Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Replacements, Bill Callahan, Lou Santacroce and Me

Paul Westerberg (Photo - Marty Perez)

I wrote this piece in 1987 little then knowing that the Bill Callahan, moderately insulted in the article and the guy who'd produced Willpower, the Replacements fanzine we were “borrowing” from, would turn out to be he of Smog fame and latterly, under his given name, the artist responsible for the very wonderful “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle” album released in 2007. But reputations and genius mean nothing to me, so I've reproduced it as it was then written. Once again, it wasn't published at the time due to the non-appearance of etc. etc.....

Do I need to say tongues were firmly in cheeks throughout?

Literary Piracy
(or; The Art Of Stealing Articles You Enjoyed From Magazines Of Limited Circulation And Passing Them Off As Your Own Work).

Yup, the inclusion of this article will probably come as something of a surprise to Bill Callahan (come on, tho' Bill, at least I sent you a free copy!). Bill Callahan, who he you say? (Who he he say....). Well this guy threw together (threw being the operative word – does the kid even know the meaning of the word layout?) a fanzine called Willpower, full of “childish comics, stupid reviews, bad photos PLUS lotsa “I know the band and you don't” articles.” (Talking of which, did I ever tell you about the time I was dragged to the 'phone at 6.00 AM one time to talk to a moderately pissed Paul Westerberg (Hey Paul, International Time Zones, man!) who'd been out raving it up in Minneapolis (we assume this must be possible...) and had gone back to boost the Twin Tone office phone bill by ringing some little English oik who'd sent him copies of a rag called What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen (yeah, me too, I didn't know the meaning of the word layout)....impressed huh? Well no need to be – all he wanted was someone's else's contact details!)
So we sifted through this tin pot fanzine (How To Make Friends And Influence People Chapter One) and picked the bones for the best bits which we present herewith.

If we make any money on this project Bill, we might just be sending a little something your way Bill, to keep your spirits up. As to how many issues Willpower ran to and whether it continues to plague the band now they're mega-stars, I know not, but we suggest a letter without a couple of IRCs would probably be ignored if you sent it to; Bill Callahan, Willpower, **** Camelback Lane, Columbia, Maryland 21045, USA.

So let's roll with Placemats – The Real Story....

A History Of The Replacements
(A Work Of Friction)

The story of The Replacements reads like one of those fantasy's you'd expect to hear from the likes of William Burroughs, and for this reason (and the fact that the Statute of Limitations has yet to expire) we hesitate to make it public. However, as Twin Tone Records has threatened irreparable harm to several hostages if this record is issued without liner notes, we have no choice but to make the whole lurid history of the band a matter of public record. Here goes:

Although Tom and Bob Stinson are brothers, and have shared the same bedroom for much of their lives, they first met at a chemical dependency clinic in West Bumfuck, Ohio, where, as part of the rehabilitation programme, they were encouraged to take up a musical instrument. Bob chose guitar and immediately showed a natural aptitude for the instrument, mastering the basic fundamentals of string breaking and volume cranking in under an hour. Tommy took a little longer, bass strings being thicker and consequently more difficult to break.

The Stinson Brothers (Photo - Marty Perez)

After reaching a minimal degree of competence, they moved to the Twin Cities where they formed a highly unpopular country-blues duo called “Dog Do-Do”, and were immediately booked by a local club owner. It was the owner's contention that the sound of Dog Do-Do attempting to play “Dust My Broom” would cause his club to empty faster between shows. The great blues singer Muddy Wolf once headlined the club and was heard to remark “Somebody get dem boys a shot o' morphine, 'cos dey in PAIN!”

Meanwhile, Paul Westerberg was enjoying a reputation as the twin Cities' best second story man, specialising in stereo equipment and musical instruments. His career came to an abrupt halt one evening when he broke in to the apartment of a local guitar hero and martial arts expert who happened to be home at the time.

Paul Westerberg (Photo - Marty Perez)

As soon as Paul was out of traction, he had the good fortune to be befriended by the very guitarist he had tried to rob (name withheld at the insistence of his lawyer) who knew talent when he saw it, and tried to teach him to PLAY the guitars he had been stealing. Paul proved to be an adept student, and soon began writing and playing hos own songs, as well as looking for a band to perform with. There was, according to his benefactor, one glaring problem.

“His diction. It was flawless. I mean you could actually understand what he was singing about.”

This problem was solved during a late night altercation with a group of bikers. When his gums finally healed, Paul found that he could sing in a manner incomprehensible enough to rival Jagger or Dylan. The Stinson brothers met Paul through a mutual friend (“Hey, I know this guy sings as bad as you play!”) and began to rehearse almost immediately. They were hampered however by their lack of a drummer. Chris Mars was standing on the corner of 7th and Hennepin, chucking rocks at passing police cars, when Paul happened by.

“Kid's got rhythm” said Paul, and The Replacements were born.

Chris Mars (Photo - Marty Perez)

After hours of playing together, the boys finally got their first paying job, opening a festival sponsored by the local arts centre, entitled “No Art, Just Noise”. Here they were seen by local record company tycoon, Peter Jesperson (the Twin Cities' answer to Kim Fowley) who signed them (at gunpoint) to a lifetime contract with Twin Tone at the standard royalty rate (ten dollars, a bottle of Johnny Walker Red, and a hooker).

The studio sessions, although engineered by local legend Steve Fjelstad, were a disaster. Used to playing in close quarters at optimum volume, the Replacements felt stagnated both by the physical separation necessary for good studio sound and by the fact that for the first time, they could actually hear what they were playing.

“This sucks!” observed Paul, “Let's do it live!”.

Problem solved. The record you hold in your hands was recorded live before a packed house at Nijnski's Pizza Place (Occupancy by more than 15 people is dangerous and unlawful) on a $12 cassette recorder, with the microphone placed directly inside the bass drum, All present agreed that the Replacements will never be forgotten. However they have all promised to try.

The Replacements & The Young Fresh Fellows (Photo - Marty Perez)

These are the liner notes originally planned for the first album “Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash” which were written by their original roadie Lou Santacroce.

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