Somewhere there’s a party….

Bob, sketch by Mark Kerstetter

Bob, sketch by Mark Kerstetter

Bob Stinson

In the promotional video for the Pleased to Meet Me tour, Paul Westerberg mentioned that The Replacements had two sets of fans—the loudmouth drunks up front and the shy, thoughtful kids sitting way in the back. I think in some sense that remains true to this day. Recently someone commented on a Replacements video on Youtube that Bob Stinson was the “beginning, the middle and the end” of The Replacements. Never mind that he didn’t write the songs, that he was hardly present during the recording of their fifth album and was fired after that. The drunken loudmouth fan base seem (based on comments such as these on the web) to romanticize Bob. He was a Guitar God. The heart and soul of the band. Glorious in his fuckedupness. It’s an unforgivable crime that the other three cast him out, etc.

I really hate romanticism of this sort, especially when it’s tied to alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness and unbearable pain, and we know beyond a doubt how terribly afflicted Bob was by all of these things. Romanticizing such things is, at best, misplaced concern and, at worst, a destructive form of denial. Bob did not deserve the hand he was dealt. No one deserves what he got. A remarkable beauty shot through all that horror and he managed to hang on for 35 years, looked 55 when he died. His spirit helped make The Replacements what they are and always will be. I love him. How can you not love him if you love The Replacements? But may we please not put a glamorous cloak over his illnesses? Let’s see them for what they are. After all, those of us who suffer (some of whom are loudmouths up front and some the shy ones in back) cannot get better by hiding, disguising or otherwise denying our sickness. And no, we are not great because of our sickness, but we become great despite it or better yet by overcoming it. Thank you.

 

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7 Responses to Somewhere there’s a party….

  1. M says:

    before the term Romantic came into use, I suppose ‘lionize’, or ‘mythologize’, or some other synonym was used. appears to be part of the human condition… ~

    • What’s a part of the human condition–to distort what we see? Sickness is part of the human condition. I’m talking about the sickness of being in love with sickness, the fan who thinks Bob Stinson’s greatness as a musician is connected to his illnesses. This is a form of romanticism, a specifically modern condition.

      • M says:

        I think, both actual sickness, and the ‘modern’ version of the fan’s sickness in aggrandizing the artist’s sickness. I’m not sure that’s purely a modern phenomenon, although we could discuss the lack of actual literacy as well as the lack of fast and broad communication in pre-modern eras, either of which would be sufficient to quash any sort of group-think or echo-chamber commentary by fans.

        But to your question, yes, I think to distort what we see is the human condition. How that manifests has varied, depending on culture, era, etc., but the fan’s sickness sure looks like a form of death-cult worship to me, and that certainly predates Romanticism.

        • Mexican Day of the Dead?

          • M says:

            Which is an amazing festival, btw, though I’ve been only to the Santa Ana CA version, and not the gigantic Tucson, AZ spectacle.

            I’m not sure that my impression of death-cult worship isn’t itself progeny of romanticized film / literature efforts put forth by primarily western auteurs. Scratching memory of Shiva -wait, google has something on this – ok, I’ll postulate that artists have always had some kind of sheen or aura that included speculations of different-ness, if not deviancy.

            Perhaps that is part of the allure of the arts: an upending of the quotidian, and that includes accepting (or attributing to) the artist’s transgressing whatever the standards of morality or healthy behavior of the day might be. In Bob’s case, the front-row meatheads want to revel in his sickness so they don’t have to, or aren’t brave enough to try, or are somehow too sensible to follow. Whatever their reason for not personally indulging, can’t they then attribute his creative genius to that behavior in which they won’t indulge?

            Which is not to defend their romanticism. Just noting that I agree with the last 2 lines of your original post. ~

            • Thanks for taking the time with this. Yeah, you could be right about some of the fans. There’s a positive form of indulging in dark things (murder, all sorts of crime) in the arts. And as far as outrageous behavior goes, The Replacements themselves admitted that they became something onstage that they weren’t in their private lives. But I’m thinking about people I’ve known personally (not to mention my own sickness). The fans I’m thinking of revel in their own sickness–let’s say alcoholism. They see a direct correlation between Bob’s drinking and his guitar playing. Far from taking a ‘there but for the grace of god go I’ approach to a Bob Stinson, they use him as an excuse to wallow in their own alcoholism. I’ve known people like this. It’s a very destructive attitude. I’ve known all sorts of artists too who think they have to be sick (self-destructive in some way) to make powerful art. That too, in my experience, is a destructive attitude.

  2. M says:

    it’s the conundrum, isn’t it? not whether pain precedes art – that’s shown to be a sufficient condition. but whether it’s *necessary* – that is the question. many vote yes, but is that just a self-fulfilling prophecy?

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