The Replacements have long been of those band who, if you weren’t around to witness them in their prime, you probably found out about them thanks to your older brother, or through a friend of a friend. They were, in a way, the true definition of a word of mouth band, at least in recent decades.
Their 1987 record Pleased To Meet Me featured a number of great tracks, but the stand-out track, in my opinion at least, was ‘Alex Chilton’, a loving tribute to the musician of the same name, best known as a founding member for influential groups The Box Tops and Big Star.
The track is as loving as it is sad, namely due to the lack of success that Big Star saw during their time together. “Children by the million sing for Alex Chilton, when he comes ’round,” the lyrics go, but the fact of the matter is that millions never sang for Alex Chilton. Sadly, he was overlooked majorly during his life and only began to see his deserved recognition in his final years.
The remainder of the song features references to almost every facet of Chilton’s career. With lyrics that liken him to Elvis, draw reference to his relationship with other musicians, and using Chilton as a metaphor for unseen success.
While I was first drawn to this song via a brilliant cover performed by Australian group Kisschasy only months before Chilton’s death, the original version by The Replacements maintains the sadness and energy that Chilton was known for. While he may not by nature be a sympathetic figure, his life is the very story of an underrated musician who never saw the success and respect that he or his bandmates deserved.