I think I can probably qualify as a pretty big Replacements fan. I’ve loved them since about 1983. Have gone to every tour since, including every solo tour. So having watched and listened to Paul and company for that long I find myself not bothered one microscopic bit by this co-called break-up announcement. Why? you might ask. Because it’s the fucking Replacements. They live to fuck with us. That’s part of why we love them. Is there a more sarcastic genius on the planet than Paul? NO, there isn’t. So, my advice: everyone unruffle your panties, sit back, and wait. In the mean time, enjoy the music as you always have, enjoy the onslaught of live videos posted on YouTube, and be patient. What makes for great rock and roll is that you never know what’s going to happen next. And here we are…
Let me try to explain what that means to me. It would be like an extremely devout Catholic meeting the Pope. Like a Chicago Cubs fan not only seeing their team make it into the World Series, but sweeping the other team. Like a Jets fan seeing their team go undefeated. Like buying that Powerball ticket and being the lone winner of a few hundred million dollars. It’s a dream. It’s unreal. It could never happen.
But two weeks from now, on a Sunday evening in Toronto, they will take the stage. Will they play a perfect set of their most beloved songs? Will they be in cantankerous moods and play only parts of inconceivable cover songs? Will they rock? Roll? Will they have mellowed with age? Will they tear the non-existent roof off the fucking joint? It doesn’t matter. It’s a Replacements show. We’re not supposed to know what to expect. As long as they show up.
There are of course the naysayers. Those who say, “This isn’t The Replacements, it’s just Paul and Tommy.” To them I say, “shut the fuck up.” Bob is gone. Slim is ill. And Chris just doesn’t want to be a part of it. But still, this is Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson taking the stage and playing the songs that changed our lives, that in many cases defined our lives. If you have issue with it, don’t go. (Though I truly believe the naysayers are only naysayers because they can’t get to one of the three shows. Put a ticket in their hands and they’d be singing a different tune.)
I think about those I know who’ve never seen the band. Those who came late to the show (and coming late is a hell of a lot better than never showing up at all), or those who were too young to see the band during their day. The excitement they must be feeling as they think, I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I think of all the times one of their songs has figuratively saved by life. The blaring of “Here Comes A Regular,” and it somehow making me feel just a tad better, because I was not that guy in the song. The loud out-of-tune howling of “Unsatisfied,” knowing that I was not alone in the world. I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I think of the joy songs like “Color Me Impressed” or “Can’t Hardly Wait” or “If Only You Were Lonely” have brought me over the years. Always played a little too loud. Often played on endless repeat. Songs that still make me feel alive to this day. Songs that make me feel young, invincible, loud, brash, horny, crazy. The soundtrack to my personal life. I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I think of the inspiration the band has given me. Whether writing a book or working on a film, they were always there in the background. The soundtrack to my professional life. Stuck? Put on a Mats tune. Need to wake up? Put on a Mats tune. Done? Put on a Mats tune. They were even characters in my first novel. Not that this band needed to be fictionalized, they were always larger than life. But what other band would God’s daughter claim as her favorite? She is divine. She knows everything. She knows rock & roll. Ilona Ann Coggswater would be so happy for me. I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I think of the times I’ve seen them live. One of my favorite musical moments, Paul Westerberg coming back alone for the encore at the Beacon Theatre. A balloon in hand. Sucking in the helium. Singing “Hello Dolly” acapella, then leaving the stage, leaving us all wondering “what the fuck?” The audience cleared out, and when the last fan had left the building, the band burst back onto the stage, and ripped into a rollicking encore, leaving all of us to rush back in from the street. If was a moment I’ll never forget. I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I think of my wife beautiful Kristine, by my side for thirteen of the fifteen times I’ve seen them. Married for twenty years now. Often times people would ask our secret. I would ask Kris, “What’s your favorite band?” She’d answer “The Replacements. What’s yours?” And I’d answer “The Replacements.” And that would be the answer to the question. We’re seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
And of course, I think of being able to direct “Color Me Obsessed, a film about The Replacements.” Meeting and interviewing so many like-minded fans, some famous, many not, people who knew them, worked with them, produced their albums, wrote about them, were influenced by them, spent more time with them than any of their teenaged friends. An honor. I was humbled by the love, the devotion. I never felt more connected to people in my life. I was not alone. And I’m seeing The Replacements in two weeks.
I’ll be the first to admit that because I was making a documentary on The Replacements, I listened to them probably more than all other musicians combined. I rediscovered SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, hearing things that I had somehow never heard before (perhaps I previously focused a little too much on LET IT BE, TIM, and PLEASED TO MEET ME). And I probably played IF ONLY YOU WERE LONELY more than any other song. If was like an old friend, whispering over my shoulder, giving me encouragement and at times enlightenment.
That said, here are what I believe to be the best albums of 2010, in order:
1. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses – JUNKY STAR – If his voice doesn’t get you, the song writing certainly will. (Or at least the dirtiest guitar sound I’ve heard in a few years.) It was as if Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams had a kid, Eric Bachman was his older brother, and Paul Westerberg his obnoxious uncle. If that description doesn’t have you opening another browser window to order this damn thing now, then go and listen to HALLELUJAH (No, not the one we’d heard a million times over, another HALLELUJAH). I’ve given this album to a good half dozen people. The first word out of their mouths after one listen: “Hallelujah.” Then something like “wow.” Yeah, “wow,” says it best. This is a fucking great record, without a flaw.
2. Joanna Newsom – HAVE ONE ON ME – A three cd set that really defies description and begs to be heard from start to finish. A modern folk opera. Brilliant, certainly not for everyone, but if you give it a chance.
3. The Whigs – IN THE DARK – My favorite straight out rock album of the year. The closest thing I could find in the purest spirit of the Mats (that was actually worth listening to). KILL ME CAROLYNE is hands down my favorite song of the year.
4. Superchunk – MAJESTY SHREDDING – Shame on Mac and company for making us wait this long for another release, but one of the two best bands of the 90s (you know the Archers of Loaf was the other), returns to solid form with a record that sounds as if it could have been released in their heyday. LEARNED TO SURF is as good as rock gets in this decade.
5. Frightened Rabbit – THE WINTER OF MIXED DRINKS – An album of rousing anthems about drinking and screwing and all the things rock songs should be about. It’s one of those albums that just kept getting better on every listen. And that they can pull off the songs live was an eye-opener.
6. Ida Maria – KATLA – Last year she topped the list EASILY. And while this is nowhere the masterpiece of FORTRESS ROUND MY HEART, the gal from Norway nonetheless delivers 9 sucker punches. For anyone who thinks girls stopped rocking with Bikini Kill, give her a listen. Her lyrics are funny, sexy and the growl will make you weak in the knees.
7. Spoon – TRANSFERENCE – After writing these guys off because of their hideously lame GA GA GA cd from a few years back, Spoon returned to what they do best: catchy rock songs with good guitar licks. I know a bunch of people who wrote off this band after GA, take a chance and revisit them. While not as spectacular as GIRLS CAN TELL or KILL THE MOONLIGHT, still in a year of limp-doodle rock, it was damn refreshing.
8. Titus Andronicus – MONITOR – A concept album that may or may not be about the civil war. But who cares. It’s a rowdy collection of tunes that owe a lot to the spirit of The Replacements, and I can’t give a band higher praise.
9. The Gaslight Anthem – AMERICAN SLANG – Likewise Brian Fallon and company owe a bunch to the spirit of the Mats…with a little Springsteen tossed in. A solid rock album, a perfect summer driving record. Leading to…
10. Bruce Springsteen – THE PROMISE – outtakes from his best rock album (I’ll probably still take NEBRASKA over DARKNESS), his “punk” album if you will, are the sort of songs most rocker would die to write. Sure, it’s like reliving a time when rock music was exciting and vibrant, and it shook our worlds. Hmmm…because of that perhaps this should be in the number one slot.
The best songs of 2010 (in no particular order):
KILL ME CAROLYNE – The Whigs
CLEMENTINE – Sarah Jaffe
HURRICANE J – The Hold Steady
HALLELUJAH – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
LANTERN – Josh Ritter
PRECIOUS STONE – Pete Yorn
THE LONELINESS AND THE SCREAM – Frightened Rabbit
ANYBODY LOOKING FOR GOD – Grandpaboy
The most disappointing album:
THE SUBURBS – Arcade Fire – After the brilliance of NEON BIBLE my expectations were damn high. And at first listen I loved everything about this record. But by the fourth or fifth go around I was getting bored. And within a week it was removed from my playlist. I’ve never gone back. Have never even wanted to. Maybe it’s me.
Best Documentary: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (WAS IT REAL? Who cares? It was entertaining as hell, and Banksy proved himself one of the art geniuses of modern times.)
Best Film: THE TOWN (Riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama from Ben Affleck. BEN AFFLECK! A rare gem in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Rebecca Hall is heartbreakingly great.)
Most Enjoyable Film of 2010:
KICK-ASS (a movie that proved a beautifully foul-mouth 12-year-old girl could quite possibly be the greatest movie super hero of all time)
Guilty Pleasure Film of 2010:
CHLOE (two words: Amanda Seyfried)
Runners Up (In no particular order):
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
Worst Film of 2010
SOMEWHERE (I truly loved Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION. But I don’t know what happened here. I kept waiting for something to happen. Kept waiting to feel something for any of these characters. Still waiting. So utterly boring.)
That’s my list. It’s subject to change. Having spent most of the year filming and editing, I certainly didn’t get to see everything. I’ll update it as I do…
The third day of filming for CMO brought us back to NYC. A really cold day, February 2, 2010. Just me and Adrian making the drive.
We began with someone who’d become one of CMO’s patron saints, Jesse Malin. He was our first official rock star. We shot the interview at his bar Niagra, on Avenue A and 7th Street.
Jesse was great! He told stories that seemed to connect with Jack Rabid’s, of seeing them on their East Coast Whirl back in 1983, of jamming with Paul Westerberg after their set at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. He spoke of how the band seemed like a real gang, nothing phony about them. And when asked what he would tell a younger rock fan to turn them onto The Replacements, he said:
“It’s real. It’s real rock n’ roll. It encompasses everything that rock n’ roll and punk rock should have. Great songs. Great energy. Rebel music. A fuck you. A comradery of the people. A great sense of humor. And a unique style. A unique sound. Fearless. Timeless in a way.”
Before we continue with the interview process, I want to stress to any people making films out there, or thinking of making a film:
1. You’re out of your freaking mind!
2. You need a poster and a website NOW.
It’s one of the first things I do. Even if nothing has been filmed. Because when you speak about the movie you are planning to make, people will inevitably want to check it (something) out online. Thus, Sarah Hajtol initially set up a simple site for Color Me Obsessed, which was the poster you see below, and a bunch of simple HTML links on the side: what’s new, director’s site, pages for my last film, and the one before it, facebook, twitter, etc., and so on. SOMETHING.
But how exactly did we arrive at the poster? Well, I basically drove Sarah crazy (as I always do), telling her to forget everything she learned in school and go nuts. Now, enjoy this poster while you can, because a new one is in the works (see the plaid one at the bottom of this post).
But in the meantime, let me show you a few of the designs that never made it past their embryonic stage…
Before we went plaid, we were aiming for something based upon the old Let It Be house…
…or a speaker, as in the Bastards Of Young video.
…or a volume knob…
Until one day I thought…plaid pants…and sent Sarah every plaid background I could find…and voila, she made magic:
(P.S. We are missing names from the credits above…but that will be corrected on the new version.)
Adrian and I ended the day in Boston back at Q Division Studios, first with an interview with the guys from AM Stereo, who have an amazing Replacements inspired number call “Bob Stinson” then with Bill Janovitz, the lead singer of Buffalo Tom.
The one thing that was becoming very apparent, was that in the grand tradition of the Velvet Underground, The Replacements inspired people to pick up guitars and play. The punk tradition that anyone could do it. But you didn’t even need the uniform. Look I love The Clash. I think they’re one of the five greatest bands of all time. (Live, the second greatest band of all time.) But let’s be real, they wore a uniform. The Mats on the other hand looked as if they’d just rolled out of bed. As if they’d perhaps slept in their clothes. They looked like the guys working the mini-mart or pop in any clichéd job description you want. And they were hardly the greatest musicians when they started. Hell, they were hardly ever in tune. But they inspired such hope and confidence.
They made it look easy. Real talent does that. Makes you believe it’s a cinch. Of course, then you try and write a song like “Unsatisfied” or “Color Me Impressed” or “If Only You Were Lonely,” and you suddenly realize their brilliance. Not only is it harder than it looks. A lot harder. It’s impossible. The proof is that no one would ever do it again quite like The Replacements.
We interviewed Dave Minehan in his Wooly Mammoth Sound Studio. Not only had his band The Neighborhoods opened for The Replacements (and the Clash) way back in the day, Dave had played guitar on the first Paul Westerberg solo tour. So he was well-versed in Mats history. His stories were varied and funny. He not only loved the band (He “drank the Kool-Aid,” as he put it), he loved their every album. A rarity. In fact one of my favorite quotes in the film is his comment about Don’t Tell A Soul. (Of course, you’ll have to wait to see the film to know what it is.)
As I had long ago decided that Color Me Obsessed would cover The Replacements from when that first demo tape went from Paul’s to Peter Jesperson’s hands, through to their breakup at Grant Park on July 1st, 1991, my biggest predicament with Minehan came when he recalled an amazing tale about touring with Paul in London and running into Joe Strummer at an outdoor flea market. Luckily, we have a lot of knobs on that old answering machine on the CMO website. Click the volume control and you can hear the story.
If I wasn’t sure after interviewing Jack Rabid, that I indeed did have a movie here. Dave cemented it. We talked for over 90 minutes, and I left feeling that I had found my musical twin. The guy’s got great tastes in bands!
Over the holidays last year, two old friends joined the production team: Dean Falcone, whom I’ve known for about three decades, and who co-wrote the score for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), and Ed Valauskas, whom I first met when he played bass so many eons ago in amazing band Gravel Pit. Both have countless connections in the music industry. They would get us to many of the rockers who would so make this film work.
Our second day of filming interviews for COLOR ME OBSESSED was actually set up by Ed. Wednesday, January 27, 2010. Heading north this time, up to Boston. Five interviews in all, three of them taking place at the Q Division Studios. (Thank you very much!)
Only Adrian and I would make trip up. It being a weekday, Jim needed to work. It would actually be just Adrian and myself for a while, or at least until Sarah said, “I want to learn about video.”
The first interview would take place at 11 AM…so we hit the road at 7:30, just in case there was traffic or construction in and around Boston. (Like that could ever happen.)
First up: George Skaubitis, who worked radio promotions for Warner Brothers. George was very quiet and subdued, but he gave me one amazing quote, part of which you can see in the second trailer right here, calling the band a “glorious mess.” It was a short interview, but I’ll always take quality over quantity.
(It’s been a week…sorry about that, besides being on the road, I had to create an M&E for Friends With Benefits. That’s a music and effects track for foreign sales, which will allow for dubbing. But since most all of our sound was recorded live, all of the effects are surrounded by dialog. It basically meant I had to go in and pull or re-create every sound in the film, i.e. when Shirley puts a glass down on the bar, we need to hear the glass touching the bar, and not whatever Shirley might be saying. Tedious, so say the least. It was sort of like having your away-at-college kid show up unexpectedly for a weekend visit, and damn if you hadn’t turned their room into a music room, or screening room, or whatever your pleasure. Unexpected, but still you realized it was nice to see the brat.)
Ok…time to get sidetracked, as I was just in Cleveland for a few last minute cmo interviews and I finally had the opportunity to visit the rock n roll hall of fame, and ok, look, the Springsteen section was amazing, to see his old Tele (the one from the cover of Born To Run) was like seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night for the first time. Goddamn, did I want to touch it. The blacken neck gave me goosebumps. Every crack in the body’s finish seemed to bleed rock and roll. In my opinion it’s the most important guitar of all time. And I feel honored to have stood in its presence.
And look, sure it’s a gorgeous building, right on the lake, etc., and so forth…but we’ve all seen museums before. This one is supposed to be special! But aside from the Springsteen exhibit, which was inspiring (and the Bowie and Les Paul’s original electric displays as well), I was left wanting more. A LOT MORE. And y’know why? The punk section was closed because of remodeling, so no Clash, no Costello, no Sex Pistols, NO REPLACEMENTS, and yet I would still see shit like Steven Tyler’s or Stevie Nicks’ stage costumes, and countless FM radio crap, that all fell into the same genre. I’m sure that whomever creamed over the Lynyrd Skynyrd display likewise gushed over the ZZ Top. They were covered. But to put the most important movement in rock on the back burner because of remodeling. Fuck! Kill the goddamn Doors display. Or does anyone really care about Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Obviously, the powers that be at the Hall of Fame are as biased as the reporters on Fox News. And as always, the smart minority gets fucked. (Really now, you couldn’t have found room for even a hint of punk? Shame on you!)
Supposedly the remodeling will be complete in 2012, so anyone thinking of visiting should wait.
Ultimately was as the Hall of Fame disappointing? Yes. But would I go back? Sure, I’d give it one more chance to get it right.