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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 012
Mon, Jan 28, 2013

“Answering Machine”
The Replacements

1987

“♫ How
do you
say I
miss you/to
an answering
machine?
♫”

Who remembers “Answering Machines?” No, not voice mail messages, actual machines you had to put micro-cassette tapes in, which you had to rewind to actual hear phone messages? As for someone who stuttered majorly growing up, so much so that when I had to make a phone call it was terrifying event. What was worse for me was trying to leave a semi-coherent message. It’s not that I didn’t know what to say, it was actually that I didn’t know how to say it. I couldn’t. And because of my speech impediment I led a very lonely inexperienced existence till I was 26 years old.

And this is where Paul Westerberg came in. The Replacements “Answering Machine” gave a sound to us—the inarticulately voiceless. Paul was the man in the corner at the party who even though impressed the ladies would always go home alone. He loved, lost and sung about it. “I know in my heart, in my gut, that we were the real deal. No one can take that away.” and Paul Westerberg was right because we believed in the ‘All for One, Nothing for All’ creed for The Replacements. Being a fan of The ‘mats felt like you were one of the band. Before Nirvana and post Sex Pistols, during the 80s Westerberg and his gang of ruffian rockers reflected the hopeless dreamers, for the underachievers, the underdogs and the unbridled lonely ones; No matter, Paul sang for of us all.

Missy Roback said it best, in Jim Walsh’s The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting, “[The Replacements] made me feel like some else got it. This is how it feels. This is how I feel. [Paul Westerberg’s songs] didn’t have all the answers but they helped me feel less alone.” And for someone who stuttered so bad attempting to talk in front of girls and on the phone, to have an artist who can evoke the frustrating sadness in a song like “Answering Machine,” was like having a oracle spinning nuggets of wisdom from a 33 1/3 record.

Answering Machine is one of my best songs,” Paul told Russell Hall in an interview for Performance Songwriter, as he explained why, “From the lyrics, to the spoons in the pots and pans…I mean, at the time it wasn’t really daring, but even I must admit, having an answering machine now; in fact I have two of them but I always swore I would never own one. But I went through so much shit, so much inconvenience, I finally thought, “This is ridiculous, I’ve become a slave to this song I’ve written, I had to break down simply because it’s easier getting up at, like four in the morning to tale with someone you don’t know. But what can I say? I think [“Answering Machine”] was from the heart, and it hit the nail on the head. There was real passion, and there was a real person on the other end, and that made it all come to life. We can all relate to it, I think.”

Not only could we relate to it, from someone who for a better part of his life being terrified of the fear because I couldn’t speak without stuttering to strangers when making a call—we lived it. Paul sung “Answering” the way I would have loved to have said it. Paul spoke for me and a legion of over Replacement devotees. We’re still listening, at least I am, and Paul’s song was my voice of courage. For me, there’s no replacement for the perfect sound of Paul Westerberg’s “Answering Machine.


P.S. When I first called my wife, before I asked her out on our first ever date, thanks to “Answering Machine,” that moment was the first time ever in my life I did not feel nervous nor I did get sick or hang up while calling her on the phone. In fact, I left my future wife, a short succinct message, and she actually called me back. And, that’s how I knew she was the one. Thank you Paul.

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