Music writer Jim Walsh on The Replacements: 'Probably the greatest American rock and roll band'

The Replacements
Chris Mars, Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and Slim Dunlap of The Replacements. The local music scene is buzzing about the news that the legendary Minnesota band plans to reunite for several concerts later this year.
Photos by Robert Matheu/Courtesy of Jim Walsh

The local music scene is buzzing about the news that the Minnesota band The Replacements plans to reunite for several concerts later this year.

Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson have signed on to headline the Riot Fest in Toronto, Chicago and Denver. It will be their first public performance together since July 4, 1991. Local music writer Jim Walsh has penned two books about The Replacements. His newest, due out later this year, is called "The Replacements: Waxed Up Hair and Painted Shoes: The Photographic Evidence." Here's an edited transcript of his conversation with Tom Crann of All Things Considered.

TOM CRANN: First, for those who are not Replacements afficionados, what's the elevator speech about the band?

WALSH: I would say their music is timeless and they are absolutely an '80s band, but that their music and Paul Westerberg's songs speak to multiple generations. I would say, if you like great rock and roll, they were and remain probably the greatest American rock and roll band.

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When you talk in terms of rock and roll and you don't necessary break it down into genres - punk rock, hardcore , whatever, they they remain the epitome of wild youth and great songs, spontaneity and humor - boat loads of humor.

CRANN: Their legend seems to have grown since they last performed. Why do you think that's the case?

WALSH:: I've always been drawn to the songs. Paul's voice captures something raw about living. And his chemistry with Tommy was very real as well. The genesis of all this has been the "Songs for Slim" EP that those guys got back together to do as a benefit for (bandmember Slim Dunlap) who was struck down by a stroke. It's been a very emotional thing for friends of the band, Minneapolis and St. Paul and worldwide. He's a true American legend. When he went down it's been very hard, and the brotherhood of The Replacements, if you can call it that, kicked those guys in the pants, that "Life is short. Hey, how about if we go 'Bastards of Young' or play 'Left of the Dial' to 20,000 people and see what happens."

The Replacements
The local music scene is buzzing about the news that the Minnesota band The Replacements plans to reunite for several concerts later this year.
Courtesy The Replacements

No matter what you think, no matter how guarded you are or how much you treasure their legacy, you know, I'd like to see that. I think that'd be incredible.

CRANN: Will we see a reunion here in the Twin Cities?

WALSH: Yes. I hope to God we do... those knuckleheads. I would hope so.

CRANN: Replacements live shows were legendary for their hit-or-miss quality. Sometimes the band would play just a few songs because the members were fighting or drunk. What can fans expect from these shows?

WALSH: They're 50-year-old guys, and I don't know. I actually have no idea --it could happen all over again. I bet they're gonna rehearse, they're gonna rock hard and people will be thrilled. As Paul said when they got together, "We figured out we still rock like murder."

That doesn't happen with all big rock bands. The chemistry is there or not, and these guys had chemistry in spades. For people who didn't get to see them, it's going to be a amazing summer.