Color Me Impressed

Beowulf, meet the Replacements! Great books from 2007 you may have missed.

They were the best of bands, they were the worst of bands—Westerberg and his mates finally get the Please Kill Me treatment in Jim Walsh's The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History. Walsh, a Minneapolis-based musician and journalist who paid his dues in the Twin Cities' legendary 1980s music scene, gathers eyewitness accounts to the Mats' glory from fans, hangers-on, scenesters, fellow musicians, and writers. The cumulative effect is rather like hearing endless riffs on that great party you missed. (Though you might feel better knowing others missed it, too—there's ample commentary along the lines of "I am still so bummed I didn't get to go to that dance. I was grounded from getting caught shoplifting at Target.") Much of the book is culled from previously published articles and interviews; Westerberg (a longtime friend of Walsh) and Tommy Stinson declined to be interviewed, and Chris Mars only checked in by e-mail. But Peter Jesperson, Peter Buck, and Alex Chilton contributed to the mix, as did Slim Dunlap, who comes across as one of the most generous, decent guys in rock 'n' roll. The book's latter pages, dealing with guitarist Bob Stinson's drug-and-alcohol-fueled decline and 1995 death, are heartbreaking, as is the eulogy that Walsh delivered at Stinson's funeral, reprinted in its entirety. Like its subject, All Over But the Shouting has its excesses, but this is a lovable and absorbing work, a swan song for an irrepressible, irreplaceable era in American popular music.

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