Ep. #252: Bob Mehr on the powerful, painful story of The Replacements
Bob Mehr is an award-winning music critic who currently resides in Memphis, Tennessee. He’s the chief music critic for The Commercial Appeal and has written for MOJO and the Chicago Reader among others and he has composed essays and liner notes for several album reissues, including the Grammy Award-winning Big Star box set, Keep An Eye on the Sky. His new book presents an illuminating and often harrowing look at one of the greatest American rock ‘n’ roll bands of all time. It’s called Trouble Boys – The True Story of The Replacements, it’s out now via Da Capo Press and here, Bob and I discuss the historical and contemporary music scene in Memphis, Sam Phillips and Sun Studios and Sam Phillips Recording Service, labels like Stax, Goldwax, and XL, Fat Possum and Style Wooten, Peter Guralnick and his recent book Sam Phillips – The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll, the close-knit Memphis music community, reflecting on Trouble Boys now that it’s out, the first time he heard about the Replacements, their infamous Saturday Night Live appearance in January 1986, discovering Pleased to Meet Me and becoming a hardcore 'Mats fan, getting to interview Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson and the band’s associates over the years, the real story behind the band’s SNL experience, how their indifference to success gave them power among unsettled music industry people, demystifying the legends and myths surrounding the Replacements, wondering why they behaved the way they did, the horror of Bob Stinson’s life, how Bob saved Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars and Paul Westerberg’s own respective family struggles, framing this book around Bob Stinson’s funeral and the role Bob played as the soul of the band, the first Replacements’ reunion, their strengths and weaknesses after Bob left the band, a clearer sense of Bob's and the band’s mental health and substance abuse issues, heavy history, damaged American families, brotherhoods and lovable losers, myth and romance, good times and dark humour, dickishness and insularity and the Replacements against the world, the lyrical communication of pain, R.E.M., Peter Jesperson, literally burning up money with fire, Slim Dunlap snarls, the true and strange story of the making of the Don’t Tell a Soul LP, lost in the woods, ‘dodgeknife’ and scaring Metallica, Chris Mars moves on, bringing Bob to life, not necessarily an authorized biography, how Paul and Tommy might relate to their band’s reputation and legacy, what Trouble Boys contributes to the story of the band, the obstacles the Replacements overcame, how they won, the band’s first reconstitution show at Riot Fest in Toronto in 2013, the crowd’s unusual collective joy at those shows, whether or not the Replacements actually broke up for good on-stage in Portugal in 2015, his book tour plans, feedback and reception from readers and people involved in this story, approval from the Stinsons, a 3 AM call from Paul about the book, being a kind of intermediary between people who don’t always communicate with each other very well, learning a lot as he went along, what’s next, the song “Bastards of Young” from the album Tim, my four year old son’s deep passion for the Replacements, and then it was time for decisions to be made.
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