NEW YORK (Billboard) - With 1982's "Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash," Minneapolis' famously ragtag band of misfits, the Replacements, began an inspiring, influential and ultimately anti-climactic journey that has come to embody the very spirit of rock 'n' roll.
Or, at least, the romantic notion of an American rock'n'roll band: four kids in a van making a play for fortune and fame. If they never really achieved either, the band's legend lives on, and has become bigger than ever.
Stoking that flame are archival specialist Rhino's new, outtake-laden reissues of the Replacements' first four albums ("Sorry Ma," "Stink," "Hootenanny" and their 1984 tour-de-force "Let It Be"), to be followed by reissues of the band's four major-label successors later this year. In rare interviews, frontman Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson look both back and forward.
WHEN YOU LISTEN TO THESE REISSUES AS A BLOCK, WHAT DO THEY
SAY ABOUT YOU GUYS AS A BAND AND AS FOUR YOUNG GUYS?
Tommy Stinson: We weren't afraid to do anything in particular, and that was the beauty of it. And I think the outtakes kind of show that. Even though they're going to kind of bum Paul out, having his solo cassette demos out there, I think they really tell a part of the story, too. It really shows where he comes from and what he might have been thinking on his own, but was too scared to try with us as the band, because it was too naked, or whatever.
OF THESE FOUR, IS THERE ONE ALBUM THAT MAYBE MEANS A LITTLE
BIT MORE TO YOU THAN THE OTHERS?
Paul Westerberg: To me, they were all just one big long song. I guess "Hootenanny" is the one where we came to the decision -- or I did, at least -- that this loud/fast stuff is not going to get us anywhere, because that was the height of the hardcore movement, and we were on tour, and we were not the loudest and the fastest. I figured, "Well, we can't win that way, so we've got to go the other direction and tap the other vein of our influences." Not that "Hootenanny" is my favorite record, but "Hootenanny" was probably the one where we first started to become unafraid to do things.
SINCE THE BAND'S BREAKUP, THE REPLACEMENTS HAVE BECOME SORT
OF MYTHIC TO SOME FANS. DO YOU EVER GET LOST SOMETIMES IN THAT
Westerberg: I've distanced myself from it a great deal, and I've been sort of forced to embrace or re-evaluate it (with these reissues). I'll tell you this -- I did surprise myself when I listened to some of them. I thought, "Damn it, I was good. I was real. I know what I was saying, and this was real." Me and (late guitarist) Bob (Stinson) were 18, 19; (drummer) Chris (Mars) 17, Tommy 13. Bob and I at least understood that this was the only road up and out. We had no skill -- he was a cook, I was a janitor -- and it was like, "We make it in rock 'n' roll or we die trying."
Stinson: Here's my whole problem with the whole mythology of it all: When I get people coming up to me now and saying, "I saw this show way back when, and you guys were so f--ked up. You didn't even play any of your songs. It was the greatest show I ever saw." (Laughs) It's like, "Well, dude, that just sounds bleak. How could that possibly have been the greatest show you ever saw?" When somebody comes up and says, "I really liked a certain record or song, they mean something to me" -- that, to me, that's the mythology that we actually lived up to. I think we actually were a really good band at times. I think the songwriting speaks for itself.
PEOPLE REMEMBER THOSE SHOWS AS EITHER DRUNKEN TRAIN WRECKS
OR A THING OF MAGIC, WITHOUT MUCH MIDDLE GROUND.
Westerberg: Some nights, yeah, we never gave 100% -- that would be giving yourself to the audience. That would be on a level of someone like Elvis. We wanted (fans) to know that we were there for us, and you could like us or not.
MANY FANS DISMISS THE LATTER RECORDS AND POINT TO THESE
EARLY DISCS AS CAPTURING THE BAND'S TRUE ESSENCE.
Stinson: To each his own. Some of the people who like the latter stuff can't even stand the earlier stuff, because it just didn't sound very good. And that's the beauty of the whole catalog: We grew and changed, and for all intents and purposes, we were actually able to grow and change and go through all that shit without getting our legs cut off, like happens now. We didn't get very far, but we did our thing. I think we had a good little run.
YOU'VE REUNITED TWICE IN THE STUDIO IN RECENT YEARS. YOU'VE
SURELY RECEIVED A SIZABLE OFFER OR TWO FROM THE PRODUCERS OF
COACHELLA, SO . . .
Stinson: We actually talked about it again this year, and I think there was a consensus that, you know, maybe it wasn't the right time (to reunite), or maybe it is the right time. Paul and I were kind of in cahoots talking to them, talking to (his manager) Darren (Hill). There were some things thrown out, and there were other festivals that wanted it too, if we were going to do it. At the last minute, it just didn't seem like the right thing to do, so we didn't do it. But I think Paul and I have something to offer each other still. I think that's pretty obvious when we get together.
Westerberg: I'm very hesitant about dragging the name out there and what damage we could do to the legend. Whatever we did, someone would want something else. If I went up there straight, they'd want us wasted. If we were f--ked up, they'd want us to be this or that. But, I don't know. The records hold the key to the whole thing. So if I was ever going to play, I'd like to play once the whole shooting match is out, because I don't think I could physically get up there and bellow these 18 songs (from) that first record. That's just sheer youth there. I can't find that in a bottle or a pill. I'm just too creaky for that