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Baker's Dozen

Escape To The Country: Willy Vlautin Of Richmond Fontaine's Favourite LPs
John Freeman , April 6th, 2016 09:55

Following the release of Richmond Fontaine's tenth and final album, You Can't Go Back If There Is Nothing To Go Back To, the singer and author talks to John Freeman about his favourite albums of storytelling escapism


The Replacements – Let It Be
Again, I don't know how popular The Replacements were in the UK, but for a certain segment of mostly white, working-class guys in the '80s, they were the coolest band. They were the kings of the self-defeatists. When Let It Be came out I don't think any of them had driver's licences. None of them had graduated from high school and they were the kings of the losers, but were succeeding on their own terms.

They were maniac alcoholics, which when I was 17 or 18, I thought was really cool. My cousin and me would listen to Let It Be, go to 'old man' bars, and try to drink as if we were in The Replacements. When you are young, you think that's cool as hell, and then you spend the later years of your life trying not to be like that.

When Let It Be came out there was a new record store in town. I had pre-paid for the record at this new store. The store had just introduced those magnetic strips on records to prevent theft. They were one of the first stores to have them. So, I buy my copy of Let It Be and then I saw the Enigma Variations compilation, which was a double album. I wasn't a criminal by any stretch of the imagination. I never rebelled or anything. My family worked too hard to get by for me to consider the idea of rebelling, but for some reason, I fucking decided to steal that album.

The lady who was running the store went into the back room and I put the record in the same bag as Let It Be and walked out. I didn't know about the magnetic strip. She comes out and says, "I am just trying to run a record store and you are fucking ripping me off", and she took the bag back. I said to her, "You cannot take The Replacements album; I have been waiting two fucking months for this." We got into an argument, which I don't usually do, and of course, I am a fucking loser, because I just shoplifted from a lady running a record store. Nevertheless, I got to keep Let It Be and I think I wore that record out.

Paul Westerberg can write ballads and the album flips between punk rock, punk pop and great ballads. The record is funny and depressing – if, like me, you would wake up in the morning and think "I am just a fucking bum loser" and then you finally have your leader.

Everyone thought Westerberg was a loser. He could barely hold down a job as a janitor and suddenly everyone thinks he's cool because he writes such great songs. Foolishly, The Replacements gave me hope that I could be a bum and still be all right, which is one of the more dangerous and decadent aspects of rock & roll. Nevertheless, The Replacements made a lot of sense to me as a kid, even if they fucking ruined my life for many years.