The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #212: Bastards of Young by The Replacements (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #212: Bastards of Young by The Replacements.

When I was growing up, it was instilled in me by my parents that, if you work hard and “live right” that you will get ahead in life. Further to that, it was instilled in me by my parents that one of the responsibilities of parenthood was to work hard and live right so that your children could have the chance to live a better life than the one you lived. Collectively, the sentiment was that if all parents worked hard and lived right then, an entire generation would be lifted up on the shoulders of the one that came before it. Each generation, in its turn, would be better off than the last. Life would always be good if you just worked hard and lived right.

That thinking seemed to be backed up by data on such things as life expectancy, rates of home ownership, the amount of savings/disposable income, the # of people who stayed in life-long careers and so on. Each generation was actually laying the foundation for better living conditions for their children, generation after generation, right up until we came to the Boomer generation. According to statistics, the Boomer generation (from the end of WWII-1964) were the last generation to actually benefit from the work of their parents before them. From then on, members of Gen X., Gen Z. and Millenials have seen the quality of their lives decrease. I am sure that each of you know some young-middle aged person who cannot afford a decent home even though they are working full-time. Perhaps, you know a young-middle aged person who cannot develop roots in a particular company and, instead, find themselves working on a series of short-term contracts that never quite meet the criteria established by the company to qualify for pensions and other benefits. Data exists that shows, for the first time in recorded history that, life expectancy in North America has gone down for those in Generation X, Generation Z and for Millenials, as compared to their Boomer forefathers.

Into this Boomer-controlled world in the 1970s came the first stirrings of resistance and protest by youth in the form of the Punk Rock Movement. Fast forward a decade and bands/singers were borrowing from Punk to form Alternative music and, eventually, an offshoot called Grunge. If the Boomer Generation looked to poets like Bob Dylan to help define and capture the mood of the times, Gen Xers and Gen Zers turned to bands like The Replacements and singer/songwriters like Paul Westerberg. “Bastards of Young” is a song that Westerberg wrote that has been hailed as an anthem for the times that twenty and thirty-somethings found themselves in during the 1980s and 90s. It is a song that decries a world run by Boomers, for Boomers, at the cost of the futures dreamed about by Generation Z people like himself. The opening verse lays it all right there in the open:


God what a mess, on the ladder of success

Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung.

Dreams unfulfilled. Graduate unskilled.

It beats pickin’ cotton, waiting to be forgotten.”

This song goes on to talk about Boomer heroes such as Elvis, the obsession with tax deductions and about how his generation’s grandparents were the ones who really loved them best and how his future is destined to be one where he and his generation end up dying to please their parents and their generation.

“Bastards of Young” is based on songs by The Who such as “My Generation” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The sound is loud and energy-filled while still containing enough rawness to remind us of The Replacements heritage as a next generation band that came after Punk. Some songs in this countdown list are meant to be danced to or romanced to. “Bastards of Young” is a lament and a protest song, all rolled into one. How you react to it will say a lot about where you stand, generation-wise. If you are a Gen Xer or Gen Zer or a Millenial then, you will, no doubt, shake your head in agreement with these lyrics and, by the end of the song, you may feel resentful of how rigged Life’s game may appear to be. If you are a Boomer (and I know many of you who read these song posts are Boomers), this song is aimed squarely at you. What, if any, is your reaction to the criticisms of Boomer lifestyle that “Bastards of Young” contains?

Every generation has its anthems and poetry. For those generations who are living their lives in the shadow of the Baby Boom, “Bastards of Young” is meant to speak for them, in the same way that songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind” spoke for my parents, back in their day.

So, ready or not, here it comes! Ladies and Gentlemen, here are The Replacements with “Bastards of Young”.

The link to the video for the song, “Bastards of Young” by The Replacements, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Replacements, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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