Above: The Replacement’s first official photo shoot, Walker Art Center, 1981 Photos by Greg Helgeson
I moved to Minneapolis in 1998. For serious reasons like, “Home of Hüsker Dü and Charles Spencer Anderson.” That was enough for me. And being new to a town, you lurk around thinking about all the shit you missed. All those Twin Cities bands I was into, hell, they were long gone and dead. And the mere mention of my love for any of the ’80s stuff was enough to generate snarky quips from locals. I was just excited to be there…in the town that gave us the Replacements!
What I knew about the ‘Mats was limited. I came to the band pretty late, opting for the obvious roster of punk rock bands that I saw on my skateboarder friends’ t-shirts. By the time I discovered them for myself, the band was broken up and scattered. All I had were the ghosts. They were my uncle’s ages. That put things into perspective for me. They were all grown up and family men and what not. All the lore I was hearing about was in their youth. And that was so long ago.
Such a bittersweet little story to them. They were that close to making it, consistently blowing it time and time again with disastrous tours, infighting, and record company disillusionment. And then, out of nowhere, they would be on for a night. And that’s what would fuel the legend of the Replacements. Folks would show up expecting to see a train wreck, and instead get blown away by the tightest band in the world. I like that kind of sucker punch.
Turns out they didn’t make a cent? Or so I’ve been told by dudes working in guitar and record stores around the cities. That hurt to hear. They were big, but maybe not that big. I’d scour the town thinking about what they were up to. I still do. Working stiffs? Bored? Proud? Or maybe Westerberg’s in his basement making songs? I hope so, at least.
I saw their Walker Art Center photo shoot a couple year back. So young and dumb and wild and awesome. That’s still enough for me.