4.5.16

Trouble Boys - The True Story of The Replacements: Bob Mehr


Of The Replacements Paul Westerberg concludes at the end of "Trouble Boys" - "We were a great little band." He nails it. "Great" - you couldn't dispute that, with all its overtones of glory and enthusiasm; "little" - certainly. "Big" bands? We all know who they are - and as much as one can care for a "big" rock'n'roll group you can't really love them. Is it even possible to love anything that everyone else does? Culture on that scale becomes monolithic and inhuman.

My brother discovered The Replacements in 1987. He had "Pleased To Meet Me". It has quite a corporate feel to it - its vibes are a confused by some garish overdubbing - but the songs are almost uniformly good. I ended up bartering it off him. Soon after I found a copy of "Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out The Trash" - that was the only one I could find in my local record store. At the time I loved it, but was gnawed by the thought that what I really wanted to hear and own were "Tim" and "Let It Be". As much as I love those two now - "Sorry Ma" is my favourite of all their records. I paid no attention whatsoever to "Don't Tell A Soul" or "All Shook Down" (the latter, I've discovered, is not bad). The closest I got was seeing them at the Marquee in April 1991. That was a great gig in which I remember a lot of moshing, sweat and checked shirts.

Bob Mehr's book is journalistic tour-de-force. You literally could not fault the depth of his research, his feel for relevant information and his sense of balance. Other granular biographies I've attempted, like Johnny Rogan's "The Severed Alliance" have just been, well, boring. The Replacements story itself is an almost uniformly interesting one. The early years and the band's difficult upbringing are luminous, but so is the often baffling idiocy of the later tours with their questionable antics (burning per diems and trashing people's buses). The book nearly proves that the story of a band's life, a faithfully depicted microcosm of the music industry, can stand on its own as a piece of literature. However, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being a bit jaded by the end of it.