Rhino released deluxe editions of four classic Replacements albums in late April, all produced by the band's longtime manager and Twin/Tone Records co-founder Peter Jesperson with plenty of input from the group's surviving members. Here, Paste associate editor Steve LaBate offers a track-by-track analysis of the extras.
Sorry, Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (13 extras)
Live Demos, 1980
"Raised in the City"
"Don't Turn Me Down"
This material was the first that Peter Jesperson ever heard from the band. Westeberg dropped the demo tape off with him at Oar FolkJokeOpus—the record store where Jesperson was employed—in an attempt to get a gig at a local club Jepserson also worked at. The band was signed to Twin/Tone shortly thereafter. While these demo recordings are overly fuzzed out, the versions of "Raised in the City" and "Shutup" are every bit as energetic as the album versions and far warmer, if a bit sloppier. They're perfect time capsules of the early Replacements' youthful punk-rock intensity. The next two bonus tracks, "Don't Turn Me Down" and "Shape Up," didn't appear on any official Replacements records. The former is an amped-up Chuck Berry-style rocker, delivered with an irreverent, pleading snarl, as Westerberg begs the object of his affection not to reject to him. And the latter is a straight-ahead New York Dolls-referencing punk tune with some ripping lead-guitar work from Bob Stinson—solid stuff, if unessential. Still, this set of tracks was more than enough to pique Jesperson's interest and change rock history in the process. "I could hardly believe my ears," he recalls of these demos in the deluxe-edition's liner notes. "It sounded like a wild reinterpretation of the fundamentals of rock—like Chuck Berry, the Stones and the Sex Pistols all rolled into one."
"You Ain't Gotta Dance"
"Get on the Stick"
On July 21, 1980, The Replacements went into the studio for the first time ever and cut these three demos. The location was Blackberry Way in Minneapolis, the same studio where the band would later make the Stink EP. "You Ain't Gotta Dance" is bolstered by a feel-good vibe and an excellent melody from Westerberg. Musically, it's a slightly more sophisticated song and would've fit nicely on any Twin/Tone-era Replacements album, even Let It Be. The take here is excellent, but it's a shame there isn't a better recording available. "Get on the Stick" is a rambunctious double entendre of an uptempo shuffle that likely had crowds jumping during the band's early sets. The last studio demo, the 100-mile-an-hour punkabilly explosion of "Oh Baby," plays like Buddy Holly juiced on speed.
Outtakes, Alternate Takes
"A Toe Needs a Shoe"
"Customer (Alternate Take)"
"Basement Jam (Rehearsal)"
For an early-'80s punk band, The Replacements had some serious guitar chops, and their masterful riffing and lightning-fast leads are fully represented here. Still, these first two tracks wouldn't have added any new depth or color to Sorry Ma (though the album really only had three moods anyway: pissed-off fast rocker, happy fast rocker and "Johnny's Gonne Die"). "A Toe Needs A Shoe" is an interesting, catchy precursor to later Replacements instrumentals like "Buck Hill." The outtake of "Customer"—aside from the few different lyrics (Westerberg often improvised or changed them from take to take while recording), the more muffled sound and the slightly weaker vocal performance—is basically a throwaway track, offering nothing new even for diehard fans.
The obviously composed-on-the-spot "Basement Jam"—which was cut from Sorry Ma at the last second because of the vinyl-pressing plant's space concerns—is sloppy-good fun, with some hilariously (and consciously) bad lyrics, plenty of goofing and a horrendous performance on par with Hootenanny's instrument-swapping title track. The song was recorded in Bob and Tommy Stinson's basement, which doubled as The Replacements' practice space.
B-Side from the "I'm In Trouble" single
"If Only You Were Lonely"
A true blue-collar drunkard's silver-lined ballad, "If Only You Were Lonely" is one of the finest songs the band ever released—and reason enough on its own to justify buying this deluxe reissue. The achingly honest, hard-luck barroom plea—delivered fully stripped-down, with nothing but ragged vocals, a 12-string and one other acoustic guitar for sparse lead fills—pours from the lips of an average guy trying his best to hit on a girl just out of his league. It's vintage Westerberg. The protagonist is so drunk he can't remember his pickup line, so instead he speaks from the heart, sweet and straightforward as can be, saying: "If only you were lonely ... I'd go home with you." Strange as it may seem, the de facto leader of this band of Minneapolis teenagers and twentysomethings—who were playing mostly high-speed punk rock at the time—somehow managed to write one of the greatest country songs of all time.
"Staples in her Stomach"
"Hey, Good Lookin'"
"(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock"
These first two songs were recorded on the same day as the rest of Stink, which was finished tracking in a day (everything except for "Kids Don't Follow" was done in one take). Again, "Staples in her Stomach" is a typical early-Replacements rocker: a solid punk tune with blistering guitar solos, but nothing new or revealing. However, the two covers—of Hank Williams and Bill Haley & the Comets, respectively—illustrate a big part of what was so great about The Replacements: a depth of knowledge about music you'd never expect a band like them to even care about, never mind cover (here, a classic-country come-on and the first huge '50s rock 'n' roll hit). And the band brings such a refreshing attitude to it—"we don't care if these songs aren't cool, we love 'em and we're gonnna play 'em anyway!"
Solo Home Demo
"You're Getting Married"
This is a gorgeous, sighing, heartfelt ballad about finding out a former love is marrying someone else, and the pain is tangible. While the boombox recording—made by Paul in the basement of his parents' house—constantly clips and is terribly out of tune, Westerberg's impassioned vocals slice like a rusted blade, and the lyrics stand alongside his best: "You're like a guitar in the hands of some fool who just can't play / You're like an inmate counting off the days / And you say you'll both be happy / But you forgot to tell your eyes ... You're like a flower in the dark / You ain't never gonna bloom." In 2005, when work first began on putting together these deluxe-edition reissues, Westerberg told blogger Tony Pierce that this song was the Holy Grail of the Twin/Tone-period extras. Like many Replacements tunes, the brilliant song ends just as tentatively as it began, petering out as Paul blows the chords, followed by a loud thud and a knowing laugh.
From the KQDS-FM talent-search-contest compilation Trackin' Up North
"Lookin' For Ya"
According to the liner notes, this compilation was sponsored by Miller High Life as part of the "Rock To Riches" talent search. "Lookin' For Ya," the track The Replacements submitted, has the same type of hard-driving rockabilly influence that comes through on Hootenanny classic "Take me Down to the Hospital."
"Junior's Got A Gun (rough mix)"
"Aint' No Crime"
"Johnny Fast (rough mix)"
"Treatment Bound (alternate version)"
Junior's Got A Gun" and "Ain't No Crime" are tied closely to the sound of The Replacements' first two releases (the band was in transition at this point to a more complex, diverse sound, as evidenced by album gems like "Treatment Bound," "Color Me Impressed" and "Within Your Reach"). Still, Tommy Stinson's rambunctious bass-playing on "Junior" is in full force, and you can hear the obvious influence The Replacements would later have on the early years of Guns N' Roses (who, bizarrely, Tommy would later join, after lead singer Axl Rose kicked out all the founding members). "Johnny Fast" is a super-charged breakneck version of Sorry Ma's haunting rock tragedy "Johnny's Gonna Die." While not as affecting as the original, it's still a really strong reading, and, of course, its cool to see how the band experimented with different arrangements. The last studio outtake included here is a better-recorded take of classic slacker anthem, "Treatment Bound." While it's definitely sonically superior to the utlra-trebly album version, it just doesn't come close to the passion and zeitgeist the original was brimming with. Plus, on the outtake, Westerberg's best lyric from the album version—"The label wants a hit / and we don't give a shit"—is replaced by the not nearly as cool/tough/rebellious, "The label wants a hit / and I am working on it." Plus, the ending doesn't train wreck like it should. The messed-up chords, clinking bottles and drunken banter of the original make for a far better ending to the Hootenanny.
Solo Home Demo
Another blue-collar masterpiece, this time in the form of an old-school acoustic-blues shuffle, "Bad Worker" has more grit than a mouthful of sand. You can taste the dead-end boredom and malaise.
B-side from the 12-inch 45 of "I Will Dare"
"20th Century Boy"
Released in August of 1984, this T. Rex cover doesn't sparkle as much as the original, but it certainly rocks harder.
Solo Home Demo
This fan favorite is one of the most desperate and dramatic breakup songs ever laid to tape. It might be dated in its technological references, but certainly not in its sentiment. This hissing, home-recorded version—without the synthetic-sounding chorus/flange guitar effect found on the studio album—seems to fit better with the song's open-wound honesty.
"Heartbeat—It's a Lovebeat (rough mix)"
"Sixteen Blue (alternate vocal)"
By the time The Replacements went into the studio to record their first bonafide classic, Let It Be, the band—through several years of playing together—had matured considerably, becoming more proficient musically and also delivering on the promise of early gems like "If Only You Were Lonely," "You're Getting Married" and "Color Me Impressed." So it's no surprise that the outtakes from the Let It Be sessions are highlights of these Rhino-reissue extras. While the more loose, alternate-vocal version of "Sixteen Blue" is identical to the original in almost every way, it's fascinating to hear Westerberg's slightly altered, obviously off-the-cuff lyrics. He might've been a pretty decent free-style rapper if he'd grown up in the Bronx instead of South Minneapolis. "Perfectly Lethal" is complex and aching in the same way as some of the best material on later Replacements albums Pleased to Meet Me and Tim. The cover of The Grass Roots' "Temptation Eyes"—one of the band's live staples at the time—again shows The Replacements' daring and versatility, not to mention their simultaneous sincerity and sense of humor. And this hair-raising, lo-fi rendition of "Heartbeat—It's A Love Beat" (which was little more than mindless pop candy when originally sung by 13-year-old Tony DeFranco in 1973), takes on a startling emotional depth, riding the quivering angst of Westerberg's pleading voice straight into accidental relevance.