I thank the Internet for helping me find this gem. Also thanks to my Mom for a little bit of personal history.
I love the Replacements (The Mats). Perhaps one the most influential American Rock bands to emerge during the 80’s, laying inspirational groundwork for many bands to come. So after an unhealthy dose of all the Mats I could get back in college, I read about this live bootleg that became somewhat of cult classic amongst the more hardcore fans. What I ended up getting is a treasure trove of both Oklahoma history and the alcohol soaked Mats.
The Sh*t Hits the Fans is a live recording of the Mats performing in Oklahoma City at the Bowery on 11-11-1984 (*minor note, I was born on 09-30-1984*). The Bowery was pretty much the only place social outcasts (Punks and whatnot) could go and feel free to relax and enjoy outsider music that wasn’t Country or Spandex Rock.
Just to see if this place actually existed, I emailed my Mom before writing this review. “Mom, have you heard of this old OKC club called the Bowery? Did you or Dad ever go there?”
Within a few minutes she replied, “I did, I don’t think you dad ever did. IDK. It was in the courtyard over there by brown’s bakery close to Downtown. I was young! My friend & I went to see some punk band there a long time ago. I don’t think anyone I saw ever became famous though. Just locals. I only went there once. Dark moody little club, tiny stage. Then I think it went to Classen Blvd. It used to be an old church (back in the day… I hate that saying) and my friend used to work the lights. This is way before I was serious with your dad though…”
The Bowery hosted touring bands with some that stopped by frequently. Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., X, The Gun Club, The Replacements (several times apparently) some small local band called The Flaming Lips and even Michael Bolton. On this one particular November night Roscoe Shoemaker, manager and DJ at The Bowery asked Paul Westerberg, whom he knew from previous gigs, if he minded if he recorded the show on cassette, to which Westerberg replied, "Why? We suck." Shoemaker hung two microphones from the front of the deejay booth and recorded the show, which they performed in front of approximately 30 patrons. Afterwards Shoemaker went to a party to see the band off as they left Oklahoma City before returning to Minneapolis. When Shoemaker came back to the club, the tape was missing. According to soundman Terry Katzman, the tape was confiscated by soundman Bil Mack, who claimed to have taken it from a fan.
The tape was released by Twin/Tone Records in 1985. On the inside Paul Westerburg wrote the following:
"Ever wanted to be popular, the life of the party (just plain liked, ever)? Well, we did. And now that the absurd dream seems to be within reach, we've come to the sobering realization that we don't f*ckin' know how to pull it off.
People come to see us and what do we go and do? What we want - play covers, basically wing it and embarrass a lot of people in the process (a dunce cap never fit so well). For worse or for worser, it's us, and without that stuff we'd die a dull death.
Anyhoo...what you've got here is most of a live show. Our roadie pulled it out of some enterprising young gent's tape recorder toward the end of the night. (Drop us a line, buddy, there's $3.95 in it for you!) Not a normal set, but we're not sure what one is anyway. Last gig of the tour, plenty of poop, but we like it. So here you go, friends. No backs.
Pray for us,
P.S. feel fee to write us and sh*t. Waiting for the mail is the highlight of our day."
Of the twenty-four songs on the album only five songs are actually written by the band. The remaining nineteen are cover versions of songs by other artists that the crowd drunkenly yelled to be played. Here’s the full list:
Lawdy Miss Clawdy (LLoyd Price) Can't Get Enough of Your Love (Bad Company)
Sleeping Nights of Jesus (Robyn Hitchcock) Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy)
Lovelines (the Mats) Breakdown (Tom Petty)
I'll Be There (Jackson 5) No More The Moon Shines On Loreena (Carter Family)
Sixteen Blue (The Mats) Mirror Go Round (Mötley Crüe)
Can't Hardly Wait (The Mats) Left Here In the Dark (The Vertebrats)
I Will Dare (The Mats) Takin' Care of Business (Bachman–Turner Overdrive)
Hear You Been To College (The Mats) I Will Follow (U2)
Saturday Night Special (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Jumpin' Jack Flask (The Rolling Stones)
Iron Man (Black Sabbath) Radio Free Europe (R.E.M.)
Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin) More Fun in the New World (X)
Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin) Let It Be (The Beatles)
Side-A of the cassette has 8 songs in total. If you know the bands history then you should know they were a Beer band in every sense of the word. This live “performance” highlights that notorious Punk attitude the band garnered through live shows. What kind of Punk band would play these songs? Regardless, once the Mats get to their own material they somehow overcome the booze and erupt into magnificent musicians for just a little bit. That other reputation they have for being pioneers of alternative rock peaks through the veil of buffoonery and it’s awesome. You get an early version of “Can’t Hardly Wait” played with speed and ferocity while followed by one of my favorite Mats tracks, “I Will Dare”. The guitar playing of Bob Stinson is on point and terrific in its haphazard feel. As well, Paul Westerburg is one fine singer when he cares, ushering in the spirit of Alex Chilton and Andy Bell of Big Star fame and for just a bit the crowd was given a “performance” worthy of the ticket.
The same can’t be said for Side-B, which is 16 songs played in various sloppy forms with some being only a few seconds long. Highlights include the so bad it’s great cover of “Iron Man”, the opening riff that can’t be played in “I Will Follow” by none other than U2, and the amazing 10 second cover of “Let It Be” by The Beatles right before the tape is cut off (one of the guys accidently tries playing the Stones to unintentional comedic effect).
After the Bowery moved to Classen it continued to host shows until it was sold and closed in 1985. In the wake of the first big Punk Rock club, several more opened and tried hosting shows in the same D.I.Y. spirit. Many closed and some still exist waiting for the next act to grace their stages.
“Hey Mom did you know so-and-so played at that club?”
“Yeah but I don’t think I saw them. Just some drunk locals…”
Five stars for quality and performance. A million stars for the history.
It was hard to find much about the venue when researching this back in 2007 when I found the tape, but in 2009 a reunion was held by old club goers at another well-known OKC venue called VZD’s. NewsOK got in touch with former bar manager and martial arts bouncer Stephen Kovash for an interview and the link below is worth checking out if you are interested in reading a firsthand account of what went on in that dingy, dirty little place in OKC.