Today at Amoeba we heard The Replacements' Let It Be over the store’s stereo. To most alt rock types, this album is considered a timeless classic. Released back in 1984, it is a mix of adolescent angst and Paul Westerberg's foray into mature songwriting. And…much like most 80’s albums, it also painfully dated. As the album played I thought to myself, “Would any kid born in the nineties understand why people liked Let It Be so much?” Perhaps if they listened to the lyrics to “Sixteen Blue,” “You’re My Favorite Thing,” “I Will Dare,” and “Unsatisfied,” they would. Those songs speak to that inner adolescent that is still in us or yet to be.
Still, I had to laugh at some of the other songs. Not because they are terrible songs, but because they all dealt with subjects that post-nineties children wouldn’t understand. For instance, in the song “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out,” teenage drummer Tommy Stinton gets a tonsillectomy by an impatient doctor. According to Wikipedia, the number of tonsillectomies in the United States has “dropped significantly from several million in the 1970s to approximately 600,000 in the late 1990s.” The chances of anyone born in the United States after 1990 getting a tonsillectomy in their lifetime are minimal. Maybe the title “Tommy Has Tonsillitis And Gets a Prescription For Antibiotics” would work better in 2009.
How about the song, “Seen Your Video?" It was the Anti-MTV anthem of the eighties at a time when your main chance of having a career in music depended on whether MTV playing your video. Now, most bands don’t even make a video and MTV rarely plays them. Now there is YouTube. Your music video viewing is no longer dictated by MTV when you can put your favorite artist name YouTube's search engine and magically their videos pop up…that is, if they chose to even make one.
Finally, there is the angst ridden “Answering Machine.” From the first line, “Try to breathe some life into a letter,” it sounds dated. Really, when was the last time you wrote a letter? I’m not talking about an e-mail, I’m talking about an actual letter. On top of that, how many people still have an answering machine? I have voice mail on my cell that cuts you off after a certain time if you babble on and besides that, no one ever leaves a message. If I miss a call, I get a text message a minute later that reads “call me.” We are even too lazy to leave a voice mail. Then there's text messages -- how many regrettable texts of love have been sent? Far more than songs written about, “How do I say I love you to an answering machine?”
I saw The Replacements while in my high school years. It was a great show. They were drunk, would start songs and abandoned them if they thought they were boring. The songs that they played that night were both originals and covers, and real bad covers to boot. Billy Swan’s “Let Me Help,” Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ A Ride” and of course, their version of Kiss’ “Black Diamond.” The songs they covered were so bad that they were great. They were the ultimate old school bar band, which is a lost art. When was the last time you walked to a bar and saw a great cover band with great originals?
Listening to Let It Be made me think as much as I love technology, I feel sorry for the kids. They missed out on some cool sh*t.