The Late Movies: The Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait" Turns 25
The Replacements' classic album Pleased to Meet Me turned 25 this week. It debuted on July 7, 1987, and featured two of my favorite songs of all time: "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Alex Chilton." The rest of the album isn't bad either.
The song "Can't Hardly Wait" has stuck with me all these years, partly because of its ultra-sweet sound, largely attributable to its lovely guitar line performed by Big Star's Alex Chilton (in case you couldn't tell, Chilton was a big influence on Replacements singer/songwriter Paul Westerberg). For your listening enjoyment, here are some of my favorite versions of the tune. And for the record, this song has basically nothing in common with the 1998 movie of the same name.
The Blistering Tim Version
"Can't Hardly Wait" was first recorded for the 1985 album Tim, but didn't make the cut. This early version includes Bob Stinson on (loud, distorted) guitar before his ouster from the band, and it rocks the hell out of the version that made it onto Pleased to Meet Me. On the other hand, the lyrics are far darker, and the song is very clearly about suicide. Here's a snippet of the lyrics:
I'll be sad in Heaven
If I don't find a hole in the gate
Climb on to the top of this scummy water tower screaming:
I can't hardly wait
I can't wait [repeats]...
'til it's over.
There's also an early demo of this version, but it's very rough around the edges.
The Sweet Album Version
On this poppy version, Alex Chilton's sweet guitar forms the base of the groove, along with prominent horns and strings. The lyrics have been changed so the song is far less specific -- it now seems to me to be about the weariness of touring.
Also of interest: an alternate version of this recording, with cheesy keyboards in place of horns and strings.
Paul Westerberg Live Version
Paul Westerberg and band live in New York City in 1996. Note the crowd screaming along for the "hurry up!" lines. The minute-long break in the middle is utterly awesome -- like a built-in encore within the song itself. If you like this version, you might also appreciate this weird supercut of Westerberg playing the song solo.
Early Live Version
From the late Tim era, this live recording is from 1986 at Maxwell's in New Jersey. Note how the lyrics are still in flux.
Justin Townes Earle Cover
Justin Townes Earle does a fantastic acoustic cover version of "Can't Hardly Wait." Here he is live in Nashville, performing the song with his band. The sound quality isn't great, but the performance is. Also very notable: his album version.
Bonus Song: "Alex Chilton"
Here's the other song from the Pleased to Meet Me album that I can't stop singing. "Alex Chilton" had one of a string of music videos for Replacements songs that gave the finger to the whole notion of doing a music video. (The most famous of these is of course "Bastards of Young.") Also interesting: a demo version of "Alex Chilton" performed live in the studio.