I remember it as a slow, melancholy dimming of the lights for a certain kind of record collecting — or, being precise about the era, CD collecting, I suppose.
Paul Westerberg was just a few years into his solo career, and it already wasn’t going as well as everyone had hoped. The former frontman and chief songwriter for the Replacements wasn’t exactly a hitmaker as part of the beloved, bedraggled Minnesota band, but he was iconic, embodying a certain brand of rock ‘n’ roll mythology that traded in self-sabotage and cool disregard for success. Since he was also an ace crafter of songs (when he allowed himself to be), the thought was that he’d settle into a respectable career when he was toiling under his own name only. Westerberg’s first two solo albums, though, fell a little flat, for both critics and the college radio stations that had once reveled in the Replacements, but now preferred their rock to be tuneless and grinding.
Then, in 1997, rumors started circulating about a clandestine Westerberg release. He’d been under the Warner Bros. umbrella for several years — both with the Replacements and on his own — but there was a new EP by a mysterious artist on a dinky independent label stirring discussion. Westerberg’s name was nowhere to be found in the liner notes, but the the voice on there sure sounded familia, even if the only billing afforded to the credited guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, and packaging designer was Grandpaboy.
The self-titled CD was incredibly difficult to find. I remember scouring multiple record stores and puzzled looks or pleas of helplessness when I inquired about its availability. I don’t recall how the coveted disc made it into my collection, but I have warm, foggy memories of listening to it for the first time, enjoying its willful sloppiness after Westerberg had spruced up for his proper solo endeavors. I was a sucker for the lore of the flannel-clad punks making slapdash music, too.
Not long after this instance, the exponential expansion of online resources made similar questing a bygone experience, like changing typewriter ribbon or starting a motor vehicle using a crank on the front. I appreciate immensely that the music I crave is a couple artful clicks away at any given time, but I also miss the grand joy and desperation of the hunt.
Listen or download —> Grandpaboy, “Psychopharmacology”
(Disclaimer: I may have hunted back then, but I barely put any effort into finding out the current availability of the Grandpaboy EP as a physical object that can be procured from your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said shop and the original artist. Westerberg has explored so many oddball avenues of distributing his own music that you may very well be able to secure a copy by stealthily marking the side of a public mailbox a signal to meet him in the park so he can pass it to you inside a folded up newspaper. Regardless, I mean no fiscal harm to anyone in the fair use sharing of this track, and I will gladly and promptly remove it from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by and individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)