Beach Slang‘s James Alex says one of his most influential albums comes from a band his own group has been compared to countless times, The Replacements. The ‘Mats’ 1987 album, Pleased to Meet Me, not only gave Alex the songwriting push he needed to take Beach Slang to the next step, it also features one of his all-time favourite songs. But maybe not the one you’d think?
James Alex: “This is shooting from the hip, and I could answer right now and probably change my mind in 10 minutes, but in this moment in time that we’re talking right now, I could definitely hit you with a favourite record. Pleased to Meet Me by The Replacements has always been really huge for me. I like everything by them since the beginning, but something about when they got to this album and [guitarist/vocalist Paul] Westerberg’s songwriting started to go into a place I’m more drawn to as a songwriter. Stink and Sorry Ma had that really punk attack, and I subscribe to the spirit of that, and I love the songs on those albums, and those records mean so much to me, but as a songwriter I really dig on the direction they went with Pleased to Meet Me. A song like “Never Mind” has always meant so much to me. I just got asked by someone about my favourite song of all time, and while that’s totally impossible to answer, I can think of the one that really lifted me up as a writer for the Beach Slang stuff, and that’s “Never Mind” on this record. Then there’s “Alex Chilton” and “The Ledge,” and they cut the album in Memphis with [producer] Jim Dickinson, and with all of the Big Star interconnectivity on the album, so it just felt like it all came together on that record. All the cool things they were thinking and believing in, it just sort of all hit perfectly on this record.”
Last weekend at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, Beach Slang played PTMM in its entirety, as part of a fundraiser for the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund. Craig Finn joined them for a rousing “Can’t Hardly Wait”.
There’s an excellent piece by David Cantwell in The New Yorker entitled “Why Rock Criticism Was Essential to the Replacements”. It’s a review of the book that focuses on (as the title says) the importance and influence of rock criticism on the band, or more specifically on Paul.
“I was weaned on critics. I read every issue of Creem, Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy!,” Westerberg tells Mehr, adding, later, “I started to get a sense of what critics think is cool.” He also got a sense of what a certain type of critic did not think was cool. Critics, Westerberg explains, taught him that Top Forty singles and album-oriented-rock tracks were corny and hackneyed, and that punk rock—Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls especially—was the way to go. Happily, the lessons young Paul Westerberg learned from all those critics freed him to explore new sounds. And, just as happily, he and the other Replacements followed those lessons only intermittently, mixing uncool bubblegum, A.O.R., and singer-songwriter balladry in with the punk—and whatever else was needed.
Photograph by Robert Matheu / Camera Press / Redux
Here’s the full list of Bob Mehr’s upcoming rock and reading for “Trouble Boys”, including appearances with Dave Minehan and Josh Freese. Some details still to come for the West Coast dates.
May 31 – Boston @ 7PM | Cafe 939 (Berklee)
A conversation with Dave Minehan and Bob Mehr. The event is free but you do need to reserve tickets.
June 3 – Philadelphia @ 7PM | Main Street Music
Discussion and Q&A, plus music from Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) and Frank Brown (Travel Lanes). Also a celebration of the release of the vinyl box set “The Sire Years.”
June 4 – Hoboken @ 8PM | Little City Books
This one features Bob in conversation with Replacements A&R man Michael Hill PLUS’Mats music from Freedy Johnston (with Dave Schramm), Glenn Morrow’s Cry for Help, The Dead Wicks, Jennifer O’Connor, and more.
June 11 – Long Beach @ 4PM | Fingerprints
A discussion with Josh Freese. There will also be live music (artists TBA), plus raffles and giveaways from Rhino to celebrate the recent ‘Mats box set “The Sire Years.”
June 12 – L.A. @ 4PM | Book Soup
Discussion and Q&A, more details to come.
People like to paint him as a reclusive this or that; I think he was genuinely truly, truly shy. But one thing says a lot about him: I was there (Paisley Park) making a solo record a few years later, and I got a message that said that my friend had just died. I was truly rattled, and the next time I went back into the studio, he had filled it up with balloons. Now I’m gonna cry.
I’ve spent more time with Bob Dylan, and I’ve got to say that I was more in awe of Prince. I can’t think of anyone better – an all-around composer, musician, guitarist, star, showman, the whole package, anyone better. If Elvis wrote all of his songs and played guitar, it still wouldn’t quite be there. He’d play Jimi Hendrix-style, between his legs and behind his back. And then he’d do the splits. He could put the guitar down, and Jimi would become James Brown. He could hold the crowd like Mick Jagger, but could Mick Jagger play the piano like that? And then, lyrically, there’s something like, “When Doves Cry.” There’s obviously more going on there than meets the booty.
When I got word today, I was trying to write a song. I put it down. I found myself walking up to the store, and I bought myself a handful of colorful clothes. I was just drawn to do something that he would have done.
Paul was also interviewed by MNN’s Scott Peterson.
Prince not only filmed “Purple Rain” at First Avenue, he recorded songs for the soundtrack in concert and often hung out there. His last time at the club was in February for a performance by locally rooted women’s R&B trio King.
“There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t hear a band playing one of his songs during sound check or someone asks for a tour because of Prince, or wants to come take a picture with his star on the wall,” said First Avenue General Manager Nate Kranz. “We cannot overstate what he means to this club.”
Fellow Minneapolis music vet Paul Westerberg of the Replacements told the Minnesota News Network that Prince “was a ray of light in a sometimes dour and cloudy place.” Compared to other local musicians, he said, “We were playing with toy trucks, and he was like Mario Andretti.”
In conjunction with Record Store Day’s “Vinyl Tuesday” initiative, THE SIRE YEARS will be available on Tuesday, March 29 for a suggested list price of $74.98. Production of the set will be limited to 8,700 numbered copies. As a special promotion – a number of fans who pre-order the collection from select independent stores will also receive an exclusive 7″ featuring “Can’t Hardly Wait (The Tim Version)” b/w “Portland,” both previously unreleased on vinyl – while supplies last.
If you’re in the L.A. area, there’s a release party on Monday 3/28:
Come celebrate the release of The Replacements’ ‘The Sire Years’ box set! Join us for Happy Hour Monday, March 28th from 5:30-7:30pm at Resident in Downtown Los Angeles. There will be Mats music, cool giveaways, special drinks and Criminal Hygiene playing a live set of Replacements covers!