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A Trip Through the "My 90's Tapes" Collection Pt. 4: The Replacements "Pleased to Meet Me"

 I was gifted a piece of artwork called "My 90's Tapes" by an artist named Jeff Klarin ( It looks like one of my own collections at that time, a mix of rock/classic rock, pop, new wave, punk, dance, heavy metal and soundtracks. I decided to use this artwork as a writing prompt to review all 115 albums pictured and share some personal anecdotes along the way. Consider this me dipping my toe back into the Basement Songs pool.

It’s not my desire to let a month pass between entries. Quite the contrary, I'm more inspired to write this year than I have been since I lost the desire in 2017. It's just with the holidays, then recovering from the holidays, and then the wife and I went to Maui to celebrate our 30th, and then recovering from Maui. You get the idea. Moreover, I've been working on a couple of novels. With the minimal hours I find to write, the books take priority. I'll get on a schedule of writing on the weekends so I can put out something once a week - I hope.

Back to the tape collection!

Column 1, Row 4: The Replacements Pleased to Meet Me

Pleased to Meet Me was released in 1987, the same year the world was caught up in U2 mania. It was the Replacements second album for the major label, Sire. By that time, they had released four albums (three on independent Twin/Tone), none of which was a commercial success. The Replacements did receive critical acclaim, though. Their 1984's release, Let it Be, is still considered one of the hallmark albums of the decade. Being a radio junkie who never ventured further up than 97.5 on my radio dial, I had never heard a single song by the Replacements until the end of the 80s, when I started venturing left of he dial to the college stations. I know I watched the January 1986 Saturday Night Live episode in which they performed a drunken, sloppy couple of songs, but I have zero memory of paying attention.

Hailing from Minneapolis, the Replacements were a four-piece band with great potential thanks to the songwriting of singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg. His band mates included lead guitarist Bob Stinson, Bob's younger brother, Tommy, on bass, and Chris Mars on the drums. They played ramshackle punk pop with a fuck it attitude. Westerberg could wear his heart on his sleeve, though, as evident in thoughtful songs like "Within You Reach" from '83's Hootenanny, "Unsatisfied" from Let It Be, and "Here Comes a Regular" from '85's Tim

The band liked to have a good time off stage which got in the way of their live shows. Fans didn't know what they were going to get when they went to a club to see them. Would it be a night of brilliant songs and passionate musicianship, or would it be a shitstorm, with the Replacements playing snippets of KISS and Led Zeppelin songs interspersed with some of their own music? Their punk rock mentality may have sounded cool, but when a band isn't selling any albums and their music isn't getting airplay, eventually the shit is going to hit the fan with the record company.That they were signed by Sire is a credit to their musicality.

After Sire released Tim release and the subsequent sales disappointment, Bob Stinson was either kicked out of the band for substance abuse, or he left because of creative differences. Whatever the case, when the Replacements became a trio when they entered the studio to record Pleased to Meet Me. The producer was Jim Dickinson, who had worked with Big Star, one of Westerberg’s influences. The result is an album that serves as a transition from the garage band rock of their earlier work to the more polished sound of their final two albums, Don't Tell a Soul (1989) and All Shook Down (1990). 

As the album cover indicates, Please to Meet Me is the sound of a band struggling to comply with the demands of the money men, while retaining their punk rock credibility. This is apparent in the opening track "I.O.U", where Westerberg pointedly sings in the voice of an exec: 

        Losing it don't cost much
        On the dotted line, "You suck"
        Never do what you're told
        Plenty of time to eat it when you're old
        You're all wrong, and I'm right

And on the third track "I Don't Know," where Westerberg asks "Did we give it up" and "Did we make a fortune?" to which the band replies "I don't know."

From a punk perspective, “I.O.U,” “I Don’t Know,” and “Never Mind” from side one and the three songs open side two are straightforward rockers and further examples of Westerberg’s gift of turning a phrase. In "Valentine" he sings, "If you were a pill, I'd take a handful at will/And knock you back with something sweet and strong." Meanwhile, on "Red, Red, Wine" he sings "Now, I ain't no connoisseur cat/C-conno-sewer rat." Good stuff.

If Pleased to Meet Me was just a collection of bangers with clever lyrics, it would be a fine album. However, it also contains four bona fide classics. "Alex Chilton," Westerberg's ode to the lead singer of Big Star. This may be the band's most recognizable song thanks to its inclusion on Rock Band. A tight, beautiful melody, with lyrical nuggets like "If he was from Venus, would he feed us with a spoon?"  "Invisible man who can sing in a visible voice" and "(C)hildren by the million sing for Alex Chilton when he comes 'round, 'round." "The Ledge" is a gripping song from the perspective of an anguished suicide jumper. On "Skyway," Westerberg once again shows his sensitive side with this acoustic ballad. The album closes with the anthem, "Can't Hardly Wait," a song written during the Tim sessions, retooled with horns, strings and new lyrics. This ranks among the many "should've been a huge hit" from the 80s.

It's not like the record company didn't try to get the Replacements more radio play. In fact, mega producer Jimmy Iovine even did a mix of "Can't Hardly Wait" to try and help get the band exposure. I think the band's reputation followed them; the damage had been done by the time they tried to clean up their act. 

One of the gifts of music, though, is that decades after an album comes out, some kid can pick up a used album by some critical darling that never made it big, and discover music they feel was meant just for them. It happened with Big Star, one of Westerberg's influences, and I'm sure it happens with the Replacements on a regular basis. 


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