Living With The Replacements' "Let It Be"!


With the Replacements' gig at RiotFest mere days away, we figured we'd publish some of the crap we've written in the past about the band.  This time around, we revisit the album that put Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, and Bob & Tommy Stinson on the map, Let It Be.

1984 was the year I graduated high school.

It was also the year that I heard The Replacements for the first time. Mind you, I'd read a metric shit-ton about the band in all the coolest rock mags, but I almost had to drive to Twin/Tone's Minneapolis office to land a copy of their critically-adored new album here in Podunk, Michigan (population me). The album was Let It Be and, to hear critics tell it, it was the most perfect rock album ever made.

Naturally, I was skeptical, but after one listen, my entire world view had been forever altered by this ragged, beautiful mess seemingly held together by spit and duct tape that threatened to implode at any given moment.  In songs like "Answering Machine" and "Unsatisfied", I found myself identifying with the disillusion and despair that other bands had sung about, but that singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg was able to put in terms that seemed ripped from the pages of my soul.

"Look me in the eyes and tell me that I'm satisfied/Are you satisfied?"

Those days were still so full of discovery that failure and despair had not yet become a part of the equation, yet in the songs of Paul Westerberg, so many of us were able to feel every word as if it were a part of our very being. Of course, what makes it all the more remarkable is the fact that it was just a little band from Minneapolis making a little record for a little record label called Twin/Tone.
While the major labels spent millions hoping to come up with something capable of changing the world, these guys managed to do it on a shoestring budget and zero market research.

Who could've known that, by 1991, their entire look and sound would become a pose worn by a generation of self-conscious, whiny pretenders?

I can still remember the chill I felt the first time I heard "Answering Machine". Here was a song comprised of a single cranked-up guitar and a singer straining at every note. No drums or bass, but the truth is that if they'd been there, they'd have only gotten in the way. The message was so much clearer standing there in front of us, completely naked and thoughtfully brave. Not your garden variety brand of bravery, mind you, but, rather, the sort of bravery attained only after reaching the point where there is nothing left to lose.

I was twenty years from knowing that type of bravery when I wore out the grooves on my first copy of Let It Be. Over the years, I have bought and re-bought the recording on any number of formats…LP, cassette, CD, mp3…and I can honestly say that each first listen has, without exception, provided the same kick to the heart as any injection of adrenaline.

Several months after discovering Let It Be, my grandmother passed away. I had seen her recently at one of my band's first major gigs and I had been struck by how happy and alive she seemed. A couple weeks later, just days into her first real vacation in ages, she suffered an aneurysm aboard a cruise ship and died en route to the hospital. After her funeral, family gathered at my parents' house where I tried to be social, but eventually fled to my bedroom. My girlfriend followed after me and tried her best to console me, but I was completely distraught.

She finally walked over to the stereo and put on Let It Be, knowing how much I liked the album. She could have picked any number of albums that she knew I liked, but she chose that one. She then came over and sat next to me, running her hands through my hair, getting up only to flip the album over when the first side finished. We held hands and listened to the entire album in silence and I felt the sadness give way to a wish that this moment would never end.

Truth be told, anytime I hear a song from Let It Be, I see two kids with the world in front of them enjoying an album that seems to almost give away the ending as to how our lives would play out from that point on.

Now, don't get me wrong. Let It Be is by no means all heaviness and gloom. In fact, parts of it are downright joyous…flippant…and completely non-essential, but it's the best kind of non-essential. Like a joke that's true and funny that always makes you laugh, somehow managing to lift your spirits, even on your worst day.

That Westerberg was capable of touching upon so many emotions while also swinging the pendulum so wildly from that of introspective genius to drunken clown prince is still one of the greatest achievements in all of music.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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