1979 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Core '80s Band Members:
- Paul Westerberg (born December 31, 1959 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) - Lead vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica, primary songwriter
- Tommy Stinson (born Thomas Eugene Stinson on October 6, 1966 in Minneapolis) - Bass guitar, backing vocals, songwriter
- Bob Stinson (born Robert Neil Stinson on December 17, 1959 in Minneapolis; died February 18, 1995 in Minneapolis) - Lead guitar
- Chris Mars (born April 26, 1961 in Minneapolis) - Drums
The Replacements emerged during the immediate aftermath of punk rock's rise in North America, helping to launch one of the most fertile underground music scenes of the era in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Initially embracing a disheveled post-hardcore sound, the band eventually developed into a vehicle for the pop-oriented songwriting of Westerberg. Along the way, the group blazed a trail as one of the leaders of the first wave of modern rock, helping to create an opening for the guitar-based glut of commercially successful alternative music of the '90s.
Though undeniably led by the talents and charisma of Westerberg, The Replacements actually formed squarely from the efforts of the Stinson brothers. Pre-teen Tommy Stinson joined brother Bob in a cover band that functioned for a while without a vocalist. Westerberg eventually finagled his way in as lead singer, and the group settled on its memorable moniker (displacing the similar Impediments) following a raucous, booze-addled performance at a church hall in 1980. A demo drew the attention of local music scene personality Peter Jesperson, who quickly got the band signed to Minneapolis label Twin/Tone.
Toward an Alternative Rock Prototype:
The Replacements recorded 1981 debut LP Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash in fragments over a six-month period. Within that time, the group came up alongside fellow Minneapolis band Husker Du, whose speed and ferocity helped lead Westerberg & Co. into hardcore punk territory, a sonic location that didn't quite fit. Nevertheless, the group's next release was the 1982 EP Stink, which took a stab at hardcore but didn't keep Westerberg's interest in that direction for very long. Enamored with pop songcraft, the budding singer-songwriter had loftier ambitions than mere intensity.
Pattern of American Classics:
Despite a stronger set of songs and his own serious-minded aspirations, Westerberg forged a bit of an approach-avoidance relationship with the professional recording process. As a result, 1983's Hootenanny featured a wide array of styles and musical heft, ultimately registering as a critical favorite nonetheless. Tracks like "Willpower" and "Within Your Reach" hinted at the band's superior potential, but 1984's Let It Be has spent the past three decades as one of alternative and mainstream rock's most influential and highly regarded albums. "I Will Dare" and "Unsatisfied" perfected Westerberg's rough-edged but highly melodic approach to songwriting.
Major Label, Major Record:
In spite of a need for greater financial stability, the quartet retained a massive sense of ambivalence regarding the notion of signing with a major record label. Even so, The Replacements attracted the attention of Sire Records and relented when the prospect of recording for former Ramones drummer - producer Tommy Ramone - arose. The resulting record, 1985's Tim, proved to be another winner, continually expanding the band's core sound and promoting Westerberg's consistent songwriting on standouts like "Hold My Life," "Swingin' Party" and "Little Mascara," to name just a few.
Bob Stinson's Departure - Toward Westerberg's Solo Career:
Unfortunately, Tim would be the last Replacements record to feature the unbridled lead guitar work of Bob Stinson, whom the band fired in late 1986 (by some accounts), for increasingly erratic, drunken behavior. The remaining trio had its own share of substance issues, of course, but nevertheless produced another fine album in 1987's Pleased to Meet Me. "Never Mind" demonstrated the classic Replacements sound but also helped embrace a wider rock appeal, and so 1989's follow-up, Don't Tell a Soul, depended upon fine eclectic pop songwriting personified by "Talent Show," "Achin' to Be" and "I'll Be You."
Final Years & Powerful Legacy:
Technically speaking, The Replacements would release one more full-length LP as a unit, 1990's All Shook Down. However, by this time Westerberg had essentially set out on his own to establish his niche as a rootsy, sophisticated singer-songwriter. Since then, he's continued in a similar direction even as The Replacements have maintained significant status as alternative music pioneers. In a rather circular nod to the band's indie roots, Westerberg has self-released his last several solo efforts. As of October 2012, Westerberg and Stinson are recording together, with a possible band reunion (minus the late Bob Stinson) remaining a possibility.