Paul Westerberg is probably best known by fans of 80’s alt-rock as leader of The Replacements, the Minneapolis band who evolved from crude, shambolic, punk (Sorry, Ma …) to crude, shambolic folk-rock (All Shook Down) over the the course of their decade-long career. Along the way he wrote era-defining tunes (“Bastards of Young” ), beautiful pop songs (“Skyway)” and hilarious sing-alongs (“Waitress in the Sky“).
Well known for their inability to finish (or even start) a show sober, the ‘mats burned a lot of bridges (e.g. a high-profile opening slot on a US Tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers that went off the rails quickly), and eventually dissolved during the recording of All Shook Down (1990) which was basically a Westerberg solo album. [I was lucky enough to see a show on this tour, at the Bijou in Knoxville, TN; Westerberg (jokingly?) fired the whole band three or four times during the show, but they ended good-naturedly enough, encoring by switching instruments and playing a ramshackle version of one of their early tunes, “Hootenanny.”]
While the ‘mats recording career was fairly brief, and their record sales low, their influence was long-lasting: extremely successful 90’s and 00’s bands like the Goo Goo Dolls (who opened for the ‘mats on their last tour, and whose first radio hit, “Name,” is Westerberg-ish in the extreme) and Green Day freely and happily admit their debts to the band, just as Westerberg often did (even penning the tune “Alex Chilton” en homage to the Big Star front man, a huge influence on the ‘mats).
Westerberg’s twenty year-long solo career has had its ups and downs, but the past decade has seen him growing in both productivity and consistency. I got to see him back in 2006 at the Orange Peel in Asheville, NC, and it was an incredible (and seemingly sober) show; he played “the hits” from his ‘mats days, but also put his best solo material front and center. The solo stuff not only holds up, but surpasses, in my opinion, his earlier work. Westerberg’s gift for combining beauty and melancholy are in full display in the two songs below: enjoy!
“It’s a Wonderful Lie” (1999)
“Let the Bad Times Roll” (2002)
If you enjoy them, you can check out more at Paul’s Official Site.