The Shit Hits the Fans: What Really Happened?

We are fortunate that in the last couple of decades, biographies of alternative bands are being published more than ever and that for most of us, we are within memory of such history. However, I question Roscoe Shoemaker’s claim that he recorded The Replacements’ authorized bootleg “The Shit Hits the Fans”.

The Replacements were a beloved wayward alternative rock band from Minneapolis that existed from 1979-1991, a 2006 reunion to add new songs for a compilation album and longer 2012-2015 reunion. Their live performances had a reputation for being either brilliant or wretchedly ruined by alcohol abuse.

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Image: J-Sleeve of “The Shit Hits The Fans”

A bootleg recording was interrupted and confiscated by soundman Bill MacLeslie or roadie Bill Sullivan on 11 November 1984 at The Bowery, Oklahoma City, where Shoemaker was manager. Officially released by Twin/Tones Records on 25 January 1985 as “The Shit Hits the Fans”, the performance was mostly a set of shambolic incomplete cover songs.

In chronological order, there are numerous testimonies about that night:

  • Scan of the liner
  • Hearsay of Shoemaker’s account from alt.music.replacements (October 1996)
  • Repost (I am unable to find the original) of Sullivan’s account from alt.music.replacements (March 1998)
  • Wayback Machine archived Twin/Tones’s SHTF webpage since 3 Feb 1999 when it only had the cover of the album and band member credits. Sometime between March and May 2003, a paragraph of background information (stating that it was confiscated from a fan) and release number were added – it hasn’t changed since
  • Michael Azerrad’s “Our Band Could Be Your Life” (2001) states “Bill Mack” confiscated the tape and doesn’t mention Shoemaker’s name but acknowledges an enthusiastic club owner
  • Jim Walsh’s “The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting: An Oral History” (2007) may be the first time Shoemaker’s account has been published. He claims to have had singer Paul Westerberg’s permission to record the concert
  • In Gorman Bechard’s 2011 documentary “Color Me Obsessed: A Film about the Replacements”, Bill MacLeslie recalls the night

These are fascinating to me. Firstly, it wasn’t until the publishing of Walsh’s book that articles started to acknowledge Shoemaker as the bootlegger. (eg Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Live Albums of All Time”)

Secondly, the accounts have both consistencies and inconsistencies.

There are lingering questions:

  • Did MacLeslie or Sullivan confiscate the tape?
  • Is it plausible that Shoemaker left valuable a tape recorder unattended when he was in a position of authority?
  • What are the advantages of hanging the microphones above the sound desk instead of at the sound desk which was attended? Was there the ability to record directly from the sound desk?
  • Did Shoemaker have permission to record? If so, was the tape confiscated because the Bills weren’t notified?
  • Why did it take so long for Shoemaker to be acknowledged or come forward?

I am hopeful that these questions will be answered one day. Bill Sullivan’s Kickstarter project, a memoir of his time as a roadie for The Replacements, was funded in 2014. Sadly, Roscoe Shoemaker died in a car accident on 20 May 2015.

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Image: Roscoe Shoemaker

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