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May 24, 2018

Bill Sullivan's Playlist for His Memoir "Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements"

Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements is an insightful and entertaining account of tour manager Bill Sullivan's time with the band.

Janet Weiss wrote of the book:

"For fans who love the Replacements, this book is your only opportunity to go back in time and be a fly on the van wall. Bill Sullivan’s clever sarcasm, humble anti-rock star attitude, and complete access allow him to tell the band’s behind-the-scenes story perfectly."

In his own words, here is Bill Sullivan's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements:

"I’m Eighteen," Alice Cooper

Growing up, my father decided to censor the music available to his second batch of children. The first three boys had been allowed to lean pretty much any album up against the stereo, and as a result, had gotten an eclectic collection gleaned from their friends and their friends’ older siblings. At the time, album rock radio stations also helped. But for the middle part of the family line up, meaning me, it was different. A religious man his whole life, my old man now decided it better if he would just pick out the vinyl himself. That way, he might steer me away from the secular, and if at all possible, music in general. Rock music in particular. This arrangement left me sneaking into my brothers’ rooms if I wanted to listen to Clapton, while allowing me to listen to Allan Sherman and the Turtles in public. Little did my father know that the combination of My Name is Allan alongside Flo and Eddie would lead me straight through the gateway to Shel Silverstein and Zappa.

When I was finally allowed my inaugural visit to the Wax Museum, I had to pretend I didn’t have a stack of my own titles folded into my brothers’ stacks—even they had rules as to what I could own. Bubblegum like Ohio Players or Frampton Comes Alive got axed, along with anything Heavy or Glamorous. Never one to stand down in the face of complete stupidity, I went straight for the guy dressed in drag and brought home Love It to Death, to the resignation of my father and disappointment from the taste makers in the big boys room. Alas, poor Alice—though purchased legit and in the open—was not allowed to reside in the stack leaning on the speaker. And as such, had to be enjoyed in secret.

"Do the Clam," Elvis Presley

I had picked up a copy of the Girls! Girls! Girls! soundtrack and liked to slip it into the deck every now and then when the others grew weary of picking the music. I always had a boom box—since high school I prided myself in always bring music to the party, in the form of one of the latest models of portable music player, and a carefully crafted mixtape. If you think that digital mix your boyfriend gave you was sweet, you should have gotten a mixtape in the day when each song had to be hand-picked to mix into the next one every time the needle was dropped and the two buttons depressed—it was a matter of timing, often having to be redone a couple times to get the right fade.

The van had no sound system, so my blaster leaned on the engine hood which on Bert was actually inside the van between the two front seats, and the tape boxes sat on the hot floor baking to perfection. One night in Boston, at a club called The Channel where Fleetwood Mac’s first sound man Dinky Dawson had installed the exact touring sound system that he had used for John Mayall and the blues busters and their opening act Fleetwood Mac, Dinky bragged that he had invented the front of house snake by duct taping all the cables together and, therefore, being the first person to mix from the audience’s perspective.

That night was a punk marathon for all ages, and since it was the height of the “straight edge” era of punk, the headliners Youth Brigade and the others appeared to hold true to the oath. We, however, sat alone in a fenced in “Beer Pen” sponsored by Miller Lite as the scanners leered through the bike racks at us grinning. On stage they were more bored by us than angry and when Paul disappeared into the audience during a version of "The Clam" I went out to investigate. As I started to go down on a knee to get involved Bob grabbed me and shoved the mike in my hand and bang I was the new singer.

During the headliners set the crowd erupted into a frenzy, swamping the stage with bodies. The security linked arms at the backline and walked the punters off the from edge, spilling them like lemmings from a cliff until they reached the downstage edge, and then flexed their biceps and taunted the crowd—who responded with a barrage of lugies that would scary Iggy. This caused the t-shirted ROID army to declare clobbering time, going through the crowd swinging arms and chairs, tossing them like rag dolls from side to side with punker girls hanging in their backs and around their necks scratching kicking biting while others turned bar stools into weapons and most ran for the exits. My date and I sat comfortably to the side watching until a body flew too close for comfort, urging us to hide behind the locked door of the dressing room until it all calmed down.

"If I Only Had a Brain," Wizard of Oz Soundtrack

Basically, as I remember it: Chris Mars knew the guitar part to this song, and when the band would leave the stage for extracurricular activities, Mars would wander over and pick one up and noodle around while waiting for the rest of the fellas to return to the stage. Tommy would pick up his brother’s guitar and Bob his little bros bass. The Louse (Paul) would scale the riser and struggle to situate himself on the drum throne while I forced the vocal mic into the space between the high hat and kick pedal hoping he would not break either one that night. Normally, Paul would count off "Hootenanny," the title track to the latest record. One night, Paul just followed Mars’ lead, and "If I Only Had A Brain" made it onto the set list. Eventually, since Mars and I were the only ones on stage and I had the mic, it became my number.

I asked Mars the origins of the song one night, and he said that the producing team in the converted RV parked in a warehouse where the band was recording the follow up to Sorry Ma and Stink seemed to not be paying attention, so the band switched instruments and made it up. The alleged response from the rolling studio was “sounded great, let’s do another one.”

"Kansas City Star," Roger Miller

Miller was always an underestimated cat. He was tight with Waylon, Willie and The Boys, but his novelty numbers that topped the charts were rightfully not taken seriously like the others. And like many funny men, he had his demons: "Dang Me," "Roller-skate," and "King of the Road" were staples of grade school and church camp sing alongs, but the darkness hidden inside the songs and the institutions that we sang them in.

In "Kansas City Star," the singer eschews the offers of an emerging market for the comfort of the one he is the center of, and despite the obvious respect shown by the wooing organization, he stays put with what he has. I’m the number one attraction every supermarket parking lot / I’m the king of Kansas City, no thanks Omaha, thanks a lot. People are always trying to get me to admit that my artists had a “dark side,” and hoping I could give them a correlating story to confirm their conclusions. But I never saw the darkness in any one I worked with, and mental scuffles are something we all have with ourselves. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.

"Born Too Loose (Born To Lose)," Heartbreakers Live

Ya get it? Ya Limey Mother fuckers?

"Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)," Jeffersons Cock

This was recorded on a 4 track in Grampaboy Studios just before the demise of The Cock. We recorded this for a Frank Sinatra tribute record that was going to be out on a cool Hoboken, NJ record label. We sent it in but didn’t hear back. Grampaboy played guitar and produced and I did the vocals.

"Temptation Eyes"/ "Love Grows (where my Rosemary goes)"/ "Oh Babe, What Would you say?," The Grass Roots/Edison Lighthouse/Hurricane Smith

One day when I was thirteen I answered the phone in our family kitchen, and a gruff voice on the other end asked for my older brother. Well versed in the etiquette of the day I responded negatively and offered to take a message. It was one of those wall model phones with the long curly cord that reached anywhere in the kitchen with ease. The note pads were on the opposite counter to the phone, as you didn’t always get to choose where they could hang the phone. The voice asked me if my brother had gotten a job. “A job?” I asked. “Yes,” said the voice, “a job, he’s on the city’s list of students eligible for summer jobs.” I replied that he had in fact taken a job on the Bike Patrol, perhaps the most sought after summer job in the cities. The Bike Patrol would ride around the chain of lakes with orange sashes on, telling people to get on or off the new bike path—and when on it, to keep to the proper clockwise direction and under the 20 mph speed limit. They were the Boys of Summer.

“How old are you?”


“Say 14”


“Great. Come down to the refectory at Lake Calhoun and you have a job. Any questions?”

“What’s a Refectory?”

That summer at the Calhoun Refectory I worked with a handful of out-of-work Top 40 DJ’s and veterans of the Vietnam War. It may have fatefully affected my whole life.

Bill Sullivan and Lemon Jail: On the Road with the Replacements links:

Minneapolis City Pages profile of the author
Minneapolis Star Tribune profile of the author
Minnesota Public Radio interview with the author
The Missourian profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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