The reunited and better-sounding Replacements are coming to Columbus this week and needless to say Colin, Greg and Ricki C. are just gushing about their greatness everyday at the Pencilstorm office. Brian Phillips is the worst of the bunch and since we co-manage a fantasy baseball team together there is NO escaping his CD1025 elitism. I like The Replacements OK, but one of the best bands ever? please... I thought "Don't Tell a Soul" had some good stuff on it. And the video for "When It Began" was pretty cool with the claymation and Tommy and Paul playing an accordion and banjo. Nice to see them maturing musically and not just falling back into a safe "Hootenany." But seriously? Those early records sound I like I recorded them on a Sony walkman. Totally amateur. Just saying!
I accept the fact the 'Mats have long roots around the 614. Hell, even Ricki himself got offerred a chance to roadie for them. People love to idolize how they showed up, got messed up, couldn't sober up and then the show was disaster. But since it's the holy Replacements, all is forgiven. Colin always makes fun of me for liking Bon Jovi but the bottom line is that bands like The Replacements and - I hate to say it - Watershed just never really had any mainstream success. Is it sour grapes or jealousy or the same thing? (No offense, CG, still love ya.)
Anyway, one of the more popular "old wives" tales is how the Replacements got their big break by opening for Tom Petty on his wildly successful Full Moon Fever tour but were too cool to even bother trying to win over Petty's fans, drawing boo's and catcalls until the 'Mats eventually quit the tour with their tails between their legs. To hang around Pencilstorm, you would think The Replacements were like the next ELO, and Petty's fans were just too stupid to appreciate them. That is FALSE.
Let me tell you, I was at the Petty / Mats show at Pine Knob in Michigan and the Mats deserved the cool reception they received. First of all, they came on ten minutes late and when they finally started playing the sound was really rough. To quote Slim, "not half bad, but ain't exactly good." And apparently they were too cool to hire a keyboard player to help out, so the songs from Don't Tell a Soul sounded really different from the record. I mean, a record company spends all that money printing and promoting your record and then when they finally get you in front a big crowd the songs sound different? That's just bad business. No wonder The Replacements always had trouble moving product.
Even worse, they made NO attempt to win over the Petty fans who were paying attention, if not enthusiastic. Hell, it was so loud you had to notice. There were no sing-along sections and I'm pretty sure they didn't even say "Hello Cleveland" or anything funny like that. I thought these guys were supposed to be funny. Sure, there weren't many people in their seats yet and I only counted around ten standing and clapping, but they could have tried a LITTLE harder. There were THOUSANDS hitting beach balls on the lawn seats. Way bigger than playing Staches. Just saying!
Anyway, the set mercifully ended and my future and now ex-wife Kim and I headed backstage for a meet & greet with Tom Petty himself. SCORE! A fraternity buddy of mine had an internship with Petty's record company and the fact that he was also Kim's ex-boyfriend didn't hurt either. Anyway, we are hanging around the green room with about thirty other people and in walks Tom Petty himself! Wearing a top hat and smelling a little…you know.. green…AND acting TOTALLY professional: "Hey folks, thanks for coming." Just as Kim and I were set to have him sign our cassette of Full Moon Fever, Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson lurches into the room, grabs our cassette out of Kim's hands and scrawls "TOM PETTY IS MY DAD" right across the cover. RUINED.
He pulls the beer out of my hand and chugs the WHOLE THING. Let me tell you, he didn't need any more alcohol. Listen, I'm not a teetotaler by a long shot. Just the previous spring break me and my frat brothers from Sigma Ki went to Panama City, Florida and let's just say Club La Vela was NEVER the same. Kim wasn't pleased. (Long story!) And big deal if Petty smokes some weed before a show. No cops backstage that I saw anyway.
But Stinson, he was SO drunk he kind of fell into Kim, put his head on her shoulder and started talking about how lonely he had been since his brother had been kicked out of the band. Pathetic, really. Kim, back before our divorce and the lawyers and hooking up with Russ, used to be very nice. She used to always take care of people. She used to be so kind-hearted. Writing this story now, I wonder why she changed. Anyway, she helped him up and asked, "Tell me Tommy, why did they kick your brother out of Tom Petty?"
"Because he wouldn't play… Free Falling……" He started to tear up and asked Kim, "Could you help me back to find the tour bus, I need to take my allergy medicine or my eyes will get all red. I should take a shower too. Please?"
I gently grabbed Kim by the shoulder and said, "Kim, I think he has had too much to drink and he isn't even in Tom Petty, that's Tommy Stinson from the Replacements."
She pushed my arm away and said, "DON'T BE AN ASSHOLE, JEFF"
I protested, "I'm not trying to start a fight. I just don't think its a great idea you going back to the tour bus. Besides Tom Petty is about to start."
"Why are you having a cow? Tony always said you were like this but I never believed him. Now, I am starting to think I was wrong to leave him. Especially now that he is a starting a successful career in the music business and you are STILL working at Subway."
"But Kim, I was just....."
"But.. But.. But.. Jeff, I am going to help Tommy back to his bus for some pills and a shower and then I will meet you back at our seats. Be a gentleman and grab me a large Bud light OK? I'll see you in thirty minutes."
"Ok, but I still don't....."
It was too late. Tommy and Kim walked out of the back of the green room. I felt really bad because I was kind of a dick. Here is Kim, just being the kind soul and me, getting all jealous. I knew I had to chill out or I was going to mess this thing up. I started humming "If You Love Somebody, Set them Free" by Sting as I headed off to the concession stand. I got back to our seats by the third song, "Listen to Her Heart." I just knew this would be the song Kim would return to. She would "Listen to Her Heart" and re-appear.
She didn't. BUT the next song was "Free Fallin'" and I was sure she wouldn't miss that one. It was her ALL TIME FAVORITE TOM PETTY song. She loved the line about Elvis and horses. She used to always sing that in the car when we would drive to G.D. Ritzy's between class. She wasn't a bad singer, really.
But she didn't come back. I was starting to get really worried by the time I finished off hers and mine 38 oz draft beers when suddenly I didn't feel very good. I tried to walk around by the tour buses out back to get some air. I started yelling, "KIM! KIM! It's Jeff! Where are you? Kim!"
Around that time a couple of big guys wearing shirts that said "Security" grabbed me and pushed me over the top of a chain-link fence and I landed rough on the gravel of the main parking lot. I don't know how long I laid there but when I finally collected my wits and rubbed the gravel out of my hair, the parking lot was empty except for maybe 25 cars where there had once been thousands.
Kim was standing by my blue Toyota Celica disheveled and noticeably upset.
"JEFF! It's almost three fucking thirty in the morning! Where have you been? The concert ended at eleven and I have been waiting here since 2:50. What the fuck have YOU been doing?"
"I'm sorry, it's just that I got us both beers and when you didn't come back I must have drank them both and I don't really remember what happened after "Even the Losers" Wait, you just got back to the car at 2:50? Where did you get those red boots?"
"At this point, after the way you have treated me, I don't feel like talking but if you must know, Tommy Stinson from Tom Petty gave them to me."
"But why did you get back so late? I don't under...."
Kim cut me off, "Don"t be an asshole Jeff" Just drive me home, I have aerobics class tomorrow at 9 am at Larkins. If we leave right now we can make it. You drive since I need to sleep."
To read previous Jeff Hassler stories please click here
Anyway, this is Jeff again, TOTALLY not pro… Watch this show opening for TOM PETTY with a striptease. Kim thought Tommy looked cute but I just didn't see the point.