People have asked me what it was like having a dad in The Replacements. It was kind of weird yet really exciting for me because The Replacements were my favorite band. I went to every all-ages show they played in Minneapolis starting with a show in September of 1984, when I was thirteen. My mom worked at First Avenue so I had the great fortune of being exposed to a lot of great music at a young age and went to every all-ages show I could. I loved The Replacements best of all and when Bob Stinson left the band I cried because I thought it was all over. Then one night my mom came in my room and said “You’ll never believe this - Dad is the new Replacement!” It was incredible. I was thrilled.
When I was about sixteen I asked my dad to show me how to play guitar. He said if I wanted to be original I really had to just figure it out myself like he did. Well that was the end of that for a while, although it worked well for my brother Louie - he is an amazing guitar player! My sister Delia and I were content with being huge music enthusiasts and listeners. When I was living in France in the 90’s, I picked up the guitar again and learned a few chords but set it aside again when I had a baby.
In 2007 my girlfriends surprised me with a gig date scheduled for my birthday at the Triple Rock. I had told one of them that my secret ambition was to play in an all-girl Clash cover band. So we formed RuDeGiRL. I had 9 months to learn guitar and play this gig. I told my dad about it and he got me all set up. He said I needed his telecaster and and rat box for the right tone and set me up with his Marshall amp. We worked through some of the songs and he gave me some pointers, but I mostly just figured things out like he had suggested years earlier. I just played from the heart with the rhythms that had kind of been ingrained in me since childhood. I’m a little sloppy, but I guess that is the beauty of playing punk rock! Of course, playing covers isn’t exactly original, so writing songs was my next goal.
On a Sunday in February 2012, my dad and I had an afternoon planned. I was having a hard time transitioning to writing my own songs and he had promised me some “song starters” - songs he had started writing which he thought I could try finishing to get the feel for songwriting. We were all set to work on them that Sunday, but as it turned out, that was the day Dad had his massive stroke. As I was preparing to leave my house for my parents’, I got a panicked call from my mom: Dad had fallen and couldn’t move and an ambulance was on the way.
I beat the ambulance to their house and an unimaginable drama unfolded before our eyes. As it is evident now, our world was turned upside down and our lives changed forever after that day. But our lives have also been so touched and so charmed by the amazing support we’ve been blessed with from local friends to faraway friends to thousands of fans around the world we never even knew my dad had.
So I offer this song because in fact, my dad’s stroke was the event that triggered a flood of songwriting for me. I never got to hear the actual song starters, but he gave me some great advice. He told me that I should just start writing bad songs - any songs - and pretty soon I’d write a good one. I started writing in French, maybe because my creative mind is anchored there in some ways from my studies in France, or maybe because it made me feel less vulnerable. “Song Starter” was the first song I wrote and Dad was right: After the first one, I wrote ten in rapid succession! Playing music with my husband and my dear friends in our band fills me with joy. We’re kind of goofy and playful most the time, more serious at others. Music, friendship and love are beautiful things, and make the difficult things so much easier to bear.
I don’t know if I’ve gotten to the good ones yet but this song is for you, Dad. I wish you didn’t have to give me the song starters like this, but you have.
- Emily Bee
released 14 June 2015
Song Starter (Written by Emily Bee)
Mixed by David Kutchara.
Recorded by Stephen Durenberger and Charles Boigenzahn at Greenvale Farm.
Performed by Whale in the Thames with the following musicians:
Vocals and rhythm guitar: Emily Bee
Lead Guitar: Choice Pickins
Bass Guitar: Shelley Rohlf
Keyboards: Charles Boigenzahn
Drums: BT Hanson
Trombone: Matt Darling
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