Mar 142016

Extended travel of late means I’ve just finished a couple more rock books of note on Sam Phillips and the Replacements!

Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, by Peter Guralnick

I had just a cursory knowledge of Sun Records and Sam Phillips.  If you’re in the same boat, this is a good history lesson on the Memphis scene in the 50s.  Guralnick was a friend of Sam’s and relied on him big time for his two Elvis books, so this story line takes most of what Sam says and thinks about the period at face value.  Of course there are great stories about Jerry Lee, Cash, Ike Turner, and Elvis, but beyond that are the people, family members and mistresses that surrounded Phillips throughout that golden age and later. It also does a good job explaining how independent labels functioned and the shoe leather (and tire rubber) it took to break artists…and then how the majors would come in and sign the rising star for big money. There’s also vintage gear talk!

Aug 242013

The Replacements play their first “reunion” gig in Toronto at Riot Fest this weekend — and it’s creating quite a stir, back in the Twin Cities at least. They close the show Sunday, right after Iggy and the Stooges. There will be lots of press coverage in the Twin Cities media as Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson strap it up — no Chris Mars, though, and Slim Dunlap has big health issues.

So to prepare: There’s this nice “Meet the Replacements Family” chart that a local station cooked up.

How about this rendering of the Let It Be cover (shot on the Stinson’s roof) recreated in Legos? Nice!

Wish I could be there — but it’s a good thing I’m not going — I have the mother of all summer colds and am just getting it back together after a week of laying low.

From where I’m coming from this is an event show — where I would consider traveling to make it. What say you? — in the spirit of an earlier post — is this a ‘why bother’ event or a real event?

Aug 122009

In a recent thread on bands that were irrevocably weakened by the loss of a key member, Townsman jungleland2 made an interesting comment:

I too call Bullshit on Bob Stinson. Paul played most of the guitars anyway. Slim Dunlap gave them a new more textured sound. Don’t blame the strange late 80’s production of Don’t Tell al Soul..the songs are fantasic.

What interested me most was the last part, about the songs on Don’t Tell a Soul being “fantastic” despite the album’s generally acknowledged bad production. I’ve never been a Replacements fan, so I’m not equipped to argue whether the songs are on par with their more beloved works or not, but I’m scratching my head at the moment, asking myself if I own any records with songs that I believe are “fantastic” despite production that I don’t like. If I like the production of an album I feel fit to judge the quality of the songwriting, however if I really don’t like the production of a record I don’t have a clue as to how to judge the songwriting.

I’m reminded of the thing people say about flawed films that have “great scripts.” Do these people get a copy of the script handed to them when they sit down to watch a film? Why can’t I ever tell anyone about the “great script” behind a poorly made film? I know a lot more about music than I do film, but I wonder: Am I so tied to the sound of records that I can’t tell if the song itself is actually good? How about you?

If you have examples of fantastic songwriting smothered by production you can’t stand (as opposed to lo-fi production, for instance, that you may like despite it being considered technically deficient), I’d love to hear them. Most importantly, for my growth as a human being, I’d like to hear how you managed to discern the nuggets of nutrition within the aural turds.

I look forward to your comments!

Aug 072009

Recently I had the pleasure of being contracted to design the art for the latest release by Philly phaves, Nixon’s Head. The Enemies List (available for purchase here) cover was an exercise of almost pure creativity. Listening and then designing.

The back cover though was a joy for different reasons. The band wanted the back to be a take on the back of The Beatles Rubber Soul. (I derive an odd pleasure from finding/duplicating just the right font.)

This got me thinking about album parodies and more specifically album backs. There are loads and loads of album parodies. Not the least of which include Townsman mrclean’s band, The Dead Milkmen’s Smokin’ Banana Peels cover:

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Nov 262008

I’ve written this three times, because it’s always way too long for RTH, and way too fawning for me. Maybe Mwall’s “tuneless” comment is intimidating me! I found out about Lucero from a one=word post on a message board that answered the question, “Where does a Replacements fan go in this century?” A one-word answer that seemed so sure, stuck in the middle of a bunch of posts that lamented the loss of The ‘Mats and the usual, “Rock is dead now,” crap that every generation seems to say when they get bored with rock n roll seemed to say it all. “Lucero.” I was intrigued.

I missed The Replacements. I had some Uncle Tupelo cd’s while they were a functioning unit, but never saw them. I found out about Whiskeytown when Stranger’s Almanac came out, and again never saw them. I completely missed Jawbreaker. I found Lucero’s latest album (at the time) in Massachusetts the week it came out. The kid at the counter asked me who they were and I just said, “I dunno. I hope they’re good.” The album was That Much Further West and as it turns out, guitar player Brian Venable isn’t on it, and he’s a main reason I’ve come to like all their other albums more than the one I initially found. I’ve seen them several times, the first time all by myself. The last time I had six other people with me. They were my band, then they were our band. They aren’t quite everyone’s band, and maybe that will never happen. I hope it does for them, but if it doesn’t I already know that their albums aren’t the kind that sit on my shelf for years between plays, and I know in 20 years I’ll still feel lucky to have their music.

Where does Jawbreaker fit in all this? The other bands I mentioned have that Americana vibe, and share a knack for decent lyrics and nice turns of phrase. Jawbreaker shares that lyrical sensibility, and while their sound musically leans more punk than country, Lucero are big fans and Jawbreaker shares as much in their influences as The Replacements or Uncle Tupelo. The Jawbreaker song “Kiss the Bottle” is always a highlight when they play it live. I bet some of their fans think it’s a Lucero song. Their live shows are always fun, and the band can range from super tight to drunk and sloppy all in the same song, but that’s how bands that I like tend to play. I think for some of Lucero’s fans, their nods to Jawbreaker and The Replacements are just one more thing that brings them closer to their fans.

Jawbreaker – “Kiss the Bottle”

Lucero – “Kiss the Bottle”

Wanna hear someone famous miss the point?
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Jul 292008


Mr. Moderator is on vacation and rarely checking in. I love the man, but I don’t think I can suffer through another tirade about lack of musicianship or “crappy 70s music values” so let’s us Replacements fans discuss the superior Twin Tone years and bonus tracks whilst the cat is away.

My appreciation for The Replacements may be almost as divisive as Mod’s. As far as I’m concerned, they ceased to exist as a great band the day Bob Stinson “left” the band. I know Bob largely sucked as a guitar virtuoso but it was his reckless rock ‘n roll ‘tude that was so, so necessary in postponing Westerberg’s “I’m an artist” ‘tude that eventually wore thin with me.

That’s not to say that there isn’t any post-Tim stuff I like, I do, it’s just not The Replacements.

I dig the band! So, like many fans, the only potential lost treasures were to be found on Twin Tone, with the exception of a few rare moments on the All For Nothing comp:

Can’t Hardly Wait (Tim version)
Beer for Breakfast

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