The Replacements had a reputation for unpredictable live shows—gleefully raucous one night, drunk and disorderly the next. With the 1986 sacking of founding lead guitarist Bob Stinson—a move the band made, in part, due to his increasingly erratic behavior—many assumed the ‘Mats would clean up their act.
With new guitarist Slim Dunlap in tow, the unit hit the road in the spring of 1987 in support of their latest LP, Pleased To Meet Me. Though they were indeed more reliable, the band didn’t exactly get sober, and they could still flop like murder on stage, especially if there was something at stake. For a June gig in L.A., in which numerous staff from their record label were in attendance, they rose to the occasion by performing a set of songs that consistently didn’t reach the finish line (reportedly only one was seen to completion), and handing off their instruments to audience members. They would return to the west coast for a final run of dates in December, with pals the Young Fresh Fellows as their openers, culminating with a now legendary disaster of a show in Portland (the night ended with the Replacements playing in their underpants). ‘Mats ringleader Paul Westerberg felt so bad about the performance that he wrote the song “Portland” as an apology.
Members of both bands on stage during the infamous Portland gig.
Prior to the concluding shows of the Pleased To Meet Me outing, the Replacements were having drinks with Scott McCaughey, the singer/guitarist of the Young Fresh Fellows. Perhaps the rigors of touring (along with the alcohol) had gotten to them, as the boys decided to do something most wouldn’t do if you paid them: They shaved their eyebrows. The episode was recounted in Bob Mehr’s fantastic biography, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements.
On December 1st, the band was hanging out at Seattle’s Mayflower Hotel bar with Scott McCaughey when Westerberg suggested they all shave their eyebrows. “By the time we actually got done with it,” said bassist Tommy Stinson, “the feisty stage was over, and it was like, ‘Oh . . . shit. I’m going to bed. I hope this goes away by the time I wake up.’ It didn’t.”
McCaughey later recalled that his eyebrows took months to grow back and that he looked like a “cretin” without them.
The Replacements and the Young Fresh Fellows horsing around in 1987. Note: Eyebrows still intact.
The below interview with the Replacements was recorded for MTV’s The Cutting Edge Happy Hour, hosted by Peter Zaremba of the Fleshtones. The show taped in Hollywood, so the segment was likely videoed when the band rolled through Southern California a few days after the Seattle incident. Looking as they did—ragged from the road and just plain weird without their eyebrows—most groups would’ve cancelled a scheduled television appearance, but not the Replacements. After all, this is the rock-n-roll combo that took the concept of shooting yourself in the foot and made it into an art form.
A variety of topics are covered in the clip—as well as excerpts from their contrary videos—including the elephant in the room: Why’d they shave their eyebrows? According to Westerberg, they did it in order to prank McCaughey’s band-mates.
But who was the joke really on?!
The picture quality ain’t the greatest, but it’s classic ‘Mats, so just watch it already.