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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

I think the first time I ever heard about the Replacements was well after they had broken up. As a matter of fact, thanks to the Singles soundtrack, I heard about Paul Westerberg a few years before I heard about or even heard any music from the Replacements. Yes, I'm one of those Nineties kids that heard "Dyslexic Heart" before "Bastards of Young," but I've been playing catch-up for the last ten years.

Part of catching up was reading (and re-reading) the band's chapter in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Helping fill in more of the story was Jim Walsh's recently-released oral history, All Over But the Shouting.

Overall, I think Walsh did a fine job in creating a compelling look back at the band. The entire tenure of the band is covered, from the shambolic beginning to the slow, running-out-of-gas end. (As a sign of the book's effectiveness, I've been digging out my copies of the first five albums, as well as the All for Nothing compilation, since I finished reading it.)

My main caveat is how the book is devoted more to friends and fan recollections, so I didn't get to really know what it was like to be in the band. None of the surviving original members agreed to do an interview for various reasons, but there are quotes sprinkled in from old interviews, mostly from Westerberg. Plus, there's a loose sense of time as one big event seems to quickly follow the other. Praise for Let It Be is followed by some quotes about them signing to Sire and then putting out Tim. I don't know if it all flowed exactly like that back in the day, but then again, this was a band who put out four albums and one mini-album in five years.

Plenty is revealed here. In particular, it was really interesting to get insight from Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley about their replacement roles in the band. That helped tremendously filling in the band's story following the Let It Be/Tim years. But probably the best filling-in-the-gaps section was the chapter devoted to Bob Stinson's final years. As someone who received small obituaries in major magazines back in the day, Walsh uses plenty of ink in tribute, including the eulogy he gave at Stinson's funeral.

All Over But the Shouting satisfied me, giving me a better understanding of why the band struck a chord back in the day and still strikes a chord. I wasn't so sure I'd ever understand what was so compelling about the band when they were around. Having the chance to read about the context helped monumentally.

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