Posts Tagged ‘I Read Good’

“I Read Good” Book Review: The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History

The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History

by Jim Walsh. 

In a new feature of this website, I will prove (with some doubt) that I know how to read.  I just finished Walsh’s oral history on The Replacements.  How exciting that we finally do have some Replacements content! I was excited to read it and it took me about a year to get my hands on a copy.  I have to say that considering the place that The Replacements hold in my heart, my technical knowledge of them was limited, even having stood in the First Ave at different times in my life.  Maybe that is the thing with being an underground band – but that’s really no excuse since my head is filled with pointless information about bands that hardly anyone has ever heard of outside of our little musical community.

Anyway!

When you read a book like this, the content and material presented is so wonderful but the format does seem to take center stage.  Walsh’s book, a collection of snippets, some new interviews, some clips culled from magazines, gives you a funny, poignant and interesting view into a conundrum of a band. Walsh’s book was very enjoyable, informative and, in it’s own way, a great primer on Replacements history without delving too far into the specifics.  I have read better oral histories, however.  The format is a blessing and a curse, no matter the subject matter.  Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson is a wonderful oral history.  (Although apparently Anita Thompson thinks it cast Hunter in a negative light, I found it to be fairly even. Apparently a lot of other people agree with her, but when reading about any these characters, you do expect some warts along the way.)  There are other viable comparisons between the two books, and I may get back to that.  Back to the problem of oral histories, they often come across as though you are sitting at breakfast with a bunch of people who went to a great party that you didn’t attend.  They can create a great snapshot, a Polaroid that gives you a better picture of the actualities, but you never really get the full story and you don’t leave feeling like you did anything more than listen in on a few friends telling stories.

One review on Amazon also complained that Walsh culled a lot of information from easily accessible articles and news sources, rather than rely on new interviews.  I agree that this is detrimental to the book overall.  Those snippets are important and they DO add a lot, especially given Paul & Tommy refused to be interviewed for the book.  However, the book is also very loosely organized into 5 chapters – only lightly chronological.  Walsh’s use of older interviews then becomes a continuity problem.  Publisher’s Weekly called it “ramshackle” and I think that’s an accurate assessment.  (I had to flip to the back of the book to check the footnotes to find out, “Did Paul say that in 2004 or 1988?” Sometimes it would be, I thought, pretty relevant to how it should be interpreted.  Checking footnotes does make me feel smart though!)

I might be slightly disappointed in the book, if I hadn’t recently discovered that Arizona’s own Bob Mehr is writing the definitive Replacements book.  This exciting news makes the oral history a welcomed complement to what I expect to be a more thorough analysis of the band.  Walsh’s history with the band and with the Minneapolis music scene is also a great benefit to the book and I think you do get some sort of puzzle to put together from the oral history format that can be really fun.  While some throw-away story of Paul flipping a craft services table, or Bob Stinson playing in a garbage can may not have made headline news in a regular book, oral histories provide that storytelling element, that straight rock biographies can sometimes lack. Oral histories also seem so relevant to music and the music scenes we all kick around in.  I mean, a lot of what I’ve learned about our scene here in Tempe stems from someone saying, “Oh…this one time….” We gossip, we tell tales, we spread them around.   It’s not just some story – but something that fosters the depth, and to some degree the legend of the Tempe scene.  (As I believe it does for all music communities.) It’s communal, in a way and that’s valuable, especially when you’re a kid from Des Moines who showed up 10 years too late.

I think that is part of why this book holds up for me, despite some of the holes.  It feels so familiar.

I do believe that the book was a labor of love for Jim Walsh and I liked what he did, overall! Some of the stories are priceless.  You cringe, laugh, and tear up. I also loved that he included, not only comments from Minneapolis insiders, but also from people like me.  Just fans, who can’t believe their luck that they found an underground band so close to their hearts.

 

 

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