The Replacements were legendarily one of the most outrageous and shambling live bands ever. This is because of unhinged performances on stages both small and enormous — like, they’re one of the only musical guests to ever be banned from Saturday Night Live as the result of an appearance where they switched clothes in the middle of the show, got stupendously wasted, and swore pretty much nonstop at the audience during their performance, which was far better behavior than usual for the band. If that’s The Replacements’ version of cleaning up for TV, you can only imagine just how insane these bootleg recordings of live performances in punk clubs, collected by the site Color Me Impressed, are. What follows is a fascinating collection of performances by a band that was just as often trashed as it was talented, and it makes for crucial listening for anyone who loves uncompromising, brilliant punk.
1. Their performance from the same month as the release of Tim, their best album
This show is from October 1985, AKA the same month in which Tim was unleashed upon the public. This is one of tightest live recordings of the band around, which is possibly because a lot the material is still brand-new and the band isn’t comfortable faking/drinking their way through it yet. It’s really amazing to hear them give a straightforwardly impressive (not to mention upright) performance, of their prime songs during what would be their greatest era.
2. A very Replacements Valentine’s Day
Where would you rather be on Valentine’s Day, 1991 than in Michigan, seeing these guys rip and howl through 30 or so of their greatest songs? Pretty sure that’s called a dream date. Relive it at home with this bootleg and your main squeeze.
3. The resurfacing of The Shit Hits The Fans
This legendary fan-recorded bootleg of a 1984 Mats show in Oklahoma City was confiscated by the band’s sound guy during the show, then released officially by Twin-Tone as a limited release in early 1985. Only 10,000 cassettes of the show were made, and until now, owning one of the originals was basically the only way to listen to it. The recording is made up of 24 songs, 19 of which are covers of bands like Black Sabbath, the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., and Led Zeppelin. Obviously, this makes it the covers album from trash rock heaven, and it’s totally essential for any Replacements fan.
4. The only Paul Westerberg solo show from his time in The Replacements
THIS IS SO CUTE/AMAZING. An acoustic Westerberg show from 1982 finds him incredibly nervous to be performing alone (“This isn’t quite as bad as I nightmared it to be… of course I’m lying”) and is only seven songs long, but it’s a really revealing and beautiful performance. When it’s just Paul and his guitar, his genius shines through in an even rawer, more poignant way than it does when he’s backed by the band, which is saying quite a hell of a lot. His solo version of “If Only You Were Lonely” is an intense heart-ripper and really worth hearing.
5. The Replacements take on Prince, the Sex Pistols, and Iggy and the Stooges
Oh, did you want to hear some of the greatest musicians in history pay homage to some of the only other artists who could possibly measure up to them? YOU’RE IN LUCK. This 1987 performance from Kent State finds The Replacements covering ” I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” by Prince, “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy and the Stooges, and “Anarchy In The UK” by the Sex Pistols, and each song is a gift. You’re welcome.
6. The earliest bootleg in recorded Mats history
Before the band really found their footing as songwriters with Let It Be and Tim, they put out a lot of straightforwardly garbage-y punk, which is amazing in its own right. Hear some of those songs, plus appropriately sloppy covers of Johnny Thunders and Slade, for a greater understanding of how far these guys came, but also of how good they were from the get-go.