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For journalists, deconstructing those fiercely guarded walls, gaining entry to the creative inner sanctum has long been the challenge.
Not so in the case of singer/songwriter/guitarist Marc Solomon. In fact, Solomon reveals himself so easily it hardly takes any effort to pin down his most profound and personal motivations.
Forget his ragamuffin appearance, bubbly demeanor and "kick ass" exhortations. Forget the fact that he rode shotgun with Tommy Stinson in Perfect -- the most promising combo to emerge from the Replacements break-up. Forget, even, that Solomon's new group, Clumsy, has made the most loving and genuine-sounding fascimile of that band since Paul Westerberg was riding high on booze and vitriol. Forget all that. Because to understand Marc Solomon you only have hear him say one word: "rock."
It's a term that, naturally, comes up several times during the course of our hourlong conversation. Yet each time Solomon utters the word, it's delivered with a growing sense of fetishistic, orgasmic delight. It's not so much the way his voice sounds when he says it -- a harsh whisper meant to convey the echo of a sold-out sports arena -- but rather the inherent meaning in his delivery.
For Solomon, the word is loaded with images, memories and portent. For him -- like most people of a certain age -- it represents the thrill of wild-eyed innocents discovering the power of rebellion. Of late nights spent with copies of vinyl favorites grown scratchy from wear and tear. Of cigarettes and beer and the comfort of three chords and a catchy chorus. "Rock" in its monosyllabic glory means all that and much more.
But mostly what you get from Marc Solomon when he talks about "rock" -- how much it matters to him and how much he loves it -- is that he's determined to try and save it.
The Dallas, Texas-born and bred Solomon first began making music in the early '90s on the Austin college scene with a trio called the Clowns.
The Clowns' sound drew heavily on the influence of loud fast rules proponents like Minneapolis' Soul Asylum. But it was fellow Twin Cities denizens the Replacements (or the Mats as they were affectionately dubbed by their besotted fans) who were the seminal inspiration for the Clowns. "Yeah, they were the ones. Right after I graduated high school I was really into Tom Petty, the Stones and the Who," says Solomon. "But it wasn't until I heard the Replacements that I was like, 'Wow, this is it.'"
By 1992, Solomon was ready to leave Austin, a climate he deemed inhospitable to the Clowns' unkempt skronk. "The blues thing was just so big at the time, it didn't seem like we had a place out there," he recalls.
Moving to Los Angeles, Solomon kicked around with a revamped version of the Clowns for a couple of years. The band eventually fell apart and Solomon joined another L.A. combo called Careless. "It was the minor leagues of rock," he says with a chuckle. "One guy in the band wound up working as a sideman for R.E.M. Another guy joined the Goo Goo Dolls, another guy turned down a spot in Slash's Snakepit. I played with them for about six months, then everybody got all these gig offers and we went our own separate ways."
Solomon's next gig would bring him in direct contact with the band that had inspired his muse in the first place.
After the Replacements' 1991 break-up, bassist Tommy Stinson had given up music, even briefly working a day job as a telemarketer. But by 1993, he decided to get back in the game and start his own group, Bash & Pop. The band's debut, Friday Night Is Killing Me -- a collection of subdued songs Stinson penned in his parents' attic -- predictably went nowhere. Just as Bash & Pop began readying a follow-up, a revolving door of guitarists opened up. It was at that point that Solomon and Stinson first crossed paths.
"In Careless I was always practicing next door to Tommy. When a spot opened up, Tommy was kind of baiting me to join Bash & Pop. So I auditioned for the band, but I didn't get the gig."
When the guitarist Stinson picked in favor of Solomon bailed shortly after joining, Stinson came calling again.
"He was like, 'Marc, I made the wrong decision. I should've picked you.' But he was saying, 'I don't want to do Bash & Pop anymore. I want to form a new band. Are you interested?'"
After nearly two years, Stinson was eager to leave Bash & Pop behind. Longing to lead a decidedly more rocking outfit, Stinson also wanted a genuine band, one imbued with the same ramshackle sense of camaraderie that had guided the 'Mats -- and he needed Solomon to be a part of it.