Album: Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was?
. . .
Oh god, I miss her voice
And so it was that The Replacements broke up after their July 4, 1991 show in Chicago’s Grant Park. And that probably should have been that. It’s the oldest story in the book: a band makes a few critically-lauded records, but never really catches on with the general public and finally breaks up, eventually to reside in the “Where Are They Now?” file.
But like the Velvet Underground in the 60s and Big Star in the 70s, the Replacements maybe needed to die before they could finally take their proper place in history. Of course, in the early 1990s, those of us who loved them in the 1980s had no idea how revered that they’d be 30 years later. Instead, we rooted for Paul’s solo career — given a boost by being on the Singles soundtrack — while secretly realizing that Friday Night is Killing Me was probably a better record than any of Paul’s 1990s albums and even digging into the solo albums by Chris Mars and Slim Dunlap.
And thanks the the early days of the internet — online walled gardens like Prodigy and AOL — Replacements fans discovered each other. In the 1980s, I was hardly the only Replacements fanatic that I knew in person, but by definition, there weren’t that many of us. Not the ones who made cassette compilations called “Why The Replacements Saved My Life” and put Let it Be at the top of whatever lists we were making of all-time great albums.
But there were others, of course, all across the country. It had to be, because otherwise the entire 1980s ecosystem of college radio, small clubs, fanzines and floor crashing would have never worked. We knew we were out there, we just didn’t know how to find us. Until we got online. That was almost 30 years ago, and I write these words knowing that some of those folks I met then will be reading them. And I kinda believe that those people were the seed, the flame-keepers, who traded the tapes, who told the stories, who created the newsletters and websites that convinced record labels that while the Replacements were gone, they sure as shit weren’t forgotten.
And how could they be, when bands like Nirvana (a little), Green Day (a little more) and the Goo Goo Dolls (a lot) were taking elements from the Replacements stew and becoming massive successes, and in the case of Billie Joe Armstrong and Jonny Reznik, very much acknowledging it.
The first record company acknowledgement of that was the All For Nothing / Nothing For All compilation, an overview of their major label years. While the All For Nothing disc suffered from the conceit that Don’t Tell a Soul and All Shook Down spawned as many great songs as Tim and Pleased to Meet Me, it was the odds-and-sods disc of mostly unreleased songs on the Nothing For All disc that shone.
But that was pretty much it until the mid-2000s. By that time, Paul’s ambitions to be a star had been quenched and — probably not a coincidence — he put out his best run of albums since the mid-1980s. If somehow you’re reading this and you haven’t devoured Stereo/Mono, Come Feel Me Tremble and Folker, close your fucking browser and check them out. Meanwhile, Tommy had joined Guns N’ Roses, and ended up playing bass on the long-simmering Chinese Democracy and occasionally putting out a record as well.
So it was a total shock in 2006 when it was announced that Rhino Records would put out a career-spanning best-of, and it would have two new Replacements songs. By “Replacements,” of course, that meant Paul and Tommy — though Chris Mars sang backing vocals — backed by drummer Josh Freese, who’d been playing off and on with Westerberg for a decade, and played with Tommy in Guns N’ Roses.
There’s a thing that often happens when a band reunites after the main songwriter has had a long solo career: the reunion album takes on more of the qualities of the main songwriter’s solo work than you might want. It happened with Television on their self-titled reunion, the Soft Boys on Nextdoorland and even that Velvet Underground reunion live album felt more like a Lou Reed live album. And so it was with “Pool & Dive” and “Message to the Boys,” the first brand-new Replacements songs recorded in 15 years.
That said, they were fun, melodic rockers, and “Message to The Boys” especially, sported a classic guitar riff and a pretty big hook on the chorus.
She sent a message to the boys
She’s gonna be there, if you need her
I can’t forget her and her voice
And her voice
The cool thing about “Message to the Boys” is that it gets better and better as it progresses, especially on the back half after Westerbergs quick little guitar solo when they repeat the chorus with Paul doubling the melody with his guitar after the chorus modulates, “Message to the Boys” just made us want more. Anything. Little did we know what was on the horizon: reissues, books, films, and even a reunion tour.
“Message to The Boys”
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page