For 30 years now, mournful drunks have been playing “Unsatisfied” at 2 a.m. in bars. That’s right, the Replacements released the most perfect of all their perfect masterpieces, Let It Be, exactly three decades ago today. It’s an essential “I remember where I was when I first heard…” album, especially for anyone lucky enough to be between the ages of 16 and 40 when it first came out — it’s one thing to know the full scope of the band’s shifting career with the benefit of hindsight; it’s another to have experienced it while it was happening. Let It Be, despite its punky exterior, sounds very little like Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash or the Stink EP. Instead of just fast-and-loud rock, it’s all over the place, from the Big Star-indebted “I Will Dare” to the mournful “Answering Machine.”
Also, there’s a Kiss cover.
Let It Be, and the Replacements’ entire ethos, can be summed up by something singer/indie rock superstar Paul Westerberg said in an interview many years ago.
The title Let It Be, of course, came from the Beatles. Appropriating it, says Westerberg, “was our way of saying that nothing is sacred, that the Beatles were just a damn fine rock and roll band. We seriously were gonna call the next record Let It Bleed.” (Via)
The Replacements respected the old guard, be it the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, who they memorably covered on The Sh*t Hits the Fans, but they didn’t feel indebted to them. They were who they were, the Replacements were something else entirely. The Beatles were a damn fine rock and roll band, but on their Let It Be, they were, for the first (and only) time as the Fab Four, not doing anything new.
The Replacements co-opted that still-legendary album from the most famous band in the world by turning it into a forward-thinking, sad-bastard anthem about boners and tonsils and androgyny. It only sold a tenth of what the Beatles did 14 years prior, but I bet it’s spoken to just as many people. Deep down, we’re all bastards of young, which is why it’s still one of my favorite things.