The Subtle Genius of The Replacements Music Videos

The Replacements are absolutely my favorite band of all time, I’m absolutely in love with their entire discography, that said, if I had to pick a favorite album it would be Tim. With tracks tracks like Hold My Life, Bastards of Young and Dose of Thunder overflowing with electricity and life, to the more sombre and moody reflections of Here Comes a Regular and Swinging Party, and everything in-between like Little Mascara and Left of the Dial. The album is a 10/10 for me. But with this album came something that frontman Paul Westerberg was absolutely dreading… making a music video.

MTV was reaching peak popularity at time Tim was being made, and as a result Sire, the band’s record label, wanted to cash in on the trend. Sire ended up writing in the band’s contract that they had to make music videos to accompany their singles leading up to the release of Tim, but Westerberg was very vocal about how much he disapproved of this. Westerberg was so against the idea that he completely refused to appear in the videos, his band-mates naturally followed suit and also refused.

*I can’t seem to find who’s actually responsible for making the videos, which is quite sad, so from here on out ill refer to them as “the creators”. It’s possible that the band are the creators, but I can’t seem to find any credits anywhere for the videos so I can’t confirm.

I’ll link to all three videos and then talk about them, if you watch them for 30 seconds each you’ll understand why…

The Replacements, “Hold My Life”:

The Replacements, “Bastards of Young”:

The Replacements, “Left Of The Dial”:

So you may be thinking that they’re the exact same video, to an extent you’re right, but there are very subtle differences between them: one is shot in colour, other two are black and white and in one the speaker is smashed and in the others they aren’t. This means that they we’re all shot completely separately, and hence they are three unique videos, satisfying the band’s contract. It’s most likely that the LOTD (“Left Of The Dial”) and HML (“Hold My Life”) videos are just outtakes of the BOY (“Bastards of Young”) video, that have been repurposed, but I’d like to entertain the possibility that this was entirely planned, and deliberate.

The Replacements were a very niche band, even when they were making music. So they were likely not going to be featured on prime-time MTV, but they needed to be remembered and they needed to be different from the other bands playing so that on the off chance they were played at all on MTV, they were memorable. This is where the repetition of the videos come in, if you see just one of the band’s songs, you will immediately recognise the video when another one of their songs comes on, regardless of which song it is. This really makes use of the viewers time since there is a strong positive correlation between repetition and memory. The Replacements = that band with that one video. Now all they needed was to stand out, which is where the content of the video comes in…

All three have the same structure, we watch the record being put on, then the guy just chills for a few minutes smoking a cigarette listening to the song, then it ends (then in the BOY video, he smashes the speaker and walks off). I will admit, the actual contents of the video isn’t all that engaging after it hits the 30 second mark, but they needed the video to be the same for each video, which means no syncing to the music, which makes it almost impossible to make anything that’s as engaging as their competitor bands. The single shot video is good in terms of standing out from the competition however, and absolutely represents the band’s personality - they just don’t give a shit about anything but the music. The pace of the video is so much slower than any video that will ever come before and after it that it kind of forces you to take notice. There’s also the plus of the videos being extremely budget friendly to produce, which likely made Sire happy (and the band was likely happy that they never had to appear in it).

I’m sure this strategy was at least in part successful because they took it a step further with the singles off their next album, “Pleased To Meet Me”, where they just had the exact same video for “Alex Chilton” and “The Ledge” (in which the band get a little less camera shy):

They take a slightly different approach for these with the editing being very sporadic and seemingly random, and the content being just the band in a room.