2021 Song Draft- Round 5 Pick 10- Music City Mike selects’ “Can’t Hardly Wait’- The Replacements.
“Can’t Hardly Wait” – The Replacements There are times, when despite the disapproval of the band, a producer gets his way and adds something to a song that really works. Case in point is the 1987 Pleased to Meet Me LP version of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.” The song began as nothing more than a few seemingly unrelated scraps of Paul Westerberg lyrics set to a catchy guitar riff that runs from beginning to end. However, the “Memphisized” horns and strings embellishment added by producer Jim Dickinson simply took this song to another level.
Through the wonder of bonus tracks, we got to hear an earlier version of the song that was originally recorded for 1985’s Tim LP. Guitar driven and faster, this leaner take on the song also had different lyrics. Choosing which version is better is a topic of strong debate among “Mats’” fans, and I know that many will stop reading this piece right now in protest of my selection. But for me, Dickinson’s touch on “Can’t Hardly Wait” was magic. To the contrary, Westerberg was said to have been reluctantly OK with the horns but hated the strings.
The song’s greatness was later acknowledged by a remarkable arrangement from the late Justin Townes Earle. That iconic guitar riff was well-suited for JT’s fingerpicking style, and he created a cover version that gives this song an acknowledged acoustic alter-ego.
Meet Me was the break-through Replacements’ record for me. It saw the band steer more to a Pop style which made their sound more mature (an awful, but somehow fitting word) and accessible to fans with musical tastes like mine. Still, Paul’s lyrics still found a way to be lovingly snarky and cynical.
“Jesus rides beside me, he never buys any smokes” is just one of the greatest lines ever! It never fails to crack me up, and I go back and forth between picturing either the Son of God or a Hispanic friend of Westerberg’s as the cheap passenger. Outside of this and some silliness about being too wasted to write a letter, that’s about all there is besides the chorus and the repetition of the title near the song’s end. That’s all that was needed.
Some record company person liked the song enough to release it as a single and of course it went nowhere on the charts. “I Can’t Hardly Wait” sure deserved a better fate. I challenge you. Go put it on and after your second listening, if you are sitting still or at least not tapping your feet, go see a doctor.
Oh, and by the way, Westerberg changed his tune a bit and when performing the song on Saturday Night Live in 1993 as a solo artist, he used a horn section! No strings, but I bet this made the late Jim Dickinson smile.