Thursday, November 9, 2006

I WILL DARE...: To suggest that the Replacements belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The 'Mats, who are eligible for the first time this year, were not among the nine finalists (a list, I'll remind you that included The Dave Clark Five), a crime on the level of the Lufthansa Heist. Take a second to dig Tim out of that box of CDs (why haven't you uploaded it, yet?) and read along as I put The Replacements through our soon to be famous Keltner Test.

1. Were The Replacements ever regarded as the best band in rock music? Did anybody, while they were active, ever suggest The Replacements was the best band in rock music?

Perhaps they were never thought of as the best, considering they were at their peak at the same time REM and U2 were generally considered one-two on the top of the list, but for a few years in the mid-'80s they were in the team picture

2. Were The Replacements ever the best band in rock music in its genre?

It would depend on how narrow you want to define their genre. I think you have to lump them in with U2 and REM, who at the time were still considered “college music” and thus they lag behind again, but just barely. Let It Be and Tim stand up to anything U2 and REM put out in that era.

3. Was any individual member of The Replacements ever considered the best at his instrument/role?

No, not really, unless you consider Paul Westerberg's songwriting a role, and then the answer would be yes. Westerberg at the top of his game was on par with Elvis Costello when it came to some of the cleverest songwriting in that era (“Jesus rides beside me and never buys any smokes” is one of my favorite lines of all time and who doesn't love a couplet like “Did five push-ups this morning/That was half of my goal/Tonight I'll be doing pull-ups on the toilet bowl) and no one expressed angst and alienation in those years better (see “Machine, Answering and “Regular, Here Comes a”). One of the better descriptions I've ever seen of Westerberg was on Pitchfork, calling him an “Indie rock Springsteen.”

4. Did The Replacements have an impact on a number of other bands?

Oh my God, yes. Practically any band labeled alternative that followed----a big tent that would include everyone from Wilco to Green Day to the Goo Goo Dolls--owes a debt to The Replacements, most notably a little band from Seattle that hit it big in the early '90s, with a similar predication to swing between mindless noise and angst-ridden ballads (often times in the same song).

5. Were The Replacements good enough that the band could play regularly after passing its prime?

Oh, for a reunion show. Maybe the fact that Tommy Stimson played bass on a few of Westerberg's songs for the Open Season soundtrack hints at things to come.

6. Are The Replacements the very best band in history that is not in the Hall of Fame?

Probably, when it comes to rock proper. At the very least, they on par with some of the major oversights including Roxy Music, Tom Waits, and even ABBA. (I am ignoring REM, who are a mortal lock to make the class of 2007).

7. Are most bands who have a comparable recording history and impact in the Hall of Fame?

Indeed. The Replacements are more of the short and spectacular school, having lasted about a decade. But what they lack in longevity, they more than made up for in influence and quality of work. Considering some of the bands with similarly short careers and great influence, such as The Clash and The Sex Pistols, who have been inducted in recent years (not to mention older short-lived bands like Traffic, The Yardbirds, Cream, and Buffalo Springfield), The 'Mats belong.

8. Is there any evidence to suggest that the band was significantly better or worse than is suggested by its records?

The Replacements in many ways are one of rock's hard-luck stories. Derailed by substance abuse, immaturity, conflicting visions, daunting ciritical acclaim, in listening today to some of the band's best material, you can hear a group that had things broken the right way, should have been as big as its peers. Alas, while REM and U2 are played on classic rock stations and even Lite FM today, the Mats remain “Left of the Dial,” the Big Star of the 80s.

9. Is it the best band in its genre who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?

If you remove REM from the picture, than yes. (Sorry Husker Du, fans.)

10. How many No. 1 singles/gold records did The Replacements have? Did The Replacements ever win a Grammy award? If not, how many times were The Replacements nominated?

I couldn't find any evidence that any of The Replacements albums reached gold status, which isn't surprising considering their highest peaking album, Don't Tell a Soul, only reached No. 57 on the Billboard charts. As for the Grammys, who can forget the 1986 awards when “Hold My Life” beat out “That's What Friends Are For” in the song of the year category.

In all seriousness, The Replacements have received some belated acclaim from the Establishment. Tim was No. 136 and Let It Be was 236 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.

11. How many Grammy-level songs/albums did DD have? For how long of a period did the band dominate the music scene? How many Rolling Stone covers did they appear on? Did most of the bands with this sort of impact go into the Hall of Fame?

Grammy-worthy doesn't really apply to a band like The Replacements. And while it's hard to say The Replacements dominated the scene, any rock snob worth his or her salt had them close to the top of the favorite bands from the period between 1983's Hootenanny and 1987's Pleased to Meet Me. The Replacements never equaled the accomplishment of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, that being landing on the cover of the Rolling Stone. And indeed, most bands with this kind of influence on guitar-based pure rock music are in the Hall.

12. If this band was the best band at a concert, would it be likely that the concert would rock?

The concert would surely have the potential to rock. The problem with live Replacements is well documented—often times the band members showed up too drunk and/or high to put on a coherent show, choosing instead to play a random array of covers suggested by equally drunk and/or high audience members. A Replacements concert was always an adventure, but it was never boring. Fittingly, the band mythically imploded during a live appearance at Taste of Chicago in 1991, with the band members one by one ceding their instruments to roadies and never playing together as a group again.

13. What impact did the band have on rock history? Was it responsible for any stylistic changes? Did it introduce any new equipment? Did it change history in any way?

The course of college music or alternative music would be decidedly different without the Replacements. They made it safe to totally rock while at the same time singing about your insecurities, a formula numerous bands would ride to greater success in the '90s.

14. Did the band uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?

Between the drunkenness—the band owes its name to being banned after showing up for their first live gig plowed—the angst and anxiety expressed in Westerberg's best songs, and the band's star-crossed and self-defeating quest to make it big, the Replacements in many ways embody rock and roll. And just the fact that their most famous video (remember this is the mid-80s when video was everything) features nothing but a pulsating speaker, makes them the very model of the kind of band the Hall should be honoring. If there is any further doubt as to The Replacements upholding the standards of rock sportsmanship, track down the book Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama and read drummer Chris Mars' chapter “Eight Really Dumb Things the Replacements Did.”

Conclusion: The fact that The Replacements are not even nominated this year, while a middling British Invansion act like the Dave Clark Five is criminal. The Hall needs to cast a bigger net and include bands like the Replacements, a band who for many of us of a certain age defined “college” rock in the 1980s.

Good Lord, yes, The Replacements, deserve to be enshrined in Cleveland.

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