In common with Hüsker Dü, The Replacements hailed from Minneapolis and began life thrashing out basic punk rock. There the similarities ended.
Where their peers wanted to intellectualise their music, there was nothing cerebral about The Replacements. They were a great band – no more, no less.
By their second full-length album, 1983’s Hootenanny, frontman Paul Westerberg’s love of classic rock and his ear for melody had marked the band out.
The follow-up, Let It Be (1984) was their masterpiece, with Westerberg’s rapidly evolving songwriting firing off his band’s shambolic playing.
They were infamous for their hard-drinking lifestyles and their ragged stage performances, notorious for coming to shows too drunk to play very well, or sometimes just performing entire sets of covers.
The Replacements should have gone on to greater things after Let It Be. They signed to a major label and delivered two further fine albums, Tim and Pleased To Meet Me – albums which are home to some of Westerberg’s most assured songs, like the world-weary lament Here Comes A Regular and the punchy Left Of The Dial.
The latter was inspired by a crush Westerberg had on Lynn Blakey, singer for the North Carolina band Let’s Active. “I figured the only way I’d hear her voice was her band on the radio . . . on a college station,” he said. One night on tour, he did, and he turned the moment into a long-distance love song – to a cool Southern girl, to low-wattage college radio stations, and the whole underground scene The Replacements had grown up in.
Firebrand guitarist Bob Stinson was dismissed from the band in 1986 for his substance-abuse problems.
Although held in high esteem for his reckless genius and sloppy guitar playing, Stinson was also struggling with manic depression, for which he took medication.
Pleased To Meet Me was the Nearly Album that, like R.E.M‘s Document (also released in 1987) threatened to break The Replacements into the big time, but Westerberg’s best song, Alex Chilton – a tribute to the mercurial, troubled leader of Big Star – also summed up why mainstream success eluded them.
Like Chilton, Westerberg craved stardom, but his epic drinking rendered The Replacements a chaotic proposition.
By 1989’s soulless Don’t Tell A Soul, the game was up. Westerberg jettisoned the rest of the band for one last album, the patchy All Shook Down, and then embarked upon a largely inconsequential solo career.
Bob Stinson died on 18 February 1995 in Minneapolis of complications brought on by a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. He was 35. Drummer Steve Foley died in 2008 from an accidental overdose of a prescription medication.