Few bands have ever screwed up the chance at stardom in rock and roll as thoroughly and completely as The Replacements did. From botching a chance to turn revival touring into a new beginning to showing up at performances drunk and playing cover songs instead of their own material at concerts, The Replacements were legendary for their shambolic behavior towards paying fans. Yet there was another side to their career as well. Paul Westerberg and the rest of the band wrote some amazing songs and were a source of inspiration for many more successful and less self-destructive alternative bands and singers. At times, the band could be almost touching in their concern for the sensitive fans of Skyway, my own favorite song from the band, in the face of the rough and rowdy fans of the band’s material that the Replacements had an ambivalent relationship to. Perhaps the best last word to the complicated legacy of The Replacements comes from Not In The Hall Of Fame, which says of them: “Many a Rock Star likely grew up with dreams of becoming one. In the case of the Replacements, we wonder if they dreamed about how to screw it up .”
The Influence Of The Replacements
Despite their own signal lack of success themselves, which we will get to shortly, The Replacements were a powerful influence on other bands. Bands like Dashboard Confessional have recorded their songs. Others, like Johnny Reznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, and Gaslight Anthem, have acknowledged their obvious debt of inspiration to Westerberg and the rest of the band. Still other bands, like They Might Be Giants, have expressed their inspiration in song just as the Replacements expressed the inspiration of Big Star, another similarly doomed power pop/rock act, in their own song “Alex Chilton.” Their songs are regularly used in connection with films, especially films that explore the 1980’s, with one of their songs serving as the inspiration for the movie “Can’t Hardly Wait” and other songs being used in movies as diverse as Hot Tub Time Machine and Jerry McGuire, Airheads, and Adventureland . One can say what one will about the band’s behavior as a live act, but the band’s music has lived on and been appreciated by many and both at the time and up to now those who were willing to dig into the band’s discography have found much to appreciate even if the band hasn’t made it easy on others to like them.
Why The Replacements Belong In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
While it would have been much easier for people to champion them for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had they not been so resolutely self-destructive as a band, there is no question that the band had a career and a body of work that is worth the highest regard. Beginning as a punky band that had an audience of rough and hardcore fans, moving through a period of increasingly reflective albums full of dissatisfaction and aching and longing and ending with a couple of abortive attempts for mainstream success that led to a single #1 on the rock and alternative charts that almost hit the top half of the Hot 100, “I’ll Be You ,” the band still has some songs that are well remembered and well regarded, and these songs include: “I Will Dare,” “Bastards Of Young,” “Kiss Me On The Bus,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Alex Chilton,” “Skyway,” “I’ll Be You,” “Achin’ To Be,” and “Merry Go Round.” Does all of this make for a band worth inducting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? It’s not like bands with no hits haven’t been inducted before, as long as they have been sufficiently inspirational, and that is certainly the case here. I wouldn’t induct this band to hear the surviving members perform live, not unless they were committed to making a good show, but would it be sweet to listen to this band’s music in Cleveland? Absolutely. Were they a great band that inspired other great bands after them and opened for still other great bands? Absolutely.
Why The Replacements Aren’t In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
The reasons aren’t too complicated. The band had no hits, and they alienated a lot of people with confusing music videos that hindered their mass appeal, self-destructive drug and alcohol use that included terrible live performances. While these behaviors are all pretty classic rock & roll behaviors, they do not make it easy for everyone to be a fan, which is sometimes the point.
Verdict: Put them in, perhaps with Husker Dü, Big Star, or one of the bands they inspired like the Goo Goo Dolls, all of which would be worthy for induction.