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The Replacements’ ‘Stink’ show: A true story from Minnesota music history

  Play Now [9:26]

by Jay Gabler

January 19, 2016

In June 1982, the Replacements released their EP Stink on Minneapolis label Twin/Tone Records. It opened with "Kids Don't Follow," it closed with "Gimme Noise," and it gave fans of the rapidly-rising local band all the sardonic bluster they loved. The very first thing you heard on the EP, though, wasn't music — it was a vignette that's gone down in Minnesota music history and featured an obscenity shouted by a sort of mystery guest whose identity has never been definitively established. This week on the Local Show, we went on a trip back in time to try to find out who made the stink on Stink.

When you drop the needle on side A, track one of Stink, the first thing you hear is the Minneapolis cops telling a rowdy crowd that a show is over and that everyone needs to leave. I always assumed the opening was a skit — something recorded by the band in the studio, just for a laugh. Nope, the truth is that it's an actual recording of an actual Replacements concert getting broken up by the actual Minneapolis police.

It was Jan. 29, 1982. The Replacements were playing a rent party at an artists' studio in the Harmony Building — that's at 200 2nd Ave. N., at the edge of the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis. The band played, the cops showed up, and one of the cops stepped up to the microphone.

So that's how the EP Stink begins: with the party audio grafted onto the beginning of the studio recording of "Kids Don't Follow." There's a little detail in that party recording that's easy to miss unless you listen very closely. A guest at the party tells the cops to get lost — except he didn't say "get lost," he used stronger language.

So this is the question Replacements fans have always wanted to know the answer to: who made the stink on Stink? Who yelled an obscenity at the cops and had it immortalized at the Replacements' EP?

No one's ever been quite sure. There were a lot of people at the party, and there have been a lot of stories. Some people have said it was actually a young Dave Pirner — later the frontman of Soul Asylum — but it's never actually been established for sure. We decided to do a little bit of research and find out if anyone really knew who it was that yelled at the cops. (Thanks to David Campbell for his contribution to the reporting of this story.)

We went back to the Harmony Building, which is now being converted into new apartments. At the very site of that infamous party, we talked to Don Holzschuh — a.k.a. Don the Baptist — who was living there at the time. Holzschuh explained that he and his roommates were running short on cash, and they came up with a bright idea.

"We came up with a plan. [We] heard in New York that they have rent parties, so I said, hey, let's have a rent party! We'll get some kegs and get some bands, kind of like the Little Rascals — Minneapolis style. There were 300 or more people up at the party. We lived on the fifth floor, so we had to carry up five kegs. I was in a band at the time. My stage name is Don the Baptist; I was in the Warheads. L7-3 were good friends and played, and then I knew the Replacements, so they said yeah, let's have a Little Rascals party!"

The party was going great, the Replacements played for a while, and then the police showed up to bust the party. Bummer...but, from Don's perspective, the cops' timing actually wasn't too bad.

"Actually, I was kind of grateful that it was busted because we were running out of beer! Their excuse for busting the party [was] that we had complaints from the neighbors. This is the Warehouse District — what neighbors? The ones across the street, they were here! I don't think they were complaining about the party. But [the police] busted us; they gave a couple of different reasons, but basically because we were selling alcohol."

Another guy who was there that night was Terry Katzman. He was doing sound for a lot of local bands at the time, and he was recording the show on cassette — a cassette he still has, and that he brought to show us. He remembers the moment the cops showed up.

"I remember hearing someone from the back room saying, 'The police are outside, they're coming up.' I looked up to the side and saw the two guys walking through the crowd, and I'm like, 'Oh, wow, the police — they really are here.' I had the machine on record; usually I would stop it, but somehow I had just paused it, so it was still in record but it was stopped, so as soon as I saw them coming over, I just reached over and took it off pause. Just barely got it in, too, because they were there in one second.

"Of course," continued Katzman, "it was great, because it fed back on them, too, so I was getting a special charge out of that. It was squealing in their ears, so that was fun — just to know that [the party] was going to be over, but they got a little shot of feedback to send them on their way."

Replacements Harmony flyer
courtesy Don Holzschuh

Holzschuh and Katzman remember a lot about that night — but do they remember who it was who cussed at the cops?

We asked Holzschush. "I don't remember who blurted it out," he admitted. "I don't know! I can't remember. It was in the middle of mayhem, so I have no idea."

How about Katzman? "I really didn't know who the voice was at that particular time," he said. "I knew it was someone who had too much to drink and was screaming at the police, but I didn't really pinpoint who it was. People have asked me about it, but I'm not sure even myself, and I recorded it. Rumors I have heard have been Dave Pirner, and...other names have come up, but Dave is the one I've heard the most of."

Our next step was to call Peter Jesperson, who was managing the Replacements at the time. It turned out we weren't the first one to ask him about that show.

"I get asked about that tons," he said. "The Replacements in general, constantly, and this particular record and that particular intro, I get asked about a lot."

It also turned out I wasn't the only one who thought that recording was almost too good to be true. "There are people who think that was staged," said Jesperson. "but of course it wasn't staged at all. It was very real — that's exactly what happened."

Unfortunately, though, when it came to the identity of the person who yelled at the cops, Jesperson had to tell us exactly what he's told everyone else: he doesn't know. "It's urban legend by these days. Everybody says that it was Dave Pirner, but frankly, I can't confirm or otherwise."

Dave Pirner
Dave Pirner at The Current's studios. Photos by Nate Ryan/MPR.

Finally, we went straight to Dave Pirner himself. The leader of Soul Asylum stopped by The Current's studios to give us the straight story, and he sure does remember that show. He was just a teenager at the time.

"Yes, I was there," said Pirner. "It was the second-best Minneapolis warehouse party ever."

What was the first best?

"Man Sized Action. They called it the Cold Party, and somehow they got White Castle to bring burgers to the gig. But [the Harmony party] was a really good time. Minneapolis — blissful rock and roll. The Replacements, Don Holzschuh, Terry Katzman, Pete Jesperson, and all the luminaries were there."

So we asked Pirner: did you yell at the cops? "Can you say 'f--k'?" he asked, since we were recording our conversation for broadcast. "I said 'f--k' on Stink," he continued. "I put the f--k into Stink!"

So there you have it: Dave Pirner has owned up to swearing at the cops.

Whether or not that's actually Pirner's voice on the recording, though, may still be open for discussion. When we started promoting the broadcast of our Stink investigation, we heard from a listener named Mike Krenz — who's certain that however many people were there and swore at the cops, the voice on the tape is that of his friend Greg Robinson.

Krenz, who still has a copy of the flyer for the show, writes,

So Krenz is convinced that the voice belongs to Robinson. Others remember it being Pirner, and Pirner acknowledges being at the party and swearing at the cops. In the end, what really matters is that none of it was fake: not the party, not the music, and not the cussing. As Pirner himself puts it, "Minneapolis — blissful rock and roll."

See Tommy Stinson ("this skinny kid with the bass") at The Current's 11th Birthday Party this Saturday, Jan. 23 at First Avenue. Soul Asylum are at the Turf Club tonight; their new album Change of Fortune will be released on March 18.

Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.