Let It Be
- Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
- Star Tribune
- April 26, 2008 - 11:23 PM
Minneapolis' famously almost-famous rock legends are being celebrated once again with last week's reissue on Rhino Records of their first four albums.
"It sort of all fell together and everybody got on board around the same time," explained Peter Jesperson, the former Replacements manager who compiled the reissues. "It was surprisingly easy in the end."
These releases came about after the old Twin/Tone Records catalog -- on which those early 'Mats albums originally surfaced (1981-1984) -- serendipitously wound up under the corporate umbrella of Warner Bros. following a couple other label buyouts. Warner Bros. also owns Rhino and Sire Records, which released the band's final four albums ('85-'90), also scheduled to be reissued later this year.
For diehard fans, the true value of these first four reissues is found in the 30 bonus tracks, including B-sides, outtakes, covers and demos. Jesperson started seriously wading through their old unearthed tapes way back in 1997 with Twin Cities producer Tom Herbers. He made a big push over the past year, coming up with an initial list of tracks and then getting final approval from the three surviving band members. Bassist Tommy Stinson voted against two tracks, singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg nixed another but drummer Chris Mars liked them all, Jesperson said.
There was one thing they all agreed on.
"Everyone had this unanimous reaction: 'Doesn't Bob sound great on these tracks?'" Jesperson recalled, referring to guitarist Bob Stinson, who died in 1995.
Here are the highlights among the 30 extra recordings, album by album:"Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash" (1981)
"Raised in the City," "Shutup," "Don't Turn Me Down," "Shape Up" (demos) -- All four tracks were featured on the first cassette that Westerberg handed to Jesperson in May 1980. "If ever there was a magic moment in my life, it was hearing that cassette," the manager said. "The performance has an urgency to it, but there's also that great sense of fun. And Paul's phrasing and timing is on there, [proving] he was more or less born with that talent."
"If Only You Were Lonely" (Westerberg-only acoustic track, B-side to the first 45-rpm single) -- Jesperson recalled hearing Westerberg play this long-lost country-ish drinking ballad on a solo tour in the mid-'90s: "Half the audience was singing along to it, so obviously it lived on. You have to remember, in those days singles were still big deals. I think we sold more of the 45s than we did of the album.""Stink" (1982 )
"Staples in Her Stomach" (outtake) -- A wry rocker about a centerfold from the same sessions as the original eight tracks on the EP. Said Jesperson: "We just didn't think it was quite as good as the rest, but it helps round it out here."
"Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Rock Around the Clock" (covers) -- These hits by Hank Williams and Bill Haley were staples in the band's live shows at the time. "People would get outright pissed when they'd play those songs," Jesperson recalled. "Punk-rock bands didn't do those sorts of songs back then. That was our parents' music. But part of [the band's] brilliance was they didn't care about any of that."
"You're Getting Married" (acoustic demo) -- Another solo track by Westerberg never issued. In the liner notes, Jesperson calls this one the Holy Grail for 'Mats collectors. "Paul was shy about showing these songs to the band, especially to Bob," he said. "We tried to record this one later for 'Hootenanny,' but I can still picture Bob playing it with his back to the band and obviously objecting to it. I felt privileged to have heard it, though. This is where I got scared of Paul's talent.""Hootenanny" (1983)
"Treatment Bound" (alternate version) -- The rare case where the alternate is actually more polished-sounding than the one picked for on the record. "This is when we tried multi-tracking it in the studio, and it just didn't have the same feeling as the rougher version. Paul's original concept was to have me record him singing the song to the rest of the band for the first time, and capturing their reaction, but that didn't really work either."
"Lovelines" (alternate version) -- Famously lifted from the City Pages classifieds, this is the third of four freewheeling tries, featuring a few different, um, lyrics. "The first two takes really aren't very good," Jesperson said. "The fourth is what's on the record. This one isn't quite all there, but you can hear them starting to catch the wave.""Let It Be" (1984)
"Perfectly Lethal" (outtake) -- "For whatever reason, the lyrics were never really finished. But there are like six or seven different takes of that song, so they tried. Tommy spent a lot of time going through them to find the most presentable one [for the reissue], and then we mixed it at Tommy's house. It's a good song, but I'm not sure if it would've fit the album."
"Temptation Eyes" and "Heartbeat -- It's a Lovebeat" (covers) -- These sugary pop songs by the Grassroots and DeFranco Family, respectively, offer more proof of the band's unpretentious musical alchemy. "There was nothing tongue-in-cheek when they did these songs," Jesperson said. "The only time they were tongue-in-cheek would be when they did a Jackson 5 cover, and that was only because they didn't have the finesse for that kind of R&B. Otherwise, they played 'em straight, which I think you can tell here."
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658
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