let it be

mats

With the news that my favorite band of all time (and one of Michael Tucker’s Top Ten American Rock Bands of All Time, which also includes the Velvet Underground, Big Star, and Husker Du), The Replacements, are reuniting for three shows in Toronto with a possible tour to follow, I’m feeling sentimental. It would take a ten-thousand-word blog post and a lot more time than I have on this Saturday morning to express how much the Mats mean to me. How they, more than any other band, were the soundtrack of my youth and young adulthood. A few brief vignettes is all I have time for now.

Like the time I bought Let It Be on vinyl from a now-lost basement record store on the SU hill. It had just been released and the shop had a pile of them on a table, with a cardboard arrow hanging from the ceiling that said “Buy This Now” written in black marker. And how I wore it out and had to buy another copy not much later and I how I still have that copy in a plastic sleeve in my closet.

Or the time they played the Lost Horizon in Syracuse and I saw them with two really good friends and they were drunk and really sucked but how earlier in the day we stopped into the Horizon for a drink and they were rehearsing and wandering around the place and I sat next to Paul at the bar and had a whiskey and how just doing that was better than the actual concert itself.

Or when I saw them a few years later opening for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at the New York State Fair and they sounded just a little better and how all I remember otherwise is Tommy Stinson’s hair all moussed up and how great his bass guitar sounded even though they were almost a mile away from where I was sitting.

Or the time me and a bunch of friends took a road trip to Lake Placid to go skiing at Whiteface and just about the only music we had was a cassette tape of Don’t Tell A Soul that we played over and over on the stereo of my friend’s Bronco II. Yes, that’s me, in my ‘cid washed jeans, either drunk or asleep (or both) on the couch of our motel room:

me on couch

Even though I loved other bands earlier and at times much more than them (The Police, R.E.M., Violent Femmes), the Mats were my true love, my soul mate. They were my Sex Pistols, my Led Zeppelin, and my Beatles all rolled up into one drunken, flannel-covered, ripped denim package. They were my cheap canned beer, my adolescent desperation, my consoling bedroom soundtrack. My black dress shoes worn with jeans and white socks. My bad attitude, my heartbreak, my white suburban boredom, my sagging couch in the basement. They were, as Paul sings on Can’t Hardly Wait, my “ashtray floors, dirty clothes, and filthy jokes.”

I deferred when the Police reunited for a show at Fenway Park in Boston a few years ago. I was too afraid I would be disappointed. But with the Mats, disappointment was always part of the bargain. If they do tour, and I do have the good fortune to see them again, even if they suck, I won’t care. We’ll be together again. And maybe they can get Big Star to open.

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