One of the most influential American alternative bands of the 80s, back when “alternative” actually meant something, The Replacements influenced innumerable bands in the 90s and beyond. A wholly unique blend of rock and roll thrash, punk, blues, and ballads augmented by some of the greatest lyrics ever written. In the tradition of The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The New York Dolls and The Ramones, they were perennial critics darlings, unforgiveably misunderstood or ignored by the general public, belatedly feted for their genius. Inability to break through to the masses and generate profits for their label, the pressure of constantly “failing” (in a commercial sense) resulted in their ultimate demise.
Their output is such that their fanbase often disagrees violently about what their best album was, and whether they were better with or without original lead guitarist Bob Stinson who was fired for unreliability. Regardless, their mid-career trio of albums Let It Be, Tim and Pleased To Meet Me are generally considered their artistic peak, although every album has something that will stand the test of time. While considered one of the best live acts of all time, their drunken escapades are the stuff of legend, with shows degenerating into false starts and half-played cover versions barked out by equally drunk fans.
It has been speculated that the only thing The Replacements feared more than failure was success. They were notorious for intentionally shooting themselves in the foot when it most counted, for example at shows where record exectives were in attendance, or at performances with national exposure. In this way, by sabotaging themselves, they were able to tell the powers that be in the recording industry: “You think you control our fate, and you can hold us down? No. We are holding ourselves down far worse than you could ever hope to.” If you destroy yourself, you simultaneously deprive anyone else of using their power to destroy you, and there is some perverse degree of power and agency in doing so.
Excellent resources for those who would like to learn more about one of the most important rock bands in the history of popular music include:
Trouble Boys, a biography by Bob Mehr
Color Me Obsessed, a film by Gorman Bechard
All Over But The Shouting, an oral history by Jim Walsh