Unprepared for how heartbreaking The Replacements, All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History would be, I read it while rocking my second child this past weekend, reflux-sufferer that she is (but otherwise healthy as an ox in all other respects), and now I will forever associate her infant-hood with tales of Bob Stinson walking barefoot in the snow, etc.
I'm not a fan of the oral-history-schtick - I enjoyed parts of Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me but felt like I was reading a list of quotes and stories that had not arc and therefore I felt not required to read chronologically or, eventually, at all.
But author Jim Walsh was there at the 'Mats' ground zero, and so gets almost everyone to talk, save Tommy Stinson and Paul Westerberg, who probably were smart to do so, given their future ability to drop whopper memoirs. Bob Stinson's 13 years dead, so he's all archive. Walsh uses their quotes to other sources to good effect, though, constructing a timeline not always gripping but interesting for insights by Peter Jesperson (the fifth Mat) and others integral to the band's early years. Drummer Chris Mars gives good quote toward the end, and Slim Dunlap and Steve Foley, of Mats 2.0, give surprisingly insightful views to Walsh on a phase of the band -- aka, its disintegration -- not often investigated or even lauded, the later with good reason. I did want more on the Stinson family - what major malfunctions must be hiding in there - but Walsh steers clear, for the most part. Their mom's a waitress, fyi.
All told, it reminded me of Saturday Night Fever in one way: by reputation, SNF is a rip-snorting, generation-definer with a disco focus, but in truth it's a depressing portrait of an aspiring fuckup with disco as its backdrop. The 'Mats earned rock partying glory, but to be a member of that band, full of such dysfunction, was hell. They stayed together for six years (orig lineup) but they were together like a group home stays together, ie having nowhere else to go.
Westerberg was truly an unhappy prick most of the time (in one case, reducing Bob to tears after Bob had completed thirty-day detox: "drink, or you're out of the band"), Bob Stinson was a savant addict with learning disabilities and a murky history of abuse, Tommy was a faithful second-hand-man to the point where he fired his own brother, and Mars found a real career and got out somewhat unscathed, it seems.
I've been mentioning the lack of a decent 'Mats book to Jimmy Fahrenheit for ten years now, and Walsh's sates that thirst, partly. (Azerrad's chapter was swell also). There's still the possibility of another good book to come. It'll probably have to be by Westerberg or Stinson, or even Mars, whoever does it. They're sober now (well, some of them), so what's the holdup?