My favorite record store had a glass case that was filled with magic. In the days before a skilled Google search could kick up just about any music a heart and ear might desire, there was all sorts of material out there which enticed with its sheer elusiveness. Some of this was old stuff that was out of print and some of it was the flotsam and jetsam that bands released on b-sides and compilations. But the hidden gems that intrigued me the most were those albums that were clearly bootleg releases. Some of this was undoubtedly because of the illicit nature of these releases, a quality firmly established for me by nineteen-seventies television. What’s more, most of the bootlegs were live releases, promises of captured moments in time, catching bands when they’re most raw and free, theoretically anyway. That glass case in the record store was filled with those sorts of releases, although the proprietor was always quick to remind me that they were actually “imports” any time I uttered the dreaded b-word. And the glass pipes displayed in one of the other glass cases were for tobacco use only.
I keenly studied the contents of that case whenever I went in, looking for one of my preferred bands trumpeted on one of the clearly homemade CD covers. Most of the discs contained live music from the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen or some other iconic hero of seventies stadiums. But every once in a while, a band that had a loving, nurtured spots on our college radio playlists could be found amidst the classic rock. One of those bands that seemed to turn up the most was the Replacements, maybe because they had a reputation as a cataclysmically unique live act, or maybe just because I and many of my friends who also fought off bad moods by buying records were such easy marks for the messy Minneapolis quartet. It was just good business to make sure they were well-represented in one of the pricier sections of the store. I was pretty good about keeping most of my record store purchases modest, but few things were more difficult for me than leaving a Replacements rarity unbought.
I was also helpless before songs with gently tweaked lyrics. A certain completist’s compulsion kicked in, especially if that song was a personal favorite. A version of “Within Your Reach” that found Paul Westerberg signing the modified lines, “Never seen no mountain/’Cept on a six pack of beer” was a version that I simply needed to have in my collection. Thus I bypassed the purchase of a few six packs of beer to have the necessary pennies to get a copy of a CD featuring a live performance of that song from a venue in Bristol, Connecticut in August of 1989. Hell, somebody else might be willing to buy me a beer, but the CD rack was clearly my responsibility. I’ve pruned the collection plenty over the years, but I’ve always made sure to hang onto that Replacements disc, along with several others from the same band, from the same magic glass case. You just never know when an alternative version might come in handy.
(Disclaimer: While I can’t claim a complete knowledge of every scrap of spare material that showed up on the various Replacements reissues a couple years ago, I assume that the fact that the disc I drew this track from was officially unreleased means I’m not depriving anyone of potential, properly earned funds by posting the song here. Still, I don’t own it, and the Mats do, so if anyone with due authority to request its removal does just that, I will gladly take it down from this corner of the Web.)