The Replacements: Waxed-Up Hair and Painted Shoes: The Photographic History
By Jim Walsh and Dennis Pernu
Voyageur Press, 160 pp., $30
The cover of this book couldn’t be more in-your-face. There’s a defiant, angry, out-of-focus Paul Westerberg onstage and seemingly about to sling his guitar right into the lens of photographer Paul Conklin.
It’s an apt metaphor for the defiant, angry, messy and scorched-earth career of Minneapolis’s most influential musical export outside of Prince. “The Replacements could be the world’s best rock ‘n’ roll band, or a complete shambles,” Walsh writes on the book jacket.
And indeed, the Mats are a band who “should have been bigger,” but at every turn self-sabotaged their own career by drinking too much booze, blowing too many important gigs and pissing off too many people. As singer/guitarist Westerberg owns up, “we didn’t just bite off the band…we tore off the arm.”
I mean, this is a group who, when finally convinced to make a video for the crucial MTV network for “Bastards of Young,” submitted a clip consisting entirely of a stereo playing the song as viewers see the back of someone on a couch smoking, and who eventually kicks over the speaker at song’s conclusion.
Walsh is an apt author for this now-reissued book, having been a music journo for both Minneapolis’s City Pages and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He’s also the author of an extensive oral history of the group, All Over But the Shouting.
In addition to more than 150 mostly previously unpublished photos of the band — onstage, backstage, posed, caught unawares — there’s plenty of ephemera, including band flyers, ticket stubs and tour itineraries. Throughout there are pull quotes from the band members as well as reviews and journalists' accounts.
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There’s also a great section about photographer Daniel Corrigan, who shot the band’s two most iconic images – the band looking disengaged in the “rooftop photo” that made the cover of Let It Be, and the more goofy, posed frame of the band clowning around in an elevator.
Houston makes an appearance in the book, which details the infamous December, 9, 1985, gig at the University of Houston’s Lawndale Art Complex. The gig dissolved into a riot that resulted in property damage when the drunken band played a shambolic set that included a cover of the Archies’ ’60s bubblegum hit “Sugar, Sugar” — which they acted out by pouring actual sugar on the crowd. There’s some memorabilia from local art collector Daniel “Dano” Thompson.
Interest in the Replacements and their legacy spiked a bit last year with the publication of Bob Mehr’s excellent and definitive bio, Trouble Boys. And while words in both Walsh and Mehr’s books certainly paint a vivid portrait of filth and the fury that was the Replacements, this photographic journey is an essential companion.