Thursday, August 16, 2012

Why "Hold My Life" is The Replacements' Greatest Song

Sure there are many other Replacements songs that could be considered their peak – an impossibly magnificent group that would include “Alex Chilton”, “Left of the Dial”, “Bastards of Young”, “I Will Dare”, “Unsatisfied”, “Answering Machine”, “Within Your Reach”, “I’m in Trouble”, “Kids Don’t Follow”, “Achin to Be”, “Here Comes A Regular”, “Sixteen Blue”, “Never Mind” ,“I’ll Be You”  plus a dozen others in a catalogue that has no peer in the post-1977 rock world. But only one Mats’ song kicks off their best album (Tim) with this sobering declaration of the eternally drunk and downtrodden “Well, well, well, I’ve found (it’s my life) / Down on all fives”.  Down on all fucking fives.  Crawling along, crushed by the fear of expectations, paralyzed in boy-man limbo with “decisions to be made”, but not having enough sack or interest to make them.  “Hold My Life” completely captures the paranoid stasis most folks have that live life without a roadmap.  And there’s still the faux-fatalistic humor that shows up in the next two lines – “Let me crawl / If I want, I could dye… my hair”.

The only comparison I can make between Westerberg and me is that, in 1985, neither one of us wanted to grow up, but as we closed in on impending real life, we just wanted it to stop. Right there. Hold my life… freeze it until I am better equipped to use it.  Because at that exact moment - decent job, staying up late, sleeping late too, no real responsibilities and a never-ending beer – life is a new, carefree adventure each day.  Screw up and get out, ready to tear it up again tomorrow.  There’s no wife, no kids, no lasting commitments at work or home.  Those commitments would come later – and then “Hold My Life” morphs from trying to stop life from beginning to now trying to stop it from moving too fast to its ultimate destination.  It’s the threat of those commitments that lead us to “lose it in the shade” or “crack up in the sun”. The song never loses its relevance. But the razzle dazzle” hook, that at first seems innocuous or trite, is telling us it’s OK to mess up (we all will), because it’s the trying that allows “this one to come alive”. As Mr. Wizard would say to Tooter Turtle “Be just what you is, not what you is not. Folks that do this are the happiest lot.”
The Replacements - Hold My Life (from Tim)

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