It’s Friday and We’re Coming Out

Oct 19, 2012 by

 

The Replacements, the band that should have made it but never did.  I wasn’t one of those kids that didn’t want my bands to succeed and keep them to myself.  I wanted the good ones to get big, to change the musical landscape, to save my fellow teens from all the crap they listened to.  I always thought the replacements were one album away from doing that. They were so clearly destined to make it. Songs like I will Dare, Left of the Dial and Alex Chilton were absolutely made to be played for the masses, not because they were cheesy, but because Paul Westerberg knew how to write songs portraying the hope and anguish of being young, in love, with nothing to lose.

I saw the Mats twice in my life.  The first time was an absolute debacle.  They fell all over each other, drinking, screaming and mumbling their way through half songs and poor covers.  At one point, Paul Westerberg just sat down and drank with his guitar in his lap, no longer even pretending to play.  The next time I saw them they headlined for Lets Active and blew my fucking brain right out of my head.  Tommy Stinson jumped and flailed and hit every note, while his brother Bob raced madly up and down the neck of the guitar smoking every riff.   Paul just kept stretching his voice, breaking as he reached higher than he possibly could with every note; Chris Mars somehow managed to keep it altogether behind his kit.  It was magic and I couldn’t believe I was privy to its conjuring.

The Replacements made you pick up a guitar and start a band.  We grew up with them, some of us older than Tommy on their first album (he was only 12). They were ageless, forever trapped in between adolescence and adulthood, singing with world weary knowledge in a teenager’s shoes.  They were punk in every way punk was supposed to be. They were trashy and reckless but sweet to the core.  Yeah, Black Flag, Bad Brains and the Dead Kennedys were hardcore, but they were so busy being hard that they missed the opportunity to express any real truth; ultimately they were propaganda; glorious, but propaganda none the less.

The Replacements couldn’t fake it even if they tried, they could muster up the bluster, but they couldn’t hide behind it.  Their hearts were on their sleeves, on display for all to see.  It was that naked honesty, unbridled and unapologetic, it made them who they were, and forever one of my favorite bands.

I’ve wanted to write something about the Replacements for a while now, but how do you write about something that means so much without boring everyone else to tears?  It’s like describing an acid trip to someone who wasn’t there with you; the meaning just doesn’t come through.

While I was busy making plans, the almost always excellent Pop Matters took care of business.  I love these guys and this piece breaks down their version of the ‘Mats’ top 15 songs.  I don’t necessarily agree with every song, or order, but it doesn’t matter.  You can pick out any 15 songs by the Replacements and you’ll likely come up with 15 classics, arguing their list would be pointless.  In fact, I feel a debt to them for putting something into words I’ve taken too long to do myself.

I guess if I had to argue with anything at all (and I’m kind of obligated to), it’s the exclusion of We’re Coming Out from Let It Be.

It might not be their best song, but it’s my favorite.  If the band had a calling card, this would be it.  From the opening guitar, to the finger snapping piano break, to the rally call lyric of “One more warning/one more warning sound/ We’re coming out!”  It’s the song that should have announced the band’s arrival in every teenage kid’s record collection, the sound of parents wondering what’s happened to little Johnny, the sound of two teenagers making out in the back seat of a car (preferably a ’67 caprice, in the middle of a cornfield somewhere…).

In some ways it was their coming out.  Let It Be began, as Pop Matters says, one of the greatest three album runs of all time.  It’s unfortunate they didn’t reach more ears at the time, but for those fierce few of us, it made high school and adolescence that much easier to get through.

I drunkenly wrote a 300 word analysis of We’re Coming Out, and part of me thought I’d let it see the light of day, in honor of that first time I saw the Replacements, but sobriety and better judgment prevailed.  Instead I’ll just play the song for you.  Listen to it like you’re 16, you’re inner teenager will thank you.

(I tried to find a live version with no success, if you find one, please post it in the comments)

 

 

 

 

 

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