Johnny’s Gonna Die

Last night I traveled all the way to Columbus Circle — that’s Columbus Circle, a hateful area of Manhattan, not Columbus, OH — to hear what Jim Walsh had to say about the Replacements. Born and bred in the Twin Cities, Walsh was playing in various Minneapolis bands when the Replacements were making their name, has toured with the ‘Mats, has been in Paul Westerberg’s house on multiple occasions, saw the band perform more than 100 times, and has written about the city’s music scene for more than two decades. In short, he was uniquely qualified to write and put together The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting, his oral history of the band.

Seeing Walsh talk passionately about his favorite band got me thinking again about my decision not to talk much about the Replacements in my own book. My main reason (though not the only reason) is that the Replacements were never “my band.” That’s not to say that I don’t love them. That’s not to say that I don’t believe that they were one of the most influential bands ever. That’s not to say that they weren’t the coolest band of all time — because, seriously, they were, and if you don’t agree, then you’re not really thinking about the term “band” correctly. I’ve just always felt that way too many other people love them more than I do. There’s no way I could have done them justice.

In Walsh’s case, he grew up in the right place at the right time; I’m just going to chalk this up to me being unlucky. And how unlucky! If there’s one era of music that I regret missing out on first-hand more than any other, it’s the American alternative music scene of early- to mid-1980s. The Replacements. Hüsker Dü. Mission of Burma. R.E.M. Sonic Youth. Although I used to love all of them, and still love all but one of them (guess which), none of these bands have ever felt like they were “mine.” And they never will. (Of course, classic rock bands have never truly been mine, either, but I’d argue that everyone owns the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, et al., because they’ve been played endlessly in every part of the country for decades and decades. But maybe you can never really own a band.)

Anyway, it would have been nice to have been tapped-in enough (okay, and old enough; I was nine when they formed) to have seen the Replacements in the early years. These are things that honestly keep me up at night and give me the kind of nagging neck pain that I am currently afflicted with.

What I’m trying to say is that it was totally worth the forty-minute subway trip and the outdoor-walking in nut-numbing temperatures to attend the reading. And the book is totally worth checking out.

Here’s a song from 1981 that the band wrote about me:

My neck is killing me.