Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Bastards of Young – The Replacements

Bastards of Young

Written by Paul Westerberg and performed by the Replacements. You can see the video discussed here. You can buy the song from iTunes here and the album Tim here.

The Replacements, true to their mix of anarchy, stubbornness and virtues, swear they’ll never make a video. They’re about the music, the rock n’roll; screw the star-making machinery and their vapid three-minute faux movies. Of course, principals and the music industry don’t mix, so when the Replacements sign their major label deal, they reluctantly agree to do a video. True to their subversive spirit, they do the video their way, which means making a non-video video.

The created their first video to support, “Bastards of Young,” a great anti-hero anthem. The visuals consist of a close-up of a vibrating speaker, then the black and white scene pulls back to show the poor man’s stereo rack – cheap components on milk crates – and fragmentary views of a faceless man (Paul Westerberg?) sitting on a couch, smoking and listening to the song. When it ends, he stands up and goes Peter Townsend on the speaker, putting his foot through it. A video you can’t watch? That’s the point, right? Just listen to the music.  

That’s pretty good advice when it comes to “Bastards of Young.” From the opening guttural guitar riffs, Chris Mar’s violent drums and Paul Westerberg’s wail, waves of anguish and anger overwhelm. The song demonstrates why Westerberg needed Bob Stinson on guitar for the lashing guitar gives the song the edge it needs, fueling Westerberg’s singing so that his screams and screeches carry as much meaning – despair, longing, loneliness – as his lyrics. We hear cutting cynicism (“Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function”), raw hate (“We are the sons of no one, bastards of young”) and utter confusion (“God, what a mess”). Amid all the anger and rage, Westerberg slips in a little confused tenderness, which really makes the song:

The ones who love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please
If it’s any consolation, I don’t begin to understand them

The refusal to participate in the video-making business could only last so long. The Replacements later created videos for their songs and Paul Westerberg went on to write songs for the soundtrack of Singles and the score and soundtrack for the animated film, Open Season.


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