By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
By Derek Askey
It was Billy Joel who wrote the immortal line "Only the good die young," but I'll bet even B.J., as wise and talented as he is, would have a hard time fitting Bob Stinson into that equation. Bob, late of the Replacements, late of planet Earth (he died of an apparent drug overdose February 18 in Minneapolis), was not particularly good and not too young. So why eulogize him? Because in the realm of really great rock 'n' roll, being good and young have little to do with anything. (Of course, Billy Joel has little to do with great rock 'n' roll, anyway, so what would he know?)
Musically, the Replacements were just about the best band ever. Substance-abuse-wise, the quartet was right up there, too. And leading the way was Stinson, who was ultimately booted out for his habits, an act that seemed, on the surface, at least, about as plausible as firing Babe Ruth for hitting too many home runs.
But to see Bob live in his prime was to see--well, I don't really know, but it was something else. He was an ape, a buffoon, a forceful player who could throw off wickedly fluid guitar lines and then simply throw his guitar off and stumble away in search of a drink, the song still going. He was the perfect foil for Paul Westerberg's confused-but-glorious-loser persona, a hulking, hefty guy with a mental-hospital stare who drove the band with his presence, in spite of himself. He liked to wear dresses onstage. Ill-fitting dresses. Staying in hotels on tour, he would amuse himself and others by doing things like crapping in an ice bucket and sending it down in the elevator. In an age of "alternative" rock stars with washboard stomachs, bitchin' tattoos and hair extensions, he was as cool as a beer gut. And could not have cared less.
You can get away with all kinds of explosive behavior when you're in a band, and it's hard to imagine Stinson doing any other profession as well. In the end, he was just too good at that side of his job; when Westerberg finally took hold of the group's rarely manned rudder and steered it toward professionalism, Bob fell overboard in a big way. Even bassist Tommy Stinson voted to 86 his big brother, and after 1985's Tim, the Replacement found himself replaced.
As big of a deliberate fuck-up as he was, it was still a bit sad to see Bob go, still kind of a drag to think that you'd never hear those crooked, biting leads anymore. But not that sad; the impression was that Stinson didn't really want to clean up. There's another immortal line by Billy Joel, as wise and talented as he is, that applies perhaps more accurately to Bob Stinson's life, and it has nothing to do with being good and dying young: "Don't go changin'." Unfortunately, Bob didn't.
Cutting Edge: The amount of hair on my head does not warrant my going into any kind of grooming salon, yet I found myself at just such a place a few nights ago. It's big, has a high ceiling, wood floors and the work of local artists on the walls--a class place. Mood Swings, it's called, at 520 South Mill in Tempe, and here's why you're reading about it in an alleged music column: They have music there. I caught a passionate acoustic set by Grievous Angels, and then Flathead worked the crowd. Actually, every six weeks the place is slated to change the artwork (check out Brian Marsland's stuff right now as you're getting that dye job) and will feature local bands at the same time. And any time local bands get another place to play, even if it's every six weeks, that's a good thing. Call 968-0268.
More in Store: Since I'm plugging business establishments, let us examine the Arizona Guitar Shack. If you're a musician, chances are you've walked into a music store at least once (if not many thousands of times) and found yourself dealing with a clerk who knows more about being obnoxious than anything to do with an instrument. I don't know why this is, and it obviously doesn't apply across the board, but it is a recurring theme. Believe me. But prepare to rejoice, for the newly opened Shack, a used and vintage-only joint, might as well be managed by Mother Teresa when it comes to customer relations. "I heard lots of horror stories when I came to town here from guys saying they got treated like dog doo in stores, and I want to do better than that," says boss Dave Frazer. "The atmosphere here is really laid-back, play whatever you want; I leave people to themselves. My philosophy is I don't care if it's a $50 guitar or a $3,500 vintage Strat, Leo Fender did not make guitars to be in a display case." Frazer says he will also give you full value back in trade for any piece of equipment purchased, regardless of how long ago the buy went down. He has cool stuff, and his prices are pretty darn reasonable. Especially for me. Call 861-1456.