Dear Darling Ones,
Today is Paul Westerberg’s birthday and I’ve spent a lot of the day thus far contemplating what my life would be like without his music. What if Kelly McKnight hadn’t given me money to play The Cam’s jukebox? What if he hadn’t specifically said, “Play some Replacements?” What if I didn’t listen? What if I had chosen “Someone Take the Wheel” instead of “Merry Go Round?”
If any of those things had turned out differently, Marty McFly, Jr. would be looking at the 2015 Internet with I Will Dare dot com slowly fading from the screen. And it’s kind of a miracle that it happened like it did because even though Kelly McKnight was a total HHBL* I rarely listened to him.
I rarely listen to anyone, even myself. However, when I saw the “14 Songs” poster pictured above on eBay I listened to my heart even though my brain said, “that’s too much money for a twenty-four-year-old poster.” I got a frame for it for Christmas and yesterday I tossed it, crookedly, on a random nail in the wall.
Every single time it catches my eye it makes me smile. And “14 Songs” isn’t even my favorite solo Westerberg album (“Suicaine Gratifaction,” obvs). Yet, the image of the book with the songs in my head and well, it makes me happy. If he had a teeny, tiny sadness plant in the corner of the picture I’d probably be dead right now.
So, a birthday tribute list for St. Paul Westerberg featuring 14 arbitrary thoughts/memories:
- The first time I saw Westerberg was in June 2002 and I went by myself because I didn’t have any friends.
- When I saw The ‘Mats at Midway in 2014 it was like a family reunion. I’ve never hugged more people in one night in my entire life.
- I’ve gotten more free drinks for being a ‘Mats fan than for any of my feminine wiles. For real, in the 90s if I sang along with a ‘Mats song on the jukebox or randomly playing in a bar I would for sure get a free drink. “Woah, I never met a chick who liked the ‘Mats!” Silly men and their gatekeeping.
- It doesn’t happen as much anymore, but people still think I’m Paul Westerberg because of my fansite. Just the other week someone asked me for an interview. My favorite was the dude who a few years back was all, “I’m gonna be in town December 26th-28th, let’s play First Ave together.”
- My least favorite was the weirdo woman who was convinced that Westerberg’s marriage to Laurie Lindeen was some kind of conspiracy. She was creepy and relentless.
- When Jim Walsh read from All Over But the Shouting at the Barnes & Noble at the Galleria I ran into my friend, Goetz, who was there the night I played The ‘Mats on the jukebox.
- The first verse and a half of “Bookmark” is basically me as a song, Father left. You were crushed, like the petals of a flower, between the pages of a novel, a long forgotten bookmark, the end of a sad chapter.
- Because I’m a gemini, “I Will Dare” is also me as a song.
- There was a Westernerd pre-show meet up at some bar I can never remember the name of before the first Pantages show in 2004. Even though he tried to hide in a corner and avoid me, I walked right up to Wolfdogg and made him be my friend. Five, six months later we road-tripped to Milwaukee and Chicago together. Much like the Kelly McKnight incident I wonder how things would be different had I not talked to Wolfdogg that night. I mean. . . he’s become such a part of my life and family that Jaycie & Max consider Wolf and Heather like an extra aunt and uncle.
- When I first started this website the About section was called 28 Things after the “14 Songs” record. Each year I’d add a new thing until I got bored with that whole thing.
- I’ve watched the “Backlash” video about 8 times today. This might be my very favorite video of all time not just because it’s Joan Jett & Paul Westerberg, but because she looks like a Rock & Roll goddess and he looks like your 8th grade Algebra teacher.
- When I saw The Replacements for the very first time at Riot Fest in Chicago a woman I never met before told me that I looked happy, which still pleases me because being able to express that joy and have someone recognize it is pretty rad.
- I have listened to the song “I Will Dare” thousands upon thousands of times and still, every time I hear it my heart beats a little differently in my chest while it’s playing.
- Whenever someone tells me they think of me when they hear “I Will Dare” or The Replacements it makes me smile so hard my face nearly breaks in half. This happened last week when someone who used to blog way back in the olden days emailed me. My heart is still a little glowy.
Meet me any place or any where or any time, I don’t care, meet me tonight,
*In college HHBL was the highest compliment you could give a boy you thought was attractive. It stands for Hunka Hunka Burning Love. If you need a conversion chart, an HHBL would rate anywhere from an 8 to a 10 on The Official Matt Dillon Attractiveness Scale.