Yes, I just invented a word, unawarer: n. a person who is unaware or not familiar.

And this here is a guide, not a tour guide, but a textual guide to spread the thought-provoking butter that is Paul Westerberg and the musical bread that was The Replacements. If you have glanced over my site you’d find I’ve got Westerburgundy sprinkled across random posts. And this guy is worth your time. He one of those that deserves more attention… Well he might be better off being the “Best thing that never happened.” And that is what he’s. He possesses the talents of genius wordplay, tonal breath control, messy performances, off key brilliance, and the power to make you feel nostalgia for the future/present. There is something special that is hard to pinpoint. Paul takes an A.D.D. approach to music. Capture the concept of a song in the first few takes because he’ll forget it in its precise birth. That is why some of his solo work sounds like demos, ridden with insignificant errors, abrupt transitions, and mumbly segments in lyrics. But he is just as capable of making a gorgeous polyphony with an array of angelic intricacies.

The Music

He has played lived many a role in many musical styles.

Right beside Husker Du was the early Replacements dishing out a dirty hardcore punk out of Minnesota. It wasn’t quite Black Flag of the same era, but a fast aggressiveness, garage rock slop, and snotty (but shimmering at times) adolescent lyrics. I don’t know if it’s because they kept moving their sound in new directions, but the ‘Mats (fanslang for the Replacements) and Husker Du don’t get much credit for the emergence of hardcore punk sound. I wouldn’t consider them inventors, but they predate (or pretty much “equidate” if you may) more recognizable Minor Threat.

Power Pop was another chunk of music that is hard to explain. I like to think of it as a refinement of Beatles-like pop and an extension of the ’60s influence. It has some roots during the British Invasion (with Pete Townshend coining the term) and for me seems to overlap with the Mod genre. Paul wrote the song “Alex Chilton” in praise of the man of the band Big Star who had little recognition for his work.

Alternative Country, Roots Rock, and Folk are related siblings in backwoods America. Paul and the ‘Mats have dabbled in all three. Paul has played several folk songs (not just Singer/Songwriter sound-alike folk) in concerts and on record. They have done renditions of Hank Williams songs in a certainly alternative method of country. They have traveled to their roots with oldies and original songs that hint at styles older than oldies.

Alternative Rock is way too broad of a term to describe as a single sound, but college rock might be a subgenre that exploded before the time alternative described a newer blend of sounds from the underground with some ties to punk and stronger melodies. Among others, the Replacements were pavers of this music and remained fairly popular in association.

Indie Rock. Does it exist? My theory is that it started with garage rock, the “Underground” sound. Out of that came punk, then college rock, then alternative rock, now indie rock. All of these have an out-of-mainstream influence. College rock was probably the birth of what I consider a steady pace of the alternative scene, and garage and punk to be the aesthetic origin and proto-period. This alternative sound has no real distinct divisions. People just wanted new names for it. Now it is indie in what may arbitrarily be the Third Wave of a similar sound. To me, Paul has always been a few feet ahead of the pack.

Blues. This also goes along with some of the roots sound. The Replacements can’t be classified as Delta blues, Chicago Blues, or even Minnesota blues, but there were hints of the blues. It’s more evident in alter ego Grandpaboy that Paul has a bluesy side.

Don’t cry if I mention emo as wikipedia does. Emo is not what it used to be. It was derived from hardcore punk and was “emotive.” Bands who want to be emo often fall into phony heartfelt sadness- contrived catharsis.

The Sources

I’m no mind reader, but there is empirical data to suggest that Paul as well as the ‘Mats liked other bands and artists. Being on the verge of obsessed, I have found numerous name-drops and influences in interviews, articles, setlists, and elsewhere.

I’ve already stated that the ‘Mats covered Hank Williams (Hey, Good Lookin’ and Move it On Over) and they admired Big Star/Alex Chilton. He’s also expressed interest in the Faces.

Bay City Rollers, Foghat (“the volume of the guitars and the tempo of the songs”), Klaus Nomi, Leo Sayer, and Bob Dylan (The Man in Me) was chosen by Westerberg during a radio interview with Steve Jones.

Paul’s played at least 5 Bob Dylan songs in his career. The Replacements recorded a rendition of Like a Rolling Stone, “Like a Rolling Pin.” In the 2002, he played “All I Really Want to Do” for Morning Becomes Eclectic on KCRW. The same year “Positively 4th Street” was included in Hard Rain Vol.1 & 2, A Tribute to Bob Dylan. Uncut put out another Dylan cover album in 2005 with Paul playing “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry.” He also played “Only A Hobo” the same year.

His older sister got him into Classic Rock (Hendrix, Stones) and Motown (Wilson Pickett). Later he got into stuff from T.Rex (Replacements cover “20th Century Boy”) and Slade.

He selected “Judy is a Punk” by the Ramones during another radio interview in 2004. Tommy Ramone produced Replacements album, Tim.

Flesh For Lulu’s “Postcards from Paradise” sneaks in as a bonus track on his Stereo album. Jackson Browne’s “These Days” appears on 2003 album/DVD Come Feel Me Tremble. Let it Be includes “Black Diamond” by Kiss.

A song about Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls), “Johnny’s Gonna Die,” is on the ‘Mats debut album.

The I Am Sam soundtrack features a beautiful cover of Beatles “Nowhere Man” by a 2001 Paul Westerberg. Below is a 1981 punk cover of “Slow Down.”

From the same show is Chuck Berry’s “Maybelene.”

Country musician Billy Joe Shaver’s “Live Forever” has been played in more than 1 of his live sets. John Prine’s “Souvenirs,” “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson, “Sweet Home Alabama,” Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia” and “Heart of Stone” and “Mother’s Little Helper,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” have been performed on stage. “John, I’m Only Dancin'” by David Bowie was a frequent song in concerts. The Only Ones’ “Another Girl Another Planet” became a staple to Westerperformances.

Make Your Own Kind of Music, If I Had a Hammer, I Think I Love You, Daydream Believer, Cool Water, Tossin and Turnin, Route 66, Kansas City Star, Whole Wide World, Temptation Eyes, and Sunshine were all played by Paul or the ‘Mats at least once.

This is the original writer for the song “Whole Wide World.” Truly powerful for such a small guy.

The Environment

Contemporaries, followers, rip-offs, friends, any name you want to call ’em. Go out and mind your biz’. Quit knockin’ on his. And as I’ve said before of others, there is no “The next” or “The New” Westerberg. Below are just connections and might not even have a strong link.

He’s collaborated with a handful of people. Tommy Keene has played in Paul’s touring band.

Lucinda Williams has expressed interest in his music and has sang a duet with him of his “Born for Me.” Her handpicked Artist’s Choice compilation includes “Good Day.”

Tom Waits appears on Replacements song “Date to Church.”

R.E.M.’s Peter Buck is considered additional personnel as he contributes the guitar solo to “I Will Dare.” He also can be heard (I’m not sure where) on Please to Meet Me.

Tom Petty borrowed Paul Westerberg’s line “rebel without a clue” from “I’ll Be You” for the title track of the Into the Great Wide Open album. The Replacements had been opening for Tom Petty’s 1989 tour. [source]

Wilco played “Color Me Impressed” and their whole sound suggests bits of the Replacements. Jeff Tweedy has been part of the Supergroup Golden Smog as well as Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner. Golden Smog at one point included Replacement drummer Chris Mars. Dave Pirner has said he greatly admires Paul Westerberg.

Ryan Adams has a bumpy road with Westerberg. Rumor has it that Paul made a sarcastic remark that was misinterpreted and Ryan got mad at Paul. Anyhow Ryan’s early band Whiskeytown is described as alt. country and in line with Gram Parsons and The Replacements.

“Billie Joe Armstrong [of Green Day] has mentioned that some of his biggest influences are seminal alternative rock bands Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and that their influence is particularly noted in the band’s chord changes in songs.” [source]

The Leatherwoods’ 1992 album Topeka Oratorio included Todd Newman and Tim O’Regan, who later joined the Jayhawks in 1995. It features the additions of Pablo Louseorama (another P.W. pseudonym) who co-wrote two tracks and plays several instruments on tracks.

Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano appears on All Shook Down singing background. Paul co-wrote one song for her lesser known band/project, Pretty & Twisted. Westerberg also appears on an album by Joan Jett helping write a song for her and together singing “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” by Cole Porter. She also covered Androgynous.

Johnny Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls wrote the song “We Are the Normal” with his idol, The Replacements’ singer Paul Westerberg. The two corresponded by mail but never sat in a studio together. Wikipedia also cites Westerberg as co-author of another song from Superstar Car Wash.

Pavement’s most obvious influence during Slanted and Enchanted was English rock band The Fall, although Kannberg stated in a 1992 interview that he preferred The Replacements to The Fall. [source]

Dinosaur Jr. were listening to the Replacements.

Colin Meloy of The Decemberists has written a 100-page book on the Let it Be album.

Guided by Voices claimed to like the Stereo/Mono double-album.

X has covered “I Will Dare.”

Get Up Kids covered “Beer for Breakfast.”

Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics features “Favorite Thing.”

Others who may some degree of influence from Westerberg: The Wallflowers, Lemonheads, Limbeck, and Lucero…

Lucero doing “If Only You Were Lonely.”