What’s That Song?: Takin’ A Ride Through Paul Westerberg’s Catalog


Paul Westerberg reviews his Replacements and solo records:

Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash (Twin/Tone, 1981)
“I came up with the title, and (Suburbs guitarist) Bruce Allen tore that picture on the cover in half. We thought that was very punk rock. ‘I Bought A Headache’ was about angel dust. It frightens me now how carelessly we took stuff.”

Stink (Twin/Tone, 1982)
“Two-night excursion into hardcore to try and compete with Hüsker Dü. I couldn’t listen to it today—well, maybe ‘White And Lazy.’”

Hootenanny (Twin/Tone, 1983)
“Our first blatant theft: We stole the cover from a Folkways Records compilation called Hootenanny. We were dumb enough to think that if we pretended nothing ever came before us, we could fool people into thinking it all started with us. Not particularly fun times making it.”

Let It Be (Twin/Tone, 1984)
“It’s our best album cover, that’s for sure. ‘Unsatisfied’ is one of the most overrated, half-baked songs ever written. OK, I meant it, but it really only had one line.”

The Shit Hits The Fans (Twin/Tone, 1984)*
“The biggest mistake we ever made. By releasing it, it made people come out to our shows expecting to see a trainwreck every night. And we obliged.”

Tim (Sire, 1985)
“The cover is the worst piece of shit. [The label] hired Robert Longo: World Famous Artist. Nobody liked it—I can’t believe that Robert liked it.”

Pleased To Meet Me (Sire/Reprise, 1987)
“That was Tommy’s line. Whether he took it from Johnny Rotten, I don’t know. ‘Pleased to meet me, the pleasure is all yours.’ The album cover was a spoof on Elvis’ G.I. Blues. That’s my hand in the ratty shirt. We had to hire a hand model for the major-label rich guy because nobody in the band owned a watch.”

Don’t Tell A Soul (Sire/Reprise, 1989)
“The label put me on the cover, and that was the crack in the band. Look at all the other photos of me on the album: I’m out of focus. That was the trade-off, plus a huge picture of Tommy on the back. That record is better than it sounds. It sounds dated, but if you go back and strip the tape, there are some spunky songs. It was overworked and overcooked.”

All Shook Down (Sire/Reprise, 1990)
“The two dogs represented me and Tommy, two stray dogs in the rain sniffing each other’s asses. My singing was horseshit from boozing, I had reached the end of my marriage and didn’t know where to go or what to do.”

All For Nothing/Nothing For All (Sire/Reprise, 1997)**
“Tom Waits is on ‘Date To Church.’ He had a whole sermonette in there, but we had to edit it down because it was too much Tom Waits for his label’s taste. We spent an infamous night together in the studio (in 1988). The drunkest men in the world, me singing ‘Ol’ 55’ and him singing ‘If Only You Were Lonely.’ Pretty ragged.”

14 Songs (Sire/Reprise, 1993)
“I’m like the guy who hit .300 once, and if I hit .298 I’m a complete and utter failure. (14 Songs was) two too many. Spent a lot of money taking handsome pictures of me. It was obvious what the label’s intention was because they didn’t have a lush power ballad to go with it. (At the time) I was reading a lot of J.D. Salinger.”

Eventually (Reprise, 1996)
“Underrated and will prove to be one of my favorites in years to come. I like the songs. I made the record I wanted to hear, which was the case every time except with Stink and maybe the mixing of Don’t Tell A Soul. It’s funny how the Georgia Satellites can play to a bunch of chowderheads in some outdoor place even if it’s just one original guy. Did Peter Gabriel’s first couple of solo records sell? Most solo artists flop compared to the band. The problem was, I was the sound of the band. Christ.”

Suicaine Gratifaction (EMD/Capitol, 1999)
“Three of my best songs are on it: ‘Best Thing,’ ‘Self Defense’ and ‘Bookmark.’ (Capitol president) Gary Gersh encouraged me to make a non-commercial record, but he was let go before the album came out. The radio people were like, ‘Where’s the single?’ … I had not planned to tour on that record. The label payed me to leave—the best move I ever made. I lived on that for a year, and as that money was running out, I started working on new stuff.”

Stereo/Mono (Vagrant, 2002)
“It’s my latest.”

*cassette-only live “bootleg”
**best-of/rarities compilation from the Sire years

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