Forget about The Replacements. If you live in or near Minneapolis, or just like to read about Minneapolis, you should probably read All Over But the Shouting, the new “oral history” on The Replacements compiled/written/arranged by Jim Walsh. It’s going to help you understand our civic character, our “preoccupation with everyone else’s humility,” as Grant Hart puts it in the first chapter. It’s also a good geographical study—specifically of a neighborhood in South Minneapolis, the so-called “Catholic Ghetto,” a huddle of working- and middle-class families that sent their kids to parochial school, spawning The Replacements and Soul Asylum and Jim Walsh (a lot of those dudes still live around there). You’ll also figure out what Uptown is all about, or at least the area from Franklin to Lake Street and Hennepin to Lyndale, where all those bands ended up living and practicing.
Walsh’s writing has an exuberance that’s always bothered me. He seems to be rooting for the underdog in everything he’s ever written, he consistently finds hope in the everyday, and he does this thing where he separates two or three nouns or adverbs with slashes: “passionately/drunkenly,” “manager/mentor/fan/friend.” It’s as if all the words sound so awesome he can’t make up his mind.
But in All Over But the Shouting, Walsh does several important things well. First, he tells a story about this important band that people are starting to forget about (I’m not even that huge of a fan and I can say without hyperbole that The Replacements’ Let It Be stands right there with albums like Revolver and Sticky Fingers. People shouldn’t be forgetting about these guys).
Second, his exuberant writing only makes a few cameos—he tells this story by carefully selecting clips from newspapers, old interviews, old reviews, together with new interviews with whoever would talk to him (it’s obvious that Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson did not, at least not on the record), and some important bystanders that knew the band back in the day, along with a few fans who saw them 100 times, and a few who never did. He even interviews his own family for their take on growing up in the same neighborhood.
The research must’ve been a bitch. Not only does he weave these threads together to tell a coherent story, which would’ve been difficult enough, but there is a sense of time in motion: there are moments of suspense (are they going to be signed in New York or not?) and moments of heavy psychological tension (you’re right there with Slim Dunlap, feeling all that Judas-weight for replacing Bob Stinson). And perhaps most dauntingly, the thing Walsh does best is write in an honest way about people he considers his friends.
Writing about your friends is tough to do. If you’re a writer and you’re interested in art in this modestly sized city of ours, you basically don’t have a choice. You’re inevitably going to become friends with some of the artists, and then you’re screwed. Maybe this is why Walsh sounds so exuberant all the time—he’s constantly rooting for his peeps.
I felt the pressure at First Ave. Wednesday night at The Replacements tribute concert for the release of AOBTS. Something like fifteen bands were all covering three or four Replacements tunes each, and I had a couple of close buddies who were going up. Thank God they came though. Johnny Swardson did a stark desperate cover of “The Ledge” in the Entry, and my buddies in Revolver Modele turned “Unsatisfied” into goth disco fever in the Main Room.
I shouldn’t have worried. I know it’s impossible to sound like Westerberg, and most everybody else did too. Nothing to lose then. It was like that movie of five-minute shorts by famous directors about Paris—Paris, Je'Taime—where people just did their spin on a common theme in a well-run circus for people with short attention spans. You can’t go wrong with everybody doing a couple of covers and then shouting, “Thanks, good night!” Even if they suck, it’s only for a couple minutes.
I bounced between the rooms, running into people, saying hello between songs. I was down in the green room below the Entry drinking free Bud and talking to Terry Walsh, Jim’s older brother, about the Delmon Young trade as Jeremy Messersmith did a beautiful version of “Skyway” above us. I was back in the Main Room for Kruddler’s motley cover of “Little Mascara” and The Alarmists' clinical assault on “Left of the Dial.” (Their lead singer had a Moby Dick’s T-shirt on even though the place was torn down while he was probably in pre-school.)
I went back to the Entry to see Stook! do “Unsatistfied” in a way that made my buddy Ross quip, “That’s exactly how I would’ve done it.” (I’ve never heard Ross sing a note.) Made it back to the Main Room to see Birthday Suits blister through two glorious, completely unintelligible tunes that may or may not have been Replacements songs. I left after that, pretty secure in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to wake up and hear that Westerberg showed up at 1 a.m. and did all the hits. E-mail me if I did.
Good times/Wednesday night/Replacements nostalgia/Very Minneapolis.