Standing in line in the Minnesota heat having arranged to get to a decent record store which was a major Herculean task in of itself for a kid in college where the big records of hair metal and top 40 dominated the sparse “selection” of the college record store and, for that matter, most record stores. But how many universities have a real record store. The so-called record stores I had access to only sold a handful of records in a space that was more about hanging out between classes or just hanging out rather than having a wide selection of music available. Which is fine, but to buy a record… to purchase an album required a far more sacred space than was available at the university I attended. So I drove a few hours to get to a real record store.
So after some time driving, there I was in line with a bunch of people just like me. We were connected. When I say that, we did not look like one another. There was no badges or uniforms… well, other than the patches on jackets. I remember seeing one guy with a Husker Du sticker on the back of his jacket and I immediately had great respect for him even while I debated in my mind if he preferred “the Huskers” to the ‘Mats. For me, it did not matter – both bands were incredible and they both came from our home town. Yeah, I know now that Bob Mould was not from Minnesota but went there for school, but that did not matter to those of us who loved that sound. These bands made music in the ceremonial home town of all wayward Minnesotan kids, Minneapolis-St. Paul or the Twin Cities or for us ‘the cities.’
We were waiting for the record store to open so we all could purchase the first Replacements record without Bob Stinson. I did not know then, what I know today. Bob had been thrown out of the band in the worst possible way. But it did not matter, just as Ralphie had his mania for a Red Ryder, we had ours for the latest ‘Mats record. It was not a bridge too far, it was real and authentic and it was obtainable.
All many people in the line knew was the buzz. The ‘Mats were on a major label. This was a record that we all knew was titled with an odd turn of phrase, ‘Please to Meet Me.’ “What does that even mean?” I thought at the time. It did not matter. This was the band that created unbelievable records such as ‘Tim’, ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Kids Don’t Follow’ and ‘Stink.’ I loved this band. Hearing songs like ’16 Blue’ spoke to me on a level I could not fully understand, let alone explain to someone else. I was fortunate. I worked in a college radio station and had heard an interview promo record that the label, Sire, had sent out to prime the pump with college radio. You have to remember that there was no Internet back then — the idea of a mix-tape or a cool college station was as close to open music discovery as one could find. And I had heard a few of the songs. I still could hear ‘Alex Chilton’ in my head as I waited in line. It was intense, it was both less raw than the band’s previous work and a solid continuation of their approach. The power and direct lyrics of that song stay with me today. But back then the production was so different than the previous records. “Was that horns on the one song?” I thought to myself. “That is strange for a ‘Mats record.”
So, we stood in line in the Minnesota heat waiting to buy ‘Pleased to Meet Me.’ We knew it was going to be good. And as we were stood waiting, striking up conversations with other ‘Mats fans, we could see the boxes being opened through the windows. You wonder which one you are going to get. You know you are going to take it home and play it completely — side 1 and then side 2 and then repeat. If I followed my normal routine for a first listen, I would have several hours set aside to just listen and try to absorb it.
There was excitement in the line when the door opened. We were told that we could only buy one copy, a few people grumbled. It did not matter to me. The rest is still a daze – pretending to be interested in a few other things but that was not true and I simply did not have enough money. I vaguely remember buying the record, making some small talk, leaving for the car and holding the new baby close to my chest, lest it fall. This was a record, it could be damaged on a fall and I did not have the money to buy another and could not. Somehow I got home when all I wanted to do was to hear it. The crazy excitement of music discovery flowed in my veins. New music. New Replacements music. I remember coming in to my apartment and putting the record on… it was not until the third song that I realized I had not closed the door.
It was perfect.
It remains perfect.
“Step right up son…”