We don’t pretend, and it’s like people won’t accept that because they’re used to a packaged kind of thing where you have to put on to be accepted.”

“I don’t care if they play the damn thing,” Westerberg continues, talking about their video for “The Ledge,” which came under some scrutiny during the late ’80s because the lyrics were about suicide.

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“The only thing that bothers me is there’s this misconception behind the lyrics, and it’s not promoting suicide in any way, it’s… you know, I was fucked up when I was younger, and I tried to kill myself, and look at me now, I’m fine, you know. I came out of it.”

“If anything, this is like help for someone who is younger who doesn’t know what they’re doing, and is maybe contemplating something like that, and doesn’t know how to handle it. It’s like, you know, ‘You can do it,’ you know? ‘You’ll change… stick with it, hang in there.’ I mean, you know, I did.”

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Read more about the Replacements below.

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More than ten years after they’d formed in Minneapolis in 1979, the beloved ‘Mats were still struggling to survive as a band.

They were always critics darlings, and had a loyal, devoted fanbase (which included the author of this blog), but they just weren’t selling enough records to recoup their expenses.

All the money the band made from touring went to covering their recording costs, hotel rooms, travel, food and instrument repairs. Founding guitarist Bob Stinson, in fact, even worked a day job as a pizza chef.

Then, in August of ’86, Stinson was either fired or finally chose to leave — depending on who you asked — and he wound up dying, much too early, in 1995.

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Sire/Reprise — who’d signed the ‘Mats in ’85 — stuck with the band for several albums, but by their sixth studio album — 1989’s Don’t Tell A Soul, their best-selling record — it was clear the bloom had come off the rose.

You could hear their frustration in lyrics like these from “I’ll Be You,” the album’s lead-off single:

“A dream too tired to come true,
Left a rebel without a clue,
And I’m searching for somethin’ to do…”

“I’ll Be You,” in fact, became the ‘Mats’ first and only Billboard Hot 100 single, peaking at #51.

It also reached the top of the Modern Rock Tracks and Album Rock Tracks charts.

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Last Friday, September 27, 2019, Rhino Entertainment released a brand new four-CD reissue of Don’t Tell A Soul.

Assembled by the band’s biographer Bob Mehr, Dead Man’s Pop resurrects co-producer Matt Wallace’s original mix and sequence, which Night Flight contributor Chris Morris recently noted on Facebook, “left the mess in the sound.”

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“It’s grand,” Chris Morris wrote. “Finally, it sounds like a Replacements album.”

“You also get a disc’s worth of alternates and outtakes, including slovenly first stabs at many of the songs cut at Bearsville studios with cashiered producer Tony Berg and some entertaining lowlights from a drunken impromptu session in Hollywood with Tom Waits, which is not as good as it sounds.”

“There are also two CDs containing a complete 1989 concert at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, which was excerpted for a promotional disc back in the day; though not as consistently awe-inspiring as the other officially released live album, the 1986 Maxwell’s show heard on For Sale, it will still knock a few fillings loose. Mehr and Wallace supply in-depth notes.”

“This die-hard ‘Mats fan says, ‘Zowie!'”

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Don’t Tell A Soul wasn’t the ‘Mats’ last album… that distinction goes to 1990’s All Shook Down, which was actually nominated for a “Best Alternative Music Album” Grammy.

All Shook Down — recorded by Paul Westerberg with session musicians — was originally intended to be his solo artist debut, but his management team talked him into releasing it as a new Replacements album.

Watch “The Replacements: VIdeo Profile” on Night Flight Plus, and purchase Dead Man’s Pop on Amazon or wherever you buy your new/old music.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.