People like hot dogs. People like beer. People like coleslaw. People like baked beans. People like red. People like blue. People like white. People like plastic silverware. People like family. People like picnics. People like bottle rockets. People like overeating. People like holding hands. People like Roman candles. People like baseball. People like pop. People like small fireworks. People like big fireworks. People love Fourth of July.
Not too many love this country right now, though, which is unfortunate. Because we tend to focus on the present rather than the past, too many get riled up in the negatives. True, we do have a series of crises to sweat about. Yeah, the world’s a fucked up place right now. But, it’s not always going to be that way. Trust me, I’m the most cynical person you’ll ever meet. (I once complained to a theater attendant that the AC wasn’t sweater-comfortable. Yeah, try to get behind that one.) So, if a downright miserable person like me doesn’t feel we’re in the “shitter”, then things can’t be too horrible. And while our current president isn’t the superhero everyone thought he’d be (or even what his grassroots campaign “promised”), he’s doing one hell of a job swimming in the muck that’s collected over the past 50-something years.
You know, I’m not a big fan of hope. I’m not. I liken it to clinging to faith, or believing half of the stories in the Bible, the Qur’an, or Ole Doc Methuselah. It’s just not realistic enough for me. However, I do believe in keeping things in perspective. What this country doesn’t realize sometimes is its potential. We’ve championed through a lot. Just ask FDR, Teddy, or good ol’ Georgie. They might not respond, but the countless memoirs about ‘em will. Could you imagine the shit that hit their fans? “Franklin, most of the country’s living on the street and there’s a tyrannical dictator committing genocide.” “Teddy, wanna know where that meat’s from?” “George, um, what do we do about the colonies? As in, what the hell are we?” The struggles we’re dealing with now are hard, don’t get me wrong, but they’re far less troubling than the hurdles we’ve managed to jump previously. Given our successful track record, we shouldn’t be fretting so much. Now, that’s not blind hope, that’s just keeping things…in…perspective.
Sometimes perspective isn’t beneficial. Just because this country beat the British, established the FDA, worked through the previous recession, and crushed Hitler’s head in, doesn’t mean that we don’t have to worry about rent, dinner on the table, or whether or not we’ll ever be able to swim in the Gulf of Mexico. These things plague us each and every day. There’s no way around it. However, perhaps we should stop waiting for the country to fix these problems and do it ourselves? (Note: I’m not expecting any of you to hop on a Boston Whaler and skim the west coast of Florida.) We spend so much time pointing fingers at everyone else, but maybe at the end of the day, we’re not trying hard enough ourselves.
Maybe we are. Maybe it is the country’s fault, but if there’s one thing I’ll try and hope for today, it’s that we, the people, can still love and appreciate this country – at least enough to try and remedy our own local problems. If we can’t do that, and if I don’t keep that smidgen of hope, then there’s going to be a whole lot more than just coleslaw that’s coming up.
So, what the hell does this have to do with The Replacements?
Very little. But, as any Mats fan knows, the Fourth of July has a very, very special place in the band’s history. Why? Fourteen years ago, the Minneapolis outfit concluded its stellar 12 year run at Chicago’s clusterfuck of a gathering, the Taste of Chicago. Lucky for you, the whole performance is now a crisp, clear bootleg to download below (via Pop Headwound). Aptly titled “It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Fat Roadies Plays”, as the band’s roadies “replaced” each member towards the end during “Hootenany”, the 19-song set is a sloppy, underwhelming look at a band that clearly wanted to part ways. They skip verses in “I’ll Be You”, they hardly play any older material, and, despite being broadcast live on radio, singer Paul Westerberg slips out several F bombs throughout. Regardless, it’s a little treat that just seems to fit the holiday.
Actually, come to think of it, the Mats have a little more to do with this discussion. Their attitude, really. In their short lifespan, which saw little to no commercial acclaim, The Replacements kept on trucking. They never hit it big, not even by college rock standards set by R.E.M. However, they did survive. They didn’t seem to care about the lack of success, either. Instead, they played it true and, most importantly, they rolled with the punches. (Some may argue otherwise, especially by bringing up the softer rock sound heard in 1989’s Don’t Tell a Soul and 1990’s All Shook Down. To that, I contend that, while they did change, this was more of an evolution that had to do with Westerberg’s taste, rather than motives to actually grab at any paychecks.) That’s something to note, especially today if you’re feeling glum about the state of the nation. To quote Westerberg, “Stick with your heart and you’ll be fine.”
Okay, so who’s ready to blow out the 234 candles?