There it was again. Goosebumps. Even a grainy old out–of–synch YouTube video of a 1986 sound check at Maxwell's in Hoboken still evoked a shiver. At the risk of living in the rock 'n' roll past, The Replacements were one of the best bands, bar or otherwise, that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Over the years I saw Westerberg, Mars and the Stinson Bros many, many times. I saw them when they were riotously drunk, careening from one tune to the next, never finishing any of them. I saw them once at an unbilled gig do not a note of their own music, preferring instead to rip through TV themes: Batman followed by Bewitched followed by The Flintstones... I saw them jacked up on God knows what, painting their shoes and whipping bologna from a deli tray all over their dressing room. Through it all, with the possible exception of when Bob Stinson was kicked out for getting a little too addictive, they had a ball. When it got serious near the end, around the time of Don’t Tell a Soul, it was for all intensive purposes, over. They were the best thing to come out of the once vaunted Minnesota scene—okay, after Prince—and whether they liked it or not, one of the originators of the whole "alt" rock thang.
Amongst all the hand–ringing and head–scratching and kvetching about the music business and what we're going to do with our CDs and LPs and how iPods sound like shit but are the future whether we like it or not (in my case, the jury's still out), it's a good idea, at least in my overamped case, to step back, close–a–dee mouth and occasionally remember that at the bottom of all this claptrap, there's still music. Which I (we) presumably still love.
In Aural Robert in the April issue of Stereophile, Amoeba owner David Prinz and I discuss his label, Amoeba Records, and his ongoing program to reissue Gram Parsons live sets. Needless to say however, I also talked with him about the ever more bizarre situation that the record business now finds itself in. As the owner of the biggest and best independent record stores on planet Earth, his opinion carries more than a little weight. Here's a sampling of what he said about the biz and the specter of iTunes.