Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An Interview With Jim Walsh About His Book, The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History

The Replacements are one of my favorite bands of all time. They were great live though, as this book quotes fans noting, if you saw them twice (as I was lucky enough to do) you may see two very different shows. They were famous for playing while drunk and one of their live albums is pretty much them drunk doing crazy covers of other songs. But they were also brilliant musicians.
And the lead singer, Paul Westerberg, is one of the best lyricists ever. He could capture feelings so concisely and perfectly.
I'm always a sucker for one of their first big singles, "I Will Dare," with Peter Buck of REM on guitar. The song has been included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
How young are you?
How old am I?
Let's count the rings around my eyes
How smart are you?
How dumb am I?
Don't count any of my advice
Oh, meet me anyplace or anywhere or anytime
Now I don't care, meet me tonight
If you will dare, I might dare
You can watch a video of them performing the song here.
Another favorite of mine is "Color Me Impressed," which you can watch here. From that song, "Everybody at your party
They all look depressed
Everybody dressin' funny
Color me impressed
Stayin' out late tonight
Won't be gettin' any sleep
Givin' out their word
Cuz that's all that they won't keep
But their mellow songs like" Within Your Reach" were also so great. Just as Nine Inch Nails and Violent Femmes were perfect songs to play when driving when full of angst, frustration and Anger so were songs like "Within Your Reach, " "Unsatisfied" perfect to clam down and feel understood and, yes, more satisfied that someone out there what you are feeling.
Since I'm a fan -with a dysfunctional relationship to music - I jumped at the chance to interview this author. Just as with my interview with Stewart Copeland was as close as I expect to ever get to interviewing Sting this is as close as I'll ever get to interviewing Paul Westerberg but that's ok.
This book is fascinating - it chronicles the bands rise and fall through conversations with fans, musicians who knew and liked them, those who worked with them, etc. And I love some of the anecdotes like how the band members, especially Westerberg, would break copies of their own records while at local record stores.
And now... the interview
Scott: Why did you decide to write this book?
I think they're a great band, and I thought more people should know about them. I thought it should exist, as a document of a musical era that seems light years ago now.
Was the plan always to write it as an oral history? Was that difficult at all? I personally like the style.
An editor at Simon and Shuster suggested it be oral history; I ultimately thought it was a good idea. At first I didn't want to do it at all, because Paul and the other guys didn't want to be involved. I told Paul I wasn't going to write it without some input from him, but he said "unauthorized sells better than authorized," and we agreed it could be a good book with old interviews from him. His instinct was right: like most great artists, he's not good at chewing his cud twice, and the old quotes are very of the moment.
Are you still in touch with all of the band members or just Paul? What did Paul think of the book project and the resulting book?
I'm not really in touch with any of them. I play music with Slim sometimes at a thing I do here in Minneapolis called The Mad Ripple Hootenanny.
You'd have to ask Paul. Another book is being written on the 'Mats at the moment, and he's given the author his cooperation, so I'm betting the band will approve of that version more.
It'll be cool to read what those guys remember about that time. I haven't talked to the author, but there's some good stories out there that should be documented. Jeff Waryan, for example, a great guitarist from Minneapolis, also auditioned for the 'Mats when Bob Stinson left. He wrote me a note about it after the book came out, and it's a good yarn.
Has it been hard for Paul - and fans like you - to hear bands that sound like wanna-be mats having more commercial success than the Mats?
Not really. I think the 'Mats achieved something more important than commercial succes: they're timeless, and you can't say that about all music.
A two parter: 1) Why do you think this band took off? You talk in the intro about how it was sort of championed by many musicians? 2) What led to its eventually ending?
The struck the same nerve all great raw music does. Like Hank Williams or Ray Charles or the Clash or whoever. Personally, they were part of a very influential time of my life, and I wanted the book to read in a way the band played: sloppy with mistakes but also musical, poetic, mythic, factual.
If you had to name your three favorite Mats songs what would they be? Your favorite album?
Off the top of my head: Alex Chilton, Can't Hardly Wait, Achin' To Be, and "Let It Be." We had a big party at First Avenue/7th St. Entry here in Minneapolis when the paperback came out, and a ton of bands and songwriters paid tribute to the 25th birthday of "Let It Be." It was a truly magical night. Those songs are just everlastingly great.
What other writing have you done before this?
I've done everything from journalism to songwriting to poetry. I write mostly columns now, and the occasional hard news and arts criticism and features. I'm working on a memoir at the moment, hoping to get the bulk of that written this year. And I just released a new CD, "Her Tattoos Could Sail Ships," which I'm very proud of. Working on another one that's almost done, too. Very busy at the moment, all good stuff.
Lastly what is the legacy of the Replacements?
They were a band that constantly reminded you that you're not alone in your misfithood, or loneliness, or weird joy. I also think their legacy has to be as one of the great song-oriented rock bands.

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