mats

The introduction to Bob Mehr’s Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements is set in a funeral parlor in Minneapolis in February of 1995. As readers, we don’t get back to the events surrounding this for another 400 pages, but the eventual demise of guitarist Bob Stinson hangs over much of the book like the Ghost of Christmas Future. But so does the eventual burnout of the band itself – one many considered the best American rock and roll band of the past 35-plus years. However, the flames burn bright in the meantime.

That introduction is only part of what makes Mehr’s book – nearly six and a half years in the works – as great a read for hardcore ‘Mats fans as it is for casual enthusiasts alike. The opening section focuses on the band’s founding members – Bob and Tommy Stinson, Paul Westerberg and Chris Mars. The Stinson insight is particularly haunting. Abused by his step-father, Bob Stinson’s teenage years become a succession of rehabilitation homes for juvenile offenders and those diagnosed with mental disorders. Music, ultimately, becomes a life-long escape for him, but unfortunately, not the only one.

As the band slowly congeals into what became The Replacements, a magnificently detailed depiction of late 70s/early 80s Minneapolis is chronicled around them. Mehr’s exploration of the scene surrounding the band – the record shop Oarfolkjokeopus; Twin/Tone Records; the CC Club; The Longhorn, Sam’s, First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry – is as vivid as the life of the band members themselves. Various characters swim in and out of the band’s existence, but Mehr fleshes out a good many of them, spending great amounts of time with key players Peter Jesperson (the band’s first manager), Paul Stark (Twin/Tone co-owner), replacement-Replacements Bob ‘Slim’ Dunlap and Steve Foley, and various album producers and record label executives.

It’s through the relationships with these people that gives the book its power as an unflinching look at world of The Replacements. While clearly a fan of the group, Mehr stays neutral, holding up examples of the individual members flaws, both professional and personal, throughout the book’s course. He is also to be commended for digging into the psychology of the band’s infamous behavior, looking at the roots of of their erratic and often self-sabotaging actions and what it might have signified. In this, it helps that nearly all of the living members of the band agreed to work with Mehr on the project. The 1986 firing of Bob Stinson is fleshed out in great detail as are the events that lead up to his eventual dismissal. While it’s always been easy to paint Stinson’s firing for substance abuse issues as somewhat hypocritical, given the rest of the band’s notorious intake, the book lays out the growing concern from people around Bob, not just his bandmates, in terms of what it was doing to him. Knowing the eventual outcome, it’s tough to feel anything but sadness as Bob’s life begins its downward trajectory.

Most surprisingly, the Don’t Tell a Soul and All Shook Down sessions are a fascinating look into records that are not necessarily canonical favorites among the band’s fans. The frustration over two recordings sessions for the former and the ‘band in name only’ vibe of the latter (which still lead to at least Tommy Stinson feeling it was a truly great record) gives fans another reason to revisit these records with new insight in mind. Mehr’s timing on writing the novel also managed to coincide with the recent reunion of the band, and the book’s epilogue thankfully takes the time to explore the post-’91 breakup years – including a heartbreaking section about Bob Stinson’s final years and days – and the eventual reunion in 2012.

For Replacements fans, Trouble Boys is a fascinating, sad and beautiful read and for those unfamiliar with their work and legacy, it’s still a great biography. At Bob Stinson’s funeral, Paul Westerberg leans in to whisper to the late Stinson’s ex-wife that “we were just kids,” as if making an explanation or apology for everything that had happened. Trouble boys until the end, it makes their art and their story all the richer. words / j neas

The Replacements :: September Gurls (Big Star)

We are giving away a big Replacements package, comprising a unique painting of the Tim cover by noted artist Steve Keene, a 4-LP The Sire Years boxed set, a Replacements slipmat, the rare promo-only ‘Mats (instant) Grat 7” of ‘Can’t Hardly Wait (The Tim Version)’ b/w ‘Portland’ & a copy of Trouble Boys by Bob Mehr.  To enter to win, leave a comment with your name and how you first came to know the band. Winner will be notified via email.

185 Responses to “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements”

  1. When I was in high school my older sister was a dj at her university radio station. She would send home cassettes of bands she thought I would like. Sorry Ma with Hootenanny on the B side and I was hooked.

  2. This guy I worked with gave me a mix tape in 86 or 87 that introduced me to the Replacements along with Husker Du, Big Star, Love Tractor, Tommy Keene and more. He put I will Dare and Sixteen Blue on the tape and they blew my mind. I went and got everything by the band up till that point and just fell in love. I wish I still have that tape.

  3. I first got interested in The Replacements in 1999 after reading an article about Paul Westerberg in Uncut Magazine when ‘Sucaine Gratification’ came out. I immediately made a trip to Glasgow and bought ‘Tim’ and ‘Pleased To Meet Me’….those records seemed to be the only ones still in print in the UK at the time. I have loved the band ever since!

  4. Never heard of ’em until I read a Rolling Stone review of ‘Tim’ in 1985. Easily my favorite to this day.

  5. I first saw The Replacements on MTV I believe…or Night Flight.I was about 15 or 16 years old.I was always looking for the “real deal” when it came to music and not what was popular on the radio.I was only 15 or 16 but I’d discovered Bob Dylan and Lou Reed and The Doors.I saw the interview with the Replacements talking about The Ledge and it stuck in my mind.They seemed real to me I guess.Then I saw the video for I’ll Be You and I remembered that was the same band.There was also a Bill Holdship interview in a Music Express magazine that was a freebee at one of the chain record stores back in the day.I bought Pleased To Meet Me and Don’t Tell A Soul.I loved the albums.I loved that the band was from the Midwest.I introduced a buddy of mine to them and we both started buying different Replacements records so we could get their whole discography faster.They’ve been my favorite band ever since.

  6. Around 1994, as a teen, I read an article about Soul Asylum where those boys mentioned The Replacements. I tried but couldn’t find any music by them. Years later, I went to a CD store and found a reissue of Sorry Ma. And that was that.

  7. I first heard the Replacements when I was home sick from school in the spring of 1989. I was watching cable television when the video for “I’ll Be You” came on, and it is hard to imagine today (aside from MTV actually playing videos) what it was like to hear a song that was a straight up rock song on MTV amid the L.A. hair metal and synth pop gloss and soundtrack ballads that dominated the FM and video airwaves at the time. The song was great – a guitar anthem that was reminiscent of the 70’s rock and power pop that had disappeared, but it was the video that caught my attention the most, with the band screwing around, laughing, switching instruments, and smashing not a guitar but a cherry red Fender Precision bass.

    All at once, in 3 minutes, the band summed up everything I loved about rock music, and began a lifelong love affair that changed my life like no other band, including running a mailing list since 1992. I listen to other bands, but if I had to pick only one on the planet that sums up rock music for me, this is it.

  8. I first heard The Replacements in 1987 my first year at Kansas State University. A high school buddy of mine who was a huge fan played “Pleased To Meet Me” for us. I soon delved back through the catalog. Me and this same high school buddy would soon go on to form our own band, Truck Stop Love, who would emulate the ‘Mats in every way right on down to the debauchery.

  9. Kid I hung out w/had me drive him to record shop in ’87. Bought cassette of PTTM day it was released. Boom. Never loomed at bands in the same light, again.

  10. My favorite band!

    I was at a crazy show in the basement of a friend’s house and, in between bands, they started playing Sorry Ma. I lost my damn mind and immediately became a huge Mats fan.

  11. In 1984 during my first Semester of College at UW in Madison I read a review of a two night stint of the Mats at O’Cayz Corral (RIP). The shows sounded like a glorious mess. The next show they played there was a don’t miss. Some details are blurry as I was almost as drunk as the band but I’ve been hooked ever since. I still have the red 8×11 with Bob making kissy face flyer I took off a kiosk after the show.

  12. My stepfather played me Sorry Ma, Forgot to take out the Trash when I was ten or eleven. I would play takin a ride over and over again , until my stepfather gave me his copy of the album:)… The Mats have consistently been my favourites since then

  13. I read something about them in the early 90s and decided to check them out. Bought “Let It Be” and was absolutely f’ing FLOORED. I’d finally found music that spoke to me and my life instead of being some kind of fantasy. I’d never been pissed at the queen or whatever, but I knew exactly what it was like to be an awkward Midwestern fuckup romantic hiding behind as much booze as I could drink.

  14. I remember reading about Bob’s death & being confused about why I’d never heard of The Replacements. Little did I know I’d been hearing plenty of their songs on Rev105, but just never put the dots together. I remember buying Let it Be and thinking “Oh, I know this” two bars into I Will Dare. That led to Sorry Ma, Stink, & Hootenany in quick succession.

  15. 1989, the guy living down the hall from me was playing “Please to Meet Me” a lot. He let me borrow the CD. He never got it back.

  16. I heard I Will Dare on WLIR here on Long Island when Let It Be came out and that wast it they are one of my all time favorite bands

  17. I was a graduate students in Plant Biology at the University of Illinois in the Fall of 1984 when I heard a song on the Independent Radio Station in town, WEFT. It was “Color Me Impressed.” After suffering through the early 80’s, this song cut through it all. I went to Record Swap, the local Indy record store and the scary dude behind the counter gave me the complete history of the band. I bought Hootenany and haven’t looked back. In the spring of 1986, The Replacements played at Mabel’s, the local club, and just shredded. They were so loud and tight. Just blew me away. And they made fun of the opening band, a local group from Urbana!

  18. I was taking a flight a small airport out in San Francisco with my androgynous friends Tommy, Tim and Gary, who were raised in the city. The kids didn’t follow, they were hangin’ downtown after they played at the talent show. Don’t ask why, but all of the waitresses in the sky called out Gary’s name; I think it had something to do with him being a regular. When they did, Tim told me “don’t tell a soul, but Gary’s got a boner.” As it turned out, our seats were not together, they were back to back. We were all unsatisfied and bent out of shape, but I figured “I will dare” to meet the people next to me – the replacements. I found them to be sadly beautiful and have been all shook down ever since!

  19. I was taking a flight from a small airport out in San Francisco with my androgynous friends Tommy, Tim and Gary, who were raised in the city. The kids didn’t follow, they were hangin’ downtown after they played at the talent show. Don’t ask why, but all of the waitresses in the sky called out Gary’s name; I think it had something to do with him being a regular. When they did, Tim told me “don’t tell a soul, but Gary’s got a boner.” As it turned out, our seats were not together, they were back to back. We were all unsatisfied and bent out of shape, but I figured “I will dare” to meet the people next to me – the replacements. I found them to be sadly beautiful and have been all shook down ever since!

  20. I walked into my favorite record store, maybe 8th grade or 9th. At the entry I saw a giant framed concert photo of the band. Bob was wearing a tu-tu type thing and running across the stage. Tommy and Paul were yelling in unison, clearly rocking and not giving a fuck. I immediately went to the counter, found out who the band was, and the store owner fronted me credit so I could buy both Let It Be and Tim. I never looked back.

  21. 99.1 WHFS…the greatest radio station ever!

  22. I heard them sometime in the late ’80s on 99.1 WHFS…the greatest radio station ever!

  23. It was 1984, I was 15, and I was going to this older girls house to listen to some punk albums with her and her friends. She had “Stink” (I mean the album not the body odor), I loved it. The next weekend I got a ride to the record store to get it but they didn’t have it. However, they had the new Replacements album: Let It Be. I got it and I’ve been a fan ever since.

  24. It was 1988, and I was visiting my dad in Minnesota. I had recently discovered Soul Asylum, and The Gear Daddies…but then I hit the mother lode when a record store clerk told me to check out The Replacements and Husker Du. Done and done. Huge Mats fan ever since.

  25. They’re really not on the musical radar, or at least they weren’t when I discovered them 14 years ago, of people in Ireland so I was pretty fortunate that an older, much cooler guy I worked with in Virgin Megastores at the time turned me on to them by lending me a taped cassette copy of ‘Let it Be’. From the first second, that was it, I was hooked. They are the best rock band of all time, by a country mile.

  26. Had vaguely heard of them but first really read about them in Our Band Could Be Your Life. Out of all the bands in that book, their music connected with me most. Timeless.

  27. The first time I saw the Replacements was at a club called Duffy’s in Minneapolis, located on 26th and 26th. There was no cover charge, and I believe the opening band was the Skammets. I believe it was 1981 or 1982. Crazy, crazy show with the Mats doing a very drunk set of Hank Williams songs.

  28. Let it Be, my freshman year in college. I was a huge Beatles fan at the time and decided to check out this band that had the balls to steal the name of their last album. Soon discovered that I liked The Replacements just as much, if not more.

    Tried to see them live but didn’t have success until the reunion. Check out my blog entry and photos on that here — http://glenncook.virb.com/our-reality-show/14071324.

  29. I was in high school in Canada and read the glowing reviews of the just released Let it Be. A friend of mine was going to Minneapolis on a band trip, so I asked me to pick up the vinyl. He brought it back and promptly showed me the song list on the back of the jacket, including “Gary’s got a Boner.” Needless to say he shouted that out anytime he saw me for the next few weeks. Love the band, love the book…

  30. I was in high school in Canada and read the glowing reviews of the just released Let it Be. A friend of mine was going to Minneapolis on a band trip, so I asked him to pick up the vinyl. He brought it back and promptly showed me the song list on the back of the jacket, including “Gary’s got a Boner.” Needless to say he shouted that out anytime he saw me for the next few weeks. Love the band, love the book…

  31. I told a friend I was sick of mainstream music about 10 years ago. He started sharing his library with me. The 2nd cd he let me borrow was All Shook Down. I listened to every song at least 3 times before moving on to the next song. Couldn’t get enough and still haven’t. No other band even comes close for me.

  32. The Replacements were so popular so fast it blew my mind at the record store and radio station I worked at. We had constant calls for their music. And there was a time in the 80’s they were everybody’s fav band. I first heard them at the record store and was impressed with the ‘punk’ mentality but the rock n roll songs. No one was doing this at the time and it was a refreshing change from bands trying to invent a new sound or latch onto a trendsetter a time when everything seemed to sound like Joy Division.

  33. The teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait came out my Senior year of High School, and though I loved the movie, their song on the soundtrack always stood above and beyond it, a reference whose expectations the movie couldn’t really meet.

  34. The first time I came across The Replacements was when I was a very, very dedicated Beatles fan at about the age of 14. I came across The Replacements album Let It Be, felt insulted by their audacity, and I wrote a ridiculous, uninformed, scathing review on iTunes. I walked away feeling quite chuffed with the whole thing.

    Years later, I was listening to music on YouTube when I came across “Bastards of Young,” and my head snapped up in attention. After listening to that multiple times a day, I decided to listen to “Kiss Me on the Bus,” which I also immediately loved. It reminded me of an old favorite, Alex Chilton. I’ve since bought their albums, the book by Bob Mehr, and am just a big fan in general.

  35. I first heard the mats on some obscure college radio station in the early 80s….I will dare.i was instantly hooked and bought the let it be lp. It took no time for me to get anything else they had recorded .I was also fortunate to see them live in NYC I think it was the Irving plaza green on red opened for them…Bob Stimson came out,.took off his pants and put a dress on and then what can only be described as an incredible beer soaked rowdy as hell show broke out,,with green on red joining them for a few songs on stage.paul broke his finger stage diving at the show.afterwards we hung out as the rest of the crowd filed out,.and out came Bob Stimson tripping over my friends feet.we wound up chatting with him for a few minutes before Tommy came out and dragged him backstage.bob was extremely nice,.no snobby rock star holier than thou attitude just real down to earth…perhaps Mick Jones of the clash could’ve learned something from him,.Mick Jones was one of those rock snobs too good for his fans as I’ve found out.needless to say the replacements have been my number 1 favorite band since then…at a time when lots of British bands dominated the rock scene,the mats were the bulldozer that paved the way for American bands to rise up and dominate,..I for one as a song writer have been heavily influenced by them.i also have every Paul w solo stuff,..the replacements are the soundtrack of my life.RIP BOB STINSON,..GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN.

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