Monday, October 19, 2009
VINYL DESTINATION: THE REPLACEMENTS
My parents had decided that for the third time in 2 and a half years it was once again time to make a major move. In that short period, I had gone from southern Wisconsin to Waco, Texas, back to southern Wisconsin. In June of 87, a parental administrative decision for transfer was requested and accepted. Stakes were pulled up and this time the move was to north central Wisconsin.
The thriving metropolis of Wausau, Wisconsin.
At 15, I was starting at a new High School for the third time. It was wearing on me. Hard.
I had spent the bulk of my time as a young music fan appreciating the hand-me-downs (which I still enjoy) of my older brothers and sisters. I had been given the golden key that opened the doors to vaults that included Queen's "News of the World", Aerosmith's "Rocks", Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who's "Who's Next", April Wine, Scorpions, all the way through to the hair metal hayday of 1987.
My entire tape and record collection was culled from exposition to my elder siblings and their oeuvre of music and listening to classic rock and AOR radio.
Something was missing.
When my family moved to Wausau, I was working a high school job at my sister's restaurant when I began to pal around a little with a chap, John, about 7 years my senior.
One day he handed me a tape.
"Check this out, man," he chortled while scratching his neck, "it's got some spooky guitar".
"Hootenanny", it was. The pre-mentioned guitar belonged to "Within Your Reach".
I was sold from the opening bars. After a dozen listens on my Walkman, of which the accompanying headphones were perennially glued to the side of my head, I asked John if he had any more.
"Oh, buddy..." was all he said, as he looked to his shoes and shook his head at my foolish lack of refinement.
John began to take me under his wing, much like a professorial instructor explaining music to an eager and naive student. Oh, he had more, alright.
Rob, welcome to the world of Husker Du, Flipper, Die Kreuzen, Couch Flambeau, Iggy and the Stooges, and a mindblowing SST compilation platter I proudly still wield today, "The Blasting Concept".
But it was the Replacements that really stuck.
After borrowing "Hootenanny" and "Sorry, Ma", he loaned me "Stink", which had me riding my ten-speed at full bore to the strains of "Stuck in the Middle". "Pleased to Meet Me" came next, and I swallowed that LP whole. I did a little research and saw that there was an LP in and amongst all this, "Let it Be", which I had yet to hear. I had to order it on backlog from Wausau's pot-reeking dark-caverned hall of iniquity, Inner Sleeve. After waiting three weeks for the out of print cassette, it finally arrived.
I eagerly opened the tape, briefly drawn to a pause looking at the ultimate midwest frozen moment cover of the band members sitting on a rooftop. An image that was a carbon copy of the thousand rooftops around it. They were doing nothing, just like me, because there was nothing else to do.
Fighting through the cellophane, and cracking the plastic as I opened the case, the elusive tape went into my pocket deck.
It's true that the album has it's "throwaway" comic moments, like "Gary's Got a Boner" and "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out." Yes, a KISS cover is there, yet "Black Diamond" by the Mats is 30 times better than the original.
But I didn't just hear the other songs on that record that had people talking. I felt them.
"Unsatisfied"...... Damn. A great expression of being completely unhappy with your situation. Being a 16 year old teenager sucks, and "Sixteen Blue" explains how.
Lonely? I dare you to put on "Answering Machine" and not react. "I Will Dare"? Fuck.
This is the record that made me realize there was more out there than the Led Zeppelin impressionists. I was excited about music again (as much as I could be). There was something different than the glam rock knobs being enjoyed by the football factory jocks, and ditty-bop shit their superficial girlfriends that wouldn't look my way seemed to be enamored with.
And for better or worse, something that felt like my life. Isolation. Central Wisconsin.
Fuckin' "Let it Be".
The Replacements, or Placemats, or Mats, as the fans like to call them, primed the musical pump for me. Showed me that there were not only people out there that felt the way I did, but could express it poetically and if necessarily, violently. Two years later I discovered the same of The Buck Pets out of Dallas, who seemed to join the Mats in being my personal soundtrack. To a different degree and with a sense of humor, Too Much Joy did the same. They expressed pain, rejection, and frustration, but with a layer of sarcasm and harmonic joviality that you had to be in a reasonably decent mood to meld with. However, they were alone in their uniqueness. There was never a TMJ before them or after.
I'm digressing, as "Let it Be" laid the groundwork for me to seek out those voices that I could use to speak for me.
For further reading on my further musical introspection check out: