Jim Walsh is first to tell Replacements’ story
Early on in Jim Walsh’s new book about the Replacements, Minneapolis writer Bill Tuomala recalls the night in East Grand Forks in 1984 he first saw the Minneapolis rockers perform.
“Lord, were they horrible,” Tuomala said, remembering butchered covers of The Who and Johnny Cash. “Drunk, sloppy, and inept. We hated them.”
Three years later, it was Tuomala’s girlfriend who was disgusted by the band’s antics during a show at the Orpheum. But Tuomala, who was falling in love with the Replacements, remembered moments of brilliance amid the chaos.
“The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting: An Oral History” is the first book to tell the story of Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, and brothers Tommy and Bob Stinson who, over 12 years and eight recordings, built a lasting legend. On the whiskey-soaked map of American rock, they marked Minneapolis with a cigarette burn.
Walsh, a former music writer for The St. Paul Pioneer Press and City Pages (and current columnist for the Southwest Journal), mostly lets others tell the story of the band’s freewheeling career, conducting a chorus of voices captured during six months of interviews and research.
The book is a snapshot of Minneapolis — specifically Southwest Minneapolis — at a pivotal time for the local music scene. Walsh, whose band the REMs shared bills with the Replacements and who counts Mars and Westerberg among his friends, experienced that scene first-hand.
In the ’80s, ground zero was Oarfolkjokeopus Records at the corner of Lyndale Avenue South and West 26th Street.
“All these great rock bands started a couple of blocks away from me,” Walsh said. “That changed everything for me, and for a lot of people. If it’s important, if it’s regarded as important, it’s because it wasn’t always like that here.”
“No one had done it before [the Replacements],” he said. “Now, it’s a completely different scene.”
The old Oarfolkjokeopus is now Treehouse Records, and when Walsh showed up for a book signing Nov. 15, the line snaked through the crowded store.
Some in line were around Walsh’s age (late 40s), but many were younger, a testament to the band’s lasting impact.
“I consider it to be the world’s greatest tragedy that I never got to see [the
Replacements],” lamented Erica Krumm, 25.
Krumm said her father owned an amplifier repair business where she met Westerberg as a teenager. The guitarist and singer for local band Sharp Teeth, Krumm said the Replacements — and especially Westerberg’s lyrics — influenced her own songwriting.
“I think they speak to people who like good ol’ rock and roll,” she said. “… A lot of people my age still respect what they gave to the scene.”
Standing next to her was Todd Stump, who first heard the Replacements on a college radio station in Kentucky in the 1990s. Stump said it was “the two P.W.s” — Paul Westerberg and the late Paul Wellstone — who inspired his move to Minneapolis in 2003.
Next in line was Mark Anderson of St. Paul, whose band Oren Goby scored a “total fluke-ish kind of gig” opening for the Replacements in 1985. Anderson still regarded that night’s main act as his “all-time favorite rock and roll band.”
Anderson said he saw the boys perform at least a dozen times, and was present for at least one of their notorious on-stage breakdowns — a wrestling match between Westerberg and Bob Stinson that ended their set prematurely.
“Before that, it was the best half hour of rock and roll,” he said.
It’s no secret those on-stage antics were sometimes fueled by drugs and booze, the typical rock band accoutrement. Some critics have complained “All Over But the Shouting” goes light on the gossip.
But Walsh insisted they’re missing the point.
“They were way more about youth and possibility and freedom,” he said.
The Replacements embodied a contradiction: They were a band whose songs portrayed great depth of emotion but who tore it up on and off stage like they couldn’t care less.
It was a band with “no rules,” Walsh argued.
“And that’s much different than the drunken [stuff]. No rules,” he said. “There was no ceiling to that experience.”
That’s a big part of why the band still matters today, why so many people were waiting for a book about the Replacements. They made people passionate about music, they wrote songs that “changed people’s lives,” Walsh said — and that may explain why some people will never be satisfied with Walsh’s take on the legend.
“I’m just glad it exists,” he said, reflecting on the book. “[The Replacements] were a very ephemeral experience, so I’m just glad it exists between two covers, now.”
“There are certain reasons why you’re here as a writer, as an observer,” Walsh added later. “And, honest to god, I think that was one of the reasons I was here.”
He chuckled to himself.
“Onward and upward.”