“Revelation” is a relative term when talking about the Replacements, since there are few stones or vomit stains left unturned by the storied Minneapolis band’s most obsessive fans. A lot of messy ground was covered in local author Jim Walsh’s two books on the band. But we think these 10 facts in Bob Mehr’s new biography “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements” will surprise most readers.
1. The band’s first real gig was at a treatment center. Thanks to friends in rehab, they got booked at Team House in St. Paul, a sobriety facility for teens. “The weirdest musical experience of my life,” recalled one of the kids then in counseling, musician Kevin Bowe, who would later tour with Paul Westerberg. The quartet, not surprisingly, got booted for drinking between sets.
2. Chris Mars was the band’s first songwriter. The drummer — who would release three well-liked solo albums in the early ’90s — introduced his original songs way back in 1980. “They had a lot of stops and starts and chord changes,” recalled Westerberg, who decided it’d be easier to make up his own songs than learn Mars’.
3. Even 15-year-olds in rock bands score a lot. When the band stayed at her apartment one week in 1983, Boston club booker Julie Farman remembers having to kick out Tommy Stinson because she “couldn’t deal with him bringing in all these girls every night.”
4. Al Franken did not approve of their “SNL” appearance. Still on staff as a writer, producer and sometimes “player” at the NBC show in 1986, the future Minnesota senator knew of the ’Mats thanks to Twin/Tone Records co-founder Paul Stark, a former classmate at Breck. But during the band’s famously drunken and outrageous performance, Mehr said Franken stood “in front of the band and, gripping a clipboard, began to frown. Westerberg gave him an exaggerated vaudeville wink.”
5. The band really had a thing for R.E.M. Even though they recruited Peter Buck to play guitar on “I Will Dare” and were friendly on the surface, the ’Mats were weirdly envious of their peers from Georgia. It was a key reason why they fired original manager/cheerleader Peter Jesperson, after he took a job touring with R.E.M.’s crew between ’Mats tours.
6. Bob Stinson and Slim Dunlap were good friends. The guy who would replace Stinson in the Replacements used to drive Stinson around in his cab, and the two also worked as club janitors together. Stinson’s family even remembers him recommending Dunlap to fill his shoes in the band.
7. The band actually got strong major-label support. One key event was a lavish Warner Bros. promo party for the “Pleased to Meet Me” album at a high-end seafood eatery in Memphis, where the label’s staff followed the band’s drunken lead and got into a wall-splattering food fight. “After that night, everybody [committed] to work that record,” one label exec recalled.
8. It really was their own fault they didn’t get more radio support. From a sauced interview at KROQ in L.A. where they taunted the DJ’s accent to an on-air appearance at WXRT in Chicago where they dropped an F-bomb, the band members managed to get themselves banned even from the cooler FM stations. “Anybody that can walk into WXRT or KROQ and get in trouble had to work really hard at it,” said another label exec.
9. Tommy Stinson got his first real job after the breakup. After his post-’Mats bands Bash & Pop and Perfect fizzled fast, the bassist took a $7-an-hour telemarketing job — and liked it. “I learned how to sell myself [and] got out of the Replacements self-sabotage mind-set,” he said, pointing to the confidence that would soon land him a much better paying 15-year job with Guns N’ Roses.
10. A reunion was almost launched in 2008. Westerberg and Stinson rehearsed with drummer Michael Bland and guitarist Jim Boquist around the time Rhino Records reissued the Replacements’ eight albums. But a newly sober Westerberg struggled to focus and returned to working alone. “I’ve run out of confidants — and confidence,” he said.