Takin' a Ride: Bob Stinson's Best Guitar Moments

A raucous performance by The Replacements
Photo Credit
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

When Bob Stinson died on Feb. 18, 1995 at the age of 35, there were precious few people who could say that they were surprised, from Bob himself on down. As guitarist for The Replacements, he effectively led the band until his failure to maintain any semblance of sobriety left his bandmates little choice but to show him the door...and given that his brother Tommy was one of those bandmates, you know things had gotten bad. While he was there, though, the ‘Mats delivered some of the most memorable music of their career, and we’ve put together a list of 10 tracks to prove it, with a few of the selections specifically spotlighting what Bob brought to the band.

“Takin’ a Ride” (from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, 1981)

It’s loud, it’s raucous, and it’s also really damned catchy. Welcome to the first song on The Replacements’ first full-length album, and welcome to one of the best bands in America.

“A Toe Needs a Shoe” (from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash expanded edition, 2008)

This may only be an instrumental, but it holds the rare distinction within The Replacements catalog where the songwriting is credited solely to Bob Stinson. As such, it feels like a must-mention no matter what, but it’s such a jet-propelled piece of rock ‘n’ roll that’s it’s easy to deem it worthy of inclusion.

“Kids Don’t Follow” (from STINK E.P., 1982)

It’s difficult to refer to anything on this EP as less than raw as f***, but if there’s a tune that shows the ‘Mats moving even slightly forward, it’s this one, which leads off the proceedings. Worthy of mention: the voice you hear at the beginning of the song is actually a member of the Minneapolis Police, and the cursing you hear immediately after that may or may not be Dave Pirner from Soul Asylum. (We prefer to believe that it is.)

“Color Me Impressed” (from Hootenanny, 1983)

A catchy rocker which, in an alternate universe, could’ve been a huge alt-rock hit. Instead, it still feels a bit like an awesome little secret for Replacements fans, and that’s okay, too.

“Within Your Reach” (from Hootenanny, 1983)

Perhaps best known for having appeared on the soundtrack of Say Anything..., it’s initially almost startling to hear this song on the album, given how it’s so utterly unlike anything else surrounding it. It doesn’t take long, however, for you to fall in love with it.

“I Will Dare” (from Let It Be, 1984)

We had to include it because it’s one of the greatest ear-worms in The Replacements' discography, but it offers one of the great college-rock crossovers of the ‘80s, with Peter Buck joining the ‘Mats for a solo. (He was originally in talks to produce the album, but it never came to fruition.)

“Gary’s Got a Boner” (from Let It Be, 1984)

Come on, you didn’t think we were going to leave off a song with a title like this, did you? Besides, it’s a classic bit of proof that, no matter how much the ‘Mats may have been growing up, they were still just as deliciously immature as ever.

“Bastards of Young” (from Tim, 1985)

It’s a song known as much for its infamous video as anything else, and if you’ve never seen it, you should just hit “play,” since trying to explain it would ruin the experience. Once you’ve done that, though, go ahead and set it aside, because the song itself is amazing no matter what, from the howl at the beginning to the weird stuttering end that on first listen makes you wonder if your stereo’s screwed up. It isn’t. That’s just the ‘Mats.

“Nowhere is Near My Home” (from Tim expanded edition, 2008)

Some have called this the last best guitar work Bob Stinson ever did, since he was descending into alcoholism in a big way by the time the band did their demos for Pleased to Meet Me, which we’ll get to in a moment. We say that, at the very least, this might be the last best guitar work done by Bob on a song that never actually ended up on a Replacements album with his parts redone.

“Valentine” (Demo) (from Pleased to Meet Me deluxe edition, 2020)

Bob’s all-too-obvious issues with substance abuse finally reached a head with the rest of the band when they made their first demos for 1987's Pleased to Meet Me. As Tommy Stinson himself said of his brother’s departure, “None of us wanted to get rid of Bob. We were all against it. But there was a fact there: we couldn’t get going the way we were.” And so it went: Bob was out of the band.

It’s a bit depressing to hear his work on a demo like this and realize that if he’d been able to battle back from his alcoholism, maybe he could’ve stayed in the band and kept making music with the rest of the ‘Mats. But given his history, there’s no reason to think that would’ve been so, which is why we must sit back and enjoy the ‘Mats music we got with him.

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