The Replacements

🏷 American rock band

This is Listen ∞ An email of eclectic music for curious ears. Here is today’s recommendation.

"Sixteen Blue" by The Replacements
🗓 1984

Let It Be’s “Unsatisfied” is usually held up as the definitive [Paul] Westerberg ballad, but this is the one that grabs me every time. His vocal is perfect – for a singer with a limited range, he was startlingly expressive, and his gravelly, battered tone gave him an unusual ability to communicate empathy. “Sixteen Blue” (another perfect title) is one of the greatest-ever songs about being a teenager. Westerberg was only 22 when he wrote it, and it helped to have an actual 16-year-old around, in the form of [bass player] Tommy Stinson. It veers from defiance (“You’re lookin’ funny/ You ain’t laughin’ are you?”) to vulnerability (“Brag about things you don’t understand/ A girl and a woman, a boy and a man/ Everything is sexually vague/ Now you’re wondering to yourself/ If you might be gay”). It’s witty (“You’re lying, now you’re lying on your back”) and it’s accepting (“You’re age is the hardest age/ Everything drags and drags”). And, musically, it’s beautiful: the melody is perfectly pitched, and it ends with a great miniature guitar solo from Bob Stinson. It’s easy when writing about the Replacements to concentrate on Westerberg’s songwriting, or to talk about the band’s couldn’t-give-a-fuck attitude, but this was a band that was genuinely greater than the sum of its parts, and [Bob] Stinson was the perfect guitarist: tuneful but fierce and wild. He seemed like someone who was trying to play classic rock and getting it all wrong, creating something even more memorable as a result.

📄 Read author Michael Hann’s take on nine more songs by The Replacements in The Guardian

💵 50% of paid subscriber proceeds are donated to organizations that support and advocate for musicians. This week we donated to globalFEST, an organization dedicated to supporting diverse musicians from around the world by providing them with opportunities to present their work in the United States. Become a paid subscriber of Listen now.