are you listening? one more time with feeling

So just in case you didn’t know – the lyrics sung by Paul Westerberg of the Minneapolis band the Replacements delve deeply into the theme of yearning. Now, maybe not as popular as the feelings “hungry,” “envy” or even “love,” this was a still a feeling many kids across the United States were feeling in the 1980s. And I’d bet that even GOB Bluth at some point in his life  has yearned for something too….probably.

For example, the chorus to the song “Unsatisifed” had Westerberg demanding the listener to “look me in the eye and tell me that I’m satisfied,” before asking “are you satisfied?” The song then ends with Westerberg repeatedly saying, “I’m so, I’m so, unsatisfied.” [Note- while these lyrics might seem a bit silly written in prose and added into my narrative, trust me, they ain’t lame at all when you give the song a listen]

Listeners across the country related to Westerberg’s words. For example, Missy Roeback, a big fan of the Replacements, remembered upon hearing Westerberg,

he sounded raw and fragile and desperate and pissed. He sounded like I felt. I was twenty-three, two years out of college [in 1986], slowly suffocating in a conservative New England town, not sure of what I wanted to do with my life, but sure that I needed to get out of Hartford. I went to work at my soul-sucking insurance company job in my purple hair and black clothes. I was confused and angry and sad and not really sure why. At the time, I couldn’t even describe these feelings – I just knew that everything was wrong. ‘Unsatisfied’ made me feel like someone else got it. This is how it feels. This is how I feel. It took me a few more years to escape the suffocating town and quite a few more to start putting a name on my feelings. Songs like “Unsatisfied” and [other Replacements’ songs] ‘Answering Machine,’ and later on, ‘Aching to be,’ didn’t give me all the answers, but they helped me feel less alone in the world.

As mentioned before on this here blog, there was another Replacements’ song, “Bastards of Young,” that tapped into the self-deprecating mood of Generation X, exclaiming “we are the sons of no one/ bastards of young” as an anthem. Furthermore, their song “Kids Don’t Follow,” exemplifies the dichotomies between the baby-boomers and Generation X, as well as those with power and those without it.

The track begins with a recording of the Minneapolis police breaking up a concert the Replacements were performing at; despite the youths’ desire to continue the show, the authorities give the event participants a choice of packing up their belongings and leaving, or facing arrest. Although the show was broken up, with the Replacements leaving the warehouse venue with the audience, the participants were still defiant to some extent; Dave Pirner, a member of the contemporary Minneapolis band Soul Asylum, can be heard on the recording yelling expletives at the police.

The song (recorded separately in a studio) then details the opposition of the young to their elders, with the lyrics “kids won’t listen/ To what you’re sayin’/ Kids ain’t wondering/ Kids ain’t praying,” and “I need some attention/ No house of detention/ I’d love some attention/ Don’t start again/ Kids don’t need that/ Kids don’t want that/ Kids don’t need nothing of the kind/ Kids don’t follow/ What you’re doin’/ In my face out my ear.”

Numerous other examples of Replacements’ songs can be referenced, such as “I Hate Music.” The obvious irony and self-deprecation of the song was evident in its title, and its lyrics further support those  themes, and reveal the band was also earnestly self aware: “I hate music/  Its got too many notes/ I hate my high school/ Sometimes I went/ I hate music, man/ Never heaven sent/… so so what?/ I hate my father/ One day I won’t/ I hate my father/ Just get off my back/ I hate music/ Its got too many notes/ Are you listening?”

This attitude was conveyed by youth all throughout the country, and, as well all know this feeling of generational discontent finally hit the mainstream a little over twenty years ago, when people turned on MTV to see the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

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One Comment on “are you listening? one more time with feeling”

  1. Steve Says:

    Thanks for the songs!

    In other news:


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