Trouble Boys by Bob Mehr

Trouble Boys

Trouble Boys: The True Story Of The Replacements

I love reading Rock Biographies and The Replacements are one of my favorite bands. This was a well written well researched book, so why do I feel so depressed reading it? Because Paul Westerberg, Chris Mars, Tommy and Bob Stinson did everything in their power to fail. It wasn’t all their fault- they came through some trying personal experiences, but in the end they were unable to overcome them. Paul was able to write about them, which is one reason his songs are so good. But fear of failure, and even more, a fear of success caused the band to never reach take-off speed. They were all drunks and would usually self-destruct on stage. A good chunk of their fan-base was  waiting for that explosion. But it just turns me off.

Mehr brings us back to the early years of the band. He shows The Replacements warts and all, so uncool that they become cool, the talent, and the talent for self-destruction. If there is a weakness in the book, it’s we don’t get inside Westerberg’s head. By the time Paul gets around to restarting his solo career, it is too late, the industry has passed him by. So who is the Rock And Roll Ghost? Paul or Bob. Probably both.

521 pages

The title “Trouble Boys” comes from the Dave Edmunds song from “Tracks On Wax 4” album. An album Westerberg and I discovered about the same time. There were many parallels between our lives so it was easy to slip into Mehr’s narrative:  the streets that I’ve literally driven down, and the people and places that are so Midwestern.

The Replacements were always competing with other band. First it was Hüsker Dü and then REM, both bands I love. Although they are some similarities the three bands are different enough that I couldn’t say one is better than the other(s).

Excerpts From My Kindle

After a stint “at the Munsingwear factory downtown, pushing around carts of wet fabric,” Westerberg started working at the Control Data Corporation’s headquarters as a janitor-in Bloomington, a soulless suburb south of Richfield that Westerberg came to detest. The gig meant having to maneuver around “skilled” workers soldering computer parts. He remembered cleaning under the work stool of a woman who, offended by his scruffy presence, fixed Westerberg with a disdainful stare. – location 905-908

Reading the piece a couple months later, the Reprise promo staff winced. “Radio guys hang together as a group,” said Linehan. “It’s like: ‘Why should we help these guys? There’s a million bands that would love me to play their record, and they’re cooperative.'” – location 7196-7198

the band’s bus arrived in the morning just as a crush of commuters was heading to work. Westerberg looked out the window and surveyed the rush-hour nine-to-fivers. “Ha!” he laughed. “Suckers!” – location 7216-7217

One night Westerberg caught Mike Campbell and couple of other Heartbreakers watching from the wings. “So I decided, let’s just show them what we can really do,” he said. “And we sorta blew them away . . . and confused them. The next day their roadie said to me, ‘I don’t get it, man. You guys are, like, brilliant if you want to be. Why don’t you want to be?’ I didn’t have an answer for him.” – location 7529-7532

All of a sudden, Dylan became animated, almost angry: “Who’s ‘they’? Who’s ‘them’? Who are you talking about?” Then he stepped forward and told Westerberg: “There isn’t any ‘them.’ You’re the artist: you do what you want. No one tells you what to do.” – location 7871-7873

Costello watched from the wings. He could appreciate Westerberg’s current situation. Having been the archetypal “angry young man” with a taste for alcohol himself, Costello had moved away from his much-beloved band, the Attractions, after a decade as his creative desires evolved. “There’s something about the daredevil nature of certain kinds of groups like the Replacements that can’t really be sustained or revived,” he said. “You have to move forward.” – location 8404-8407

Westerberg thought they had little in common: “I guess I wore a plaid shirt, and yes, I played real loud,” he said, “but Nirvana sounds to me like Boston with a hair up its ass.” – location 8656-8658

Good Day [For Bob Stinson, a song that breaks me up every time I hear it.]

In the dreams you tell me
Tell them only you were tired
Sing along, hold my life
A good day is any day that you’re alive
Hold my life, one last time

– location 8872-8875


About craigmaas

I do a little web design work and support a couple web sites and blogs. My primary focus is lighting and energy consulting where I use a number of computer tools to help my customer find ways of saving money and improving their work environment. See my web site for more information:
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