1984 and I was a student in Leamington spa dutifully buying the NME back in a time when it was good. One week there was a review for a new album by a band called The Replacements. I hadn’t heard of them but my eye was caught by the fact that that Pete Buck from REM played the guitar solo on the first song.
Over the course of the previous year I had become REM’s biggest fan as a result of which I was obliged to spend the money I did not have on every bit of music they touched or had any connection with. I should say there was a fair bit of there music but I will come on to that in a minute.
So I went down to one of the two records in Leamington Spa between which I split my ever expanding overdraft and rather to my surprise they had the album so of course I bought it.
The album was called Let It Be and depending on how you count them it was the second or third album they had released but the first readily available in the UK. The first song, I Will Dare, did all of the things you would hope that an opening song with a Pete Buck solo might do but the rest of the record was something else; ragged punk, Kiss covers, strange songs involving answering machines, boners, androgeny and a bruised and battered glory in the romance and possible redemption to be had in loud music made with guitars played too loud. They drank quite a lot as well. I was hooked.
Over the few years around 1984 The Replacements joined a small group of bands that depending on what night of the week it might be are the best there have been – REM, The Go- Betweens and Husker Du.
The Replacements never made a single stand out perfect album but over the next few records there were songs that have stuck with me over the course of the last 32 years. Like any music they slip in and out of favour and sometimes I might find I haven’t listened to them for years but then they will slip through on a shuffle play somewhere or I will read something and I will dig out the albums and on they go again.
For Christmas I was given a book about them, Trouble Boys by Bob Mehr. I played the records as I read the book (although not as loudly as I would have liked) and so The Replacements have been back in my life for the last month or so.
By the time I got to the end of the book I was almost in tears over the story of this “great little band” who had an insatiable appetite for self-destruction and unerring ability to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory but somehow never managed to compromise on who and what they were.
I regret not seeing them live but then they were a bit hit or miss and I might have got them on a missing night.
Best song – probably Alex Chilton. Any song that is going to name check Big Star (that other great band that never quite made it) can not be anything else but good.
I never travel far, without a little Big Star.
I should perhaps note that my appreciation of Big Star started at or around the same time, helped along by the cover of Kangaroo by This Mortal Coil and then seeing The Bangles play September Gurls and have Susannah Hoff threaten to go back with anyone in the audience that had any Big Star records – I did but she didn’t hear me.