"I'll Be You" - The Replacements
from the album Don't Tell A Soul (1989)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #51
This week's "robbed hit" comes from the seminal alternative rock band the Replacements, who had come together in the late 70s in Minneapolis with brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson along with drummer Chris Mars eventually hiring on friend and singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Westerberg. They signed on with punk/ska label Twin/Tone, and in time released their debut album Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash in 1981. Along with their second set Hootenanny in 1983, the rock critics took to the group early, and they set off on touring to expand their audience (including a notorious gig in my hometown of Trenton that I remember hearing about in high school before I could go). They went on to open for R.E.M., which seemed to have a direct effect on their sound, showing them a way to be loud and hard but slower and more thoughtful lyrically. As a result, their third effort, Let It Be, was a well-received departure, combining the strength of punk music with the emotional pull of heartland rock like Tom Petty. With songs like "I Will Dare", which featured R.E.M.'s Peter Buck (who originally was slated to produce), college radio started to get on board. The band's following effort, Tim, came after they jumped to major-label status, and will Tommy Ramone producing and a more expansive sound including the college staple "Left Of The Dial" and
"Kiss Me On The Bus", one of the two songs they horrendously sloshed through on Saturday Night Live. While both the albums remain classics in the development of the genre, with each appearing on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 most important albums of the rock era, the toll of their tumultuous and drug-addled rise did not help, with Bob Stinson ending up being ejected shortly after. With a new guitarist in Slim Dunlap and a seemingly sedated (in a different way) band, the Replacements put out their second major-label disc, Pleased To Meet Me, in 1987. The single "Can't Hardly Wait" was a big success on rock stations in the Midwest, and for many like myself, this was my first true exposure to the band (in my case, originally on a Sire Records promo disc). They tasted their first chart success a year later, when their cover of "Cruella Deville" from the alt-rock Disney tribute album Stay Awake went to #11 on the modern rock chart in Billboard.
In 1989 the band put out the even-more reserved Don't Tell A Soul, which found the punk orneriness removed and evolved into the jangle-pop that will dominate the first half of the 90s. The first single from the album, "I'll Be You", ended up being their biggest "hit" success, even though it more than reminded me of the transformation that happened to the Psychedelic Furs during the Hughes-film years...
While "I'll Be You" went on to go to #1 on both the Mainstream and Modern Rock radio charts in Billboard magazine, the single stalled right under the halfway mark on the pop Hot 100 in May of 1989. Two more singles from the Don't Tell A Soul album also made the rock radio charts. After another badly-received mess opening for Tom Petty, Westerberg recorded All Shook Down, in essence a solo album but released under the Replacments name with Stinson and Mars marginally involved. However radio didn't notice too much with first single "Merry Go Round" spending a month on top of the Modern Rock chart, and third single "When It Began" reaching #4 there. They lasted for another tour (with Mars leaving to be replaced by Steve Foley) and by 1991 the Replacements were shuttered. Paul embarked on a true solo career, with a pair of #4 modern rock singles in the early nineties with "Dyslexic Heart" (from the hugely popular Singles movie and soundtrack) and "World Class Fad". He last appeared on the chart in 1996 with "Love Untold" (#21 Modern Rock). Meanwhile, Tommy Stinson went on to join Guns N Roses in 1998. Having shunned alcohol in drugs since the 90's, Paul reunited with Tommy and Chris in 2012 for an EP, but the trail left behind by the band was harsh, with Bob dying of drug abuse in 1995, and Foley also overdosing in 2008, and Dunlap suffering a stroke. The reunion didn't last, as would be expected from one of the most craziest rock bands of the decade.
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Here's the band performing the song live in 1989...
..and again in 2014...