1/18/86. The Replacements appeared on Saturday Night Live, their first and only nationally televised appearance in the USA. I imagine anyone who lived through original Elvis, Beatles, or Rolling Stones (etc. etc. etc.) television performances remembers vividly when these performances occurred. I do on this one. I was in college and it was a bitter cold night. As per usual, we were having a party that was going quite strongly (though truth be told, 6 or 7 additional girls would have helped the gender asymmetry). At 10:30, Central Time, Saturday Night Live came on. I halted the party (I am sure in a not altogether suave way) and said (I am sure in a not altogether coherent way) we're watching SNL.
How could it NOT be legendary? The greatest
band in the entire world was going to play AND it was hosted by Harry
Dean Stanton, the star of my favorite movie of all time (at that time),
Repo Man. Settling into another Schaefers, me and the remaining
party-attendees watched the show.
Honestly, the show
SUCKED. This was a downtime in SNL history and the cast was pretty
poor, the writing worse, and the performances stiff and boring. Sam
Kinnison appeared in a stand-up routine. He was horrifically bad. Just
really, really bad.
But then at the bottom the first hour, Harry Dean Stanton introduces "The Replacements."
There they are.
I had seen them a few times before this, but this was NATIONAL TV. THE BIG TIME.
initial notes to Bastards of Young were so distorted and somewhat
out-of-tune it took a couple of seconds to triangulate. Once I did, I
thought, "oh man." The pace of the song was fast, loud, and poignant.
Many have noted how drunk the Mats were--and I'm pretty sure they
were--but compared to shows I had seen previously, including some a few
weeks earlier, they were ON.
Bastards of Young on SNL, 1/18/86
And they were. Watch the
video. Yeah. Maybe out-of-tune. Yeah. Paul doesn't sing all the
lines (find me one song ever where he did). Yeah. Bob seems to be
playing a slightly different version of the song than Paul, Tommy or
Chris. But watch the video. Listen to the song. I'm biased (just a
little), but I consider it the greatest performance ever on SNL (this is
coming from someone who saw the live performances of Elvis Costello and
FEAR on SNL).
To me, the greatest moment in the BOY
performance is one that no one has ever noted as far as I can tell
(which means I may be way off base). After Paul sings the immortal line
"The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest/ Visit their
graves on holidays at best/ The ones who love us least, are the the ones
we'll die to please..," he exaggeratedly winks at the camera. Why did
he do that?
In October or November, there was a review of "Tim" in some national magazine (originally I thought it was Rolling Stone but I think it's some other magazine now). In that review, whoever wrote it noted that that line
was emblematic of the genius of PW's songwriting skills. I think Paul's wink was a way of saying "fuck you" or
"c'mon fuckers" or whatever. But whatever, that moment in the SNL
performance sticks with me.
And of course after that line,
they launch into Bob's solo, Paul uttering "C'mon Fucker" a line which,
legend says, got them banned from SNL.
Fortunately, it didn't get them banned from playing their second song of the night, "Kiss Me on the Bus."
Kiss Me on the Bus on SNL, 1/18/86
here is that Paul, Tommy, and Chris came out cross-dressed. No, not in
bra and panties, but in each others clothes they had worn on their
performance of Bastards. I guess being skinny as a rail has its
virtues: if everyone in the band is skinny as a rail and about yay-high,
clothing substitution is pretty easy. Only Bob wore his original
If Lorne Michaels wasn't already shitting large
bricks because of "Bastards", he must've transitioned to shitting large
buildings when these fuckers came on in each others' clothes and Paul
substituting the line "Kiss Me on the Butt" for "Kiss Me on the Bus."
Watch it. Watch Paul smile each time he says it. Classic. Epic.
the Mats were done. Two songs. Over. Might as well turn this crappy
show off now, right? For some reason we didn't. We watched this to the
We were not disappointed. The finishing credits to
this episode are not to be missed, especially if you love Chris Mars.
While the cast of SNL, as horrific and lame as it was in those days, is
mugging about, our Mats are appearing and disappearing like quarks in a
super collider. As someone once wrote, the cast looked at our fellas as
if they were a four-part fart.
That was an iconic night. One I'll never forget. Legendary.