My favorite band of all time was recommended to me by a convicted murderer.  One summer weekend I was in my front yard, my trusty tape deck strapped to my belt, listening to Green Day’s “Dookie” when a convicted murderer walked up, took Dookie out, put in Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, and before he hit the play button said, “You need to listen to this.”  And simply walked away. I walked around with it for months, I played guitar along with it, drums along with it, sang along with it; shit, I think I slept with it.  I wore that tape out.   And The Replacements, bar nothing, became my favorite thing.

Stories like these are always about The Replacements.  Whoever turned a Replacements fan into a Replacements fan can be a tricky, disconcerting character.  In this case he happened to be a convicted murderer.  At the time, he hadn’t been convicted yet, so he was just a murderer.  And, at the time, I didn’t know he killed anyone, so he was just my friend.  We started a band together.  This was in the late 90’s.  Alternative music everywhere, Kurt Cobain dead, Alice in Chains posters still on my wall, and a murderer in my basement writing some really great songs with me.  The name of that band was The Easy Franklin Vantrip.  Goofy name.  Long story.  Good group of guys.

My obsession with The Replacements grew through college.  I saw a solo Paul Westerberg show, followed Tommy Stinson through his projects like Bash n’ Pop, Perfect, and his amazing solo album “Village Gorilla Head”.  I saw The Replacements first show in 25 years in Toronto a few years ago with my good friend Ian.  He was in Easy Franklin Vantrip too.  We’ve been friends for over 20 years and ‘Mats fans for almost as long.  I’ve read books, bios, album reviews, old articles, bought great B-sides, bought fake B-sides and talked to everyone I could find about The Replacements.  There’s a new book about them by Bob Mehr called “Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements”.  There’s a great article about it with amazing rare photos from The Washington Post that Ian sent me.

Every time I turn on anything ‘Mats I think of my friends in The Easy Franklin Vantrip.  One was convicted in 2000 of murder in the 2nd degree and put up for life.  His first eligibility for parole isn’t until 2024.  I think about how one day after he was convicted his girlfriend came up to me and gave me a message.  I think about that message a lot.  I wonder if he gets to hear The Replacements.  I wonder if he still thinks about The Easy Franklin Vantrip.  The other two guys are my best friends, one about to get married, the other a new daddy.  The Easy Franklin Vantrip was the first real band I was ever in and The Replacement were the first real band I ever heard.

Even though i was in bands before i first heard The ‘Mats, I was never in a band the same way again.  That day, running the mower around the yard, the motor’s sound drowning out the outside world, it was just me and The ‘Mats.  And I understood.  And it had to be that group of guys, that lawn, that tape deck, and a band member with a Replacements tape cruising by.  And I was hooked.   Ian and I drove around in Devin’s car listening to the CD all through high school and even college.  Christ, I put that album on when I drove Ian and Devin to Devin’s wedding.  And now Dev and Jill have a son.  And someday Lil B will hear this story.  Just as my son, already, ad nauseam has heard this one. And I’m sure he will again.

The Replacements, to their endearing, adoring fans are more than just the lovable losers who wound their way into our hearts.  They’re inseparable parts of our memory, for good and bad, intertwined in the fabrics that make up or lives.   Every time I turn on The ‘Mats I think of my friends, I think of The Easy Franklin Vantrip, I think of being young and impressionable, and somehow, I think of nothing at that the same time.  The ‘Mats are playing and I go into a trance, memories and emotions rising and falling at the same speed as Bob’s guitar solos.  Everybody has a Replacements story.  This one is mine.