Top Covers by Paul Westerberg and The Replacements
So, we’re still recovering from yesterday’s news that The Replacements — more specifically, Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson — reunited recently to record an EP full of covers. Whether they hit the road, record an album stuffed to the brim of new material, or do one-offs at Coachella or Late Night with Jimmy Fallon remains to be seen. Right now, all we know is that 250 lucky fans will be spinning covers of Gordon Lightfoot, Hank Williams, Slim Dunlap, and a number off Gypsy before year’s end.
Westerberg and his Replacements are no strangers to covers, though. Too many icy Minneapolis nights of decades past went by with clumsy Mats performances, stocked solely with tongue-in-cheek renditions of whatever they felt would take the piss out of the audience. Sometimes they were cold and calculated, often times they were reckless forms of spontaneity.
As Michael Azerrad wrote in Our Band Could Be Your Life:
By 1983 the hipper rock bands started to understand there was a history to the music. And as a way of legitimizing themselves and aligning themselves with their roots, they’d do covers, chosen with the utmost care. The Replacements were one of the frst bands to do this, only sometimes they took the idea to its logical conclusion and did entire sets of covers — and not always the coolest songs, either. They usually played them pretty badly.”
One listen of the Mats’ 1985 bootleg, The Shit Hits the Fans, paints this picture vividly. Throughout their booze-fueled set, Westerberg and the boys shift sporadically between originals and covers that range from Robyn Hitchcock to Black Sabbath, The Beatles to Mötley Crüe, R.E.M. to Jackson 5. It’s hilarious and it fully captures the band’s now trademark (and ridiculously influential) “who gives a shit” mentality.
This approach to a cover has pocketed Westerberg’s career post-Replacements and he’s tried his hand at many over the years – some that were similarly just for fun, while others that were downright serious. In light of the news — and really, because we can’t stop talking about it and just felt the need to write something — we put together a mix of our favorite covers by Westerberg and the Replacements. Hopefully this will give you some context; that is, if you’re the lucky son of a bitch who grabs an EP.