Friday, April 13, 2012

The Paul Westerberg Band, 1993 (Bonus Video Friday)

Okay folks, something we haven't dealt with earlier in Growing Old With Rock & Roll, the fact that I am actually chronologically OLDER than rock & roll.  While rock historians might argue endlessly over what was the first "rock & roll record" (from Ike Turner's early-50's "Rocket 88" to Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" in 1955) nobody places many records much earlier than 1952, my birth year.  (And let's face facts: Does anything really matter much rock & roll-wise before Elvis in '56?)  As such I have lived and listened through six complete decades of rock & roll - the 1950's, '60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, and 2000's.  By far the worst decade of those was the 1980's.  Easily the worst, hands down, no contest.  In fact I might make the argument that the only good things about the 80's were Prince, The Replacements (both from Minneapolis, Mn., incidentally, what was up with that?), The Neighborhoods, The Del Lords and Del Fuegos, The Pogues, maybe The Bangles (perhaps because I had such a huge crush on Susanna Hoffs) and precious few others.  (REM started out strong, but soon transmuted into the whimpering pussies we initially suspected they were all along.)
As such, when Paul Westerberg drafted 'Hoods frontman David Minehan into his first post-Replacements touring band for the 14 Songs tour in 1993, it was pretty much a match made in heaven for this little Ohio boy.  I saw the band in this video play at Peabody's Down Under in Cleveland, Ohio, on that tour and it was pretty much a top-20 all-time live show experience.  Westerberg & Minehan were blazing, trading guitar leads back & forth like it was their first band in the garage when they were 14 years old and rhythm section Darren Hill & Jim Reilly rolled right underneath 'em like a fine Persian rug.  Were they a better live band than The Replacements?  Damn straight they were.  (blog note: I mis-identified Jim Reilly as the drummer of this band, see Comments section at the end of the blog.  It was actually Josh Freese.)  
Folks, you can believe who you wanna believe, but I saw The Replacements live in their prime and they were always astride a line between brilliant and embarassing ALL THE FUCKING TIME!  The first time The 'Mats (as I never called them) played Columbus, Ohio, I was standing next to local musician, raconteur & tastemaker (and ex-member of 80's indie favorite Great Plains) Ron House at a club called Stache's.  The first 20 or 30 minutes of the show the band was a drunken, shambolic mess; nobody seemed capable of finding and/or keeping the beat, despite the herculean efforts of drummer Chris Mars to keep 'em on track, guitars were woefully out-of-tune, lyrics were forgotten or mumbled unintelligibly, or both, and some tunes didn't end as much as subside.  I remember very clearly Ron asking the musical question, "These guys are the best live band in America?" (as we had been led to believe by fanzines and Spin magazine, which constituted the "alternative" rock press of the day). 

And then, amazingly, almost miraculously, The Replacements slammed into "Take Me Down To The Hospital," and it was one of the most incredible pieces of rock & roll I have ever seen in my life.  For that threee minutes the band was The Who, The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols all rolled into one.  And they followed that with the most unbelievably spill-your-guts-on-the-stage version of "Unsatisfied" you would ever have been privileged to hear.  It was mind boggling.  Ron and I literally stood there with our mouths hanging open.  It was like an entirely different band had taken over the stage, like those four Midwestern boys had been possessed by the ghost of Keith Moon, by the very Spirit Of Rock & Roll.  They were fantastic.  And then, just as quickly after those two songs, they went right back to the chaotic mess they had been just three songs earlier.  

They peaked at least twice more that night, pulling it all together into rock & roll masterpiece territory and then running right back off the rails into first-rehearsal noise.  It was one of the strangest rock shows I have ever attended.  And it was pretty much like that the rest of the times I saw them live while Bob Stinson was in the band.  When Slim Dunlap came in they became less schizophrenic but never played with any real fire again.  And a more professional, tamed, merely servicable Replacements was not really what we were looking for, was it?

So say what you will 'Mats fans, I'll take Westerberg, Minehan, Hill and Reilly live over that band anyday.

inspirational verse;  "A dream too tired to come true / Just a rebel without a clue /  Searching for something to do"  - Paul Westerberg, 1989 (years before Tom Petty ripped off the line  "rebel without a clue" after The Replacements opened a Heartbreakers tour).

© Ricki C. 2012


  1. Maybe I'm missing something, but as far as I know, the great Josh Freese was the only drummer on the "14 Songs" tour. That's definitely Josh in the video clip.

    Other'n that, I agree wholeheartedly with your post, which I found thanks to my "Paul Westerberg" google alert (ever hopeful for some NEW news!). I look forward to going back and reading more of your stuff when I have a chance!

    1. I think Meri is probably right on the money here. I based my rhythm section id's on a bootleg copy of the Westerberg Band show July 8th, 1993, from the Stone Pony in Asbury Park that I picked up somewhere years ago, which identifies Jim Reilly as the drummer. (Now I'm wondering if Darren Hill on bass is accurate.)

      Apologies to Josh Freese. Anybody know who Jim Reilly is?

  2. No, don't worry: you're absolutely right about Darren; that's him on bass, and he's still Paul's manager (now, if only he could prod Paul out onto a stage - any stage - to play for us!)

    I have to admit that I did not know the name Jim Reilly, but a quick google (before I made my first comment) turned up that he was the original drummer w/ the Red Rockers. (sorry, I was listening exclusively to the Blues through the 1980's and 1990's!) So I suppose there's a chance that he was on Paul's 1993 tour for a while; I'll check with Darren.

    Actually, I'm just glad I didn't get the shit kicked outta me here; I don't usually comment on blogs...but Josh Freese is just such a killer drummer it seemed a shame to not give him credit for his own kick-ass work.


  3. I forgot to mention: I had asked Darren and Josh about this on FaceBook; Darren replied "Josh was the only drummer on that tour. Jim Reilly was the original drummer in Stiff Little Fingers and played with me in both Red Rockers and The Raindogs."

    Hey, Ricki C., can we find you on FB?

  4. Never mind; I just saw your comment about not doing social media. oh well... Darren has a great FB page for his shop, POP the Emporium of Popular Culture, that's a lot of fun (he regularly posts something relevant to the day from his collection). He's got a regular website for it: and the brick and mortar shop itself is in East Greenwich, RI. check it out!