. . .
Am I the the only who feels ashamed?
Given the breadth of the songs on side one of Tim, one might have been excused in thinking that, after four straight rock songs the sad acoustic guitar that started the final song would eventually give way to crashing electric guitars. At least that’s what I wrote in my journal the first time I heard “Here Comes a Regular.”
But, of course, that never happened, as for the second straight album, the Replacements closed with what was basically a mold-breaking Paul Westerberg showcase, a heart-breakingly sad song that I instantly thought of as the real theme for Cheers, cos it seemed to capture the other side of growing old in a bar.
Well, a person can work up a mean, mean thirst
After a hard day of nothin’ much at all
The summer’s passed, it’s too late to cut the grass
There ain’t much to rake anyway in the fall
And sometimes I just ain’t in the mood
To take my place in back with the loudmouths
You’re like a picture on the fridge that’s never stocked with food
I used to live at home, now I stay at their house
That last line just kills me. It’s the difference between being a kid living with your parents and an adult who can’t make it on their own. Which happened to me three times between the time this song came out and the
Amazingly, “Here Comes a Regular” is a first take. It’s just basically Paul and the acoustic guitar here, all alone — no drums, no bass, not even backing vocals. Just someone alone in a crowd, trying to rationalize why he’s hanging out in the bar in the first place.
And everybody wants to be special here
They call your name out, loud and clear
Here comes a regular
Call out your name
Here comes a regular
Am I the only one here today?
I guess I was a regular at two different places: Livingstones, and the Wild Blue. OK, also Tokyo Garden and The Olympic Tavern/Club Fred, also, I guess, but to a lesser extent. This was in the late 80s and early 1990s, and for those of you who weren’t familiar with and the former was a bar and the latter was a club. But since I played in a band with Don, the door guy at the Blue, it meant that I often just wanted in to have a drink and watch whomever happened to be playing that night. And maybe get him change from the bar, and for a while, hang out and drink for a couple of hours after closing time.
Well, a drinkin’ buddy that’s bound to another town
And once the police made you go away
And even if you’re in the arms of someone’s baby, now
I’ll take a great big whiskey to you anyway
And by that time, of course, I’d already absorbed “Here Comes A Regular” in my soul, and while there was never any kind of chorus of “JIM” when I walked in to either the Blue or ‘Stones, I well and truly felt like they were my places, even as many of the friends I made there were people whose names I couldn’t even remember the next morning, much less nearly 30 years later. (Which occasionally freaks me out when somebody from that era friends me on Facebook, because if they have some story of some drunken thing that happened that I just can’t remember.)
And everybody wants to be someone’s here
Someone’s gonna show up, never fear
‘Cause here comes a regular
Call out your name
Yes, now here comes a regular
Am I the only one who feels ashamed?
God. Now he’s gotten right to the heart of it. Is this his life? Forever?
It’s at this point where “Here Comes A Regular” throws a bit a surprise. Out of nowhere a piano comes in, echoing and twinkling, and just as swiftly disappears. As your intrepid correspondent, I tried to find out who actually played it, but that information seems lost to the haze of time, so I can only assume that it was Paul. In any event, it provides just enough breathing space to make the final verse hit even harder than it would have, as he now at least seeing the bottom. Down on the floor with somebody who’s been there for awhile.
Kneeling alongside old Sad Eyes
He says, “Opportunity knocks once, then the door slams shut.”
All I know is I’m sick of everything that my money can buy
The fool who wastes his life, God rest his guts
First the lights, then the collar goes up and the wind begins to blow
Turn your back on a pay-you-back last call
First the glass, then the leaves that last, then comes the snow
Ain’t much to rake anyway in the fall
And as the strings that have lurked underneath most of the song come up — strings? on a Replacements record? Fine, I’ll allow it — you can almost see Paul trudging home, feeling slightly better because he didn’t take that final pay-you-back drink, wind whipping up just a bit, maybe even some snowflakes gently falling around him. Maybe he’ll be back tomorrow, but for the first time, maybe not.
In any event, closing Tim with “Here Comes a Regular” was an absolute masterstroke, it’s gorgeous melancholy the perfect comedown from all of the full-out rock songs that immediately preceded it, and so compelling on both a lyrical and melodic level, it didn’t even matter that it didn’t rock. A rocked-out “Here Comes a Regular” would have been a cheat and a lie. (Though I’m sure somebody somewhere has done it).
It also meant that Tim ended with three of the greatest songs the Replacements would ever record, one of the reasons that only lonely Sunday mornings in late 1985, I couldn’t get my day started without having listened to Tim, Fables of The Reconstruction and The Unforgettable Fire. And more importantly, Tim cemented the Replacements once and for all in the pantheon of great 1980s underground bands, capable of just about anything, and I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to do next.
“Here Comes a Regular”
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