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I'm in Love, What's that Song? : My love affair with the Replacements

I'm in Love, What's that Song? : My love affair with the Replacements

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I’m in love with that song

This is an essay about my love affair with the Replacements. As a 33 year old woman, you may wonder why I love them so much. The answer, their music is timeless and my some favorite people loved them. They are my comfort music. They are the songs I go back to. The songs just capture joy and heartbreak. They are so introspective and so honest. They are just absolutely beautiful pieces of work. Since I discovered them on mixes and through other people I had no idea that they had histories of extreme alcoholism and reckless assholery. To me they looked right in my soul and apparently a lot of other women felt that way too. They were considered the dreamiest of the college radio bands. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson can rock mullets and still be cute in 2018. Don’t @ me. I don’t care if they sold out, when I hear “Talent Show”  it’s like I’m doing yoga I’m so blissful. I’m relaxed and serene.They were also the most earnest band I had ever heard in my life. Their lyrics were heartbreaking. My cousin Ceal thinks the song “Here Comes a Regular” is the saddest song ever written. I know they kind of are the embodiment of upper Midwest white dude swagger. They seem to combine flannel, self deprecating humor, some self destructive tendencies, and openness. But really this is really about what their music means to me and how I use it to connect with people in my life.

cassette tape, transistor radio

Mixtapes

I grew up at the end of the mixtape era. I know how to fix a cassette with a pencil. I know the amount of love that goes into making the perfect mix. I have so many memories of seeing the huge libraries of tapes with the handwriting of people you love organizing songs that capture a specific place and time. I think when music was what you had and it was more tangible, you cherished it more. When you had less control over it it was something more magical and the songs you heard seemed serendipitous. As someone who prefers to live in her head, music is the purest form of escapism. When you hear the right song, it’s as if someone just gets you. When I saw Broken Social Scene in 2006 and they did “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”, Kevin Drew said he wanted that song to be like a soft kiss. Good music is like that. Anyway, I am part of a huge family that is a bunch of culture vultures. My Dad exchanged a lot of music with his siblings and cousins and our favorite mixes came from my Dad’s cousin Nancy. Her music veered crunchy but the whole family could enjoy it. She used to decorate the cassette tape with crayon drawings. One of her mixes had “Asking Me Lies” on it. Since I was like 11 and we mostly listened to cassettes in the car, I couldn’t put it on repeat like I do with songs I love. Fun fact about me, I’m a song repeater. If I like I song I can listen to it 20 times in a row. Anyway, when I first heard the Replacements I was a lonely sixth grader who absolutely hated where she was. I hated school. I was bullied. I was dreading my birthday because the birthday before only one person showed up to my party. I was basically failing math and my teachers thought I had social issues. Which as an eleven year old, pretty huge deals. I woke up on the day of my birthday and I had the line “happy birthday whose ever birthday it is today” was stuck in my head and I felt like I could just escape in music. It was just a little happy private thing. I can’t really explain it. It made me happy for no reason and honestly, that’s the beauty of good music.

sneakers, pedals, cords, music, pedal board

Children by the millions

My Dad had a massive music library. He would get deep into various genres and had an encyclopedic knowledge of it. He would leave out music for my sister and I to discover. He left out David Bowie’s Sound and Vision for my sister to find and she has loved Bowie ever since. In fact, her wedding table numbers were decorated with illustrations of David Bowie in his various personas. Anyway, he told me to listen to “Alex Chilton” off of Pleased to Meet Me and I fell in love with the song. It just was so upbeat and wonderful. My Dad was like “the children by the millions were the Box Top Children and then he was in a band called Big Star that no one has heard of.” When I was in college, my friend Emily and I danced to the song in our apartment and jumped on a mattress on the floor. The woman in the downstairs apartment hit her ceiling with a broom and told us to knock it off. It was worth it. Later in the TRL era, I remember watching something about the greatest music videos ever. Carson Daly was narrating it and it of course had Britney Spears and 98 Degrees (I think it was like 2000). I remember they had Blink-182’s “All the Small Things” because it parodied all the earlier videos. Then all of a sudden Carson Daly said something like “this video is Bastards of Young by the Replacements. They thought it would be selling out to make a video so it’s just a speaker playing their song.” My jaw dropped to the floor. It was the most punk rock thing I had seen on the list and such a screw you to the eighties idea of marketing. I later found out they were banned from SNL. My fourteen year old self was in awe. Here’s the video it’s amazing.

Ain’t Lost Yet So I Might Be a Winner

My husband, then fiance, and I went to Chicago to see the Replacements at Riotfest in 2013. The last song we played at our reception was “I Can’t Hardly Wait.”We went to Humboldt Park on a bus from the train. We had heard Tommy Stinson on Mark Maron kind of hint at it. I was listening to the radio when they said they were playing Riotfest. I lost it in the car. We decided to go to Chicago and see people on the way and stay with some friends. It was an interesting crowd and incredibly muddy. I wrecked my boots. We figured out what stage they were on and stood through the end of an AFI set to get a prime spot to see the Replacements. There were three women in their forties in front of us and they had the same idea we did. They were awesome. You could tell they loved each other and had a deep friendship. Other people crowded around and we anxiously waited for the show to start. Suddenly from the back of the crowd we heard someone yell “Medic! Medic coming through!” I work in a hospital so when I hear medic I think code and you get out of the way. We soon realized, as two very intoxicated guys pushed through the crowd, that it was some ploy to get a better spot. It was pretty vulgar and I don’t use that word lightly. Oh and one of them was wearing a huge hat. So as a woman who goes to concerts, you know that unfortunately the tallest guy will stand in front of your shortest friend. It’s a basic etiquette thing. As a tall lady, I always let other women in front of me.  Except one time when this lady behind me was like “this girl is like a tree!” really loud. I’m petty. Anyway, this was the most egregious breach of concert etiquette I have ever seen. We live in a society! Everyone around us was upset. Mind you we were in Chicago and our midwestern ways tend veer towards extra accommodating with gritted teeth. The three women in front of me had none of it. One of them said “out of our area!” The guys looked at them with disdain. One actually laughed. People were getting restless. One of the women said “we stood through AFI for this. You didn’t. Move.” Other people were chiming in for them to leave. It was really really awkward. I was worried a fight was going to break out and I was looking for ways to get out. A man next to us was like “Move.” They didn’t and the guy in the hat just glared at the guy. I was worried he was going to hit him. Then the shortest woman in the group knocked off the giant hat. The women were like “we aren’t asking- move.” They finally did. We all applauded and someone in the back were like “they were the fake medics they sucked!” I was like “those women were regulators. I want to be them when I grow up.” The women were dancing and singing. They enjoyed the show thoroughly. When the Replacements started playing one of them yelled “I LOVE THIS BAND!!!!” and she meant it. They were just full of joy. It was infectious and it took the crowd’s vibe from angry and overwhelming to party. It was transformative. The next day my husband was talking to my dear friend Sarah and said that the women reminded him of us. They were dressed like normal people. They weren’t affecting an attitude. Their friendship was so pure and their joy was so real. It was my favorite memory of that concert to be honest. What I’m saying is music saves. Sometimes as a woman who loves music, you have to jump through endless hoops with men to prove you know anything. Or you like a certain band and they get some idea about who you are and you can’t live up to that ideal. Part of the cool girl persona is knowing a lot about bands but deferring to men when it comes to expertise. Music is supposed to be something we don’t understand. But we do and there is this awesome community of women music nerds. My best friends are ones who have interpretive dances to Ween songs, sat next to me at a living room concert when we felt my son kick in my womb, take it to the next level when Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So” comes on, and have this deep love of music. My friends aren’t magic pixie dream girls. We’re adult women in our thirties who have been through things. But when we hear music of bands we love, it just takes us to our happy place.

A Rebel Without a Clue

I found out that the Replacements got fired from Tom Petty’s tour and Tom Petty lifted that line for “Into the Great Wide Open” recently. That is insane. But when I started out listening to the Replacements it was like a private little joy. They weren’t a cool band that my hipster friends in high school loved. I remember seeing a super cool crush of mine in the high school parking lot and waving hi while a super 80’s metal bridge of a Replacements song was playing. He looked at me with pity in his eyes. Later I had a beau say “woman where have you been my whole life?” when I said my favorite band was the Replacements. How the worm has turned! But what I love is they were almost like a gateway drug to the friends I made in college radio and a whole community of people I absolutely adore. Unfortunately, my Dad’s cousin Nancy passed away from cancer a few years ago. I wrote her a note thanking her for her tapes and said how much they meant to me. So essentially, I discovered a lot of female role models with love of the dreamiest most messed up college rock band. I couldn’t thank her enough.

 Photo by Pete Pedroza

Photo by Pete Pedroza

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