Pleased To Meet Me is the record that had me falling head over heels in love with the boys from Minneapolis. Ryan Shadrin lent me a copy of the record in high school and from the buzz-saw guitar riff that opens I.O.U. , I was a believer. It's not the two records that preceded it, but Pleased To Meet Me is packed to the gills with great tracks: Valentine, Nightclub Jitters, Skyway, Can't Hardly Wait; I can almost guarantee that your favorite record does not have songs as good.
The big conundrum for me was Alex Chilton. While the Mats' song is a classic, Chilton and the rest of Big Star were way off my radar as a high schooler. This was also pre-Internet, so it's not like I could dash off to the computer and rapidly acquire some of the emporer's finest new clothes. I'm not sure when, although it was well past Pleased To Meet Me's release date, but I do remember hearing Big Star for the first time and being pretty confused that it wasn't Mats-approved rock. I figured Alex would be more of a Johnny Thunders character. While I didn't meet him until much later, it was hard to reconcile the bands adulation at that point, but I did surely want to be one of the millions who waited for Alex Chilton when he came round.
I saw The Mats twice on that tour. Once they were absolutely transcendent, the second time they couldn't have been shittier, musically or alcoholically. By that point, I'd read the Musician article that proclaimed them America's Finest Rock Band and had been filled-in about how the aforementioned 'ashtray floors, dirty clothes and filthy jokes' were much more of a lifestyle thing than rock and roll self-aggrandization. The fact that they were raging coke/speed addicts was still a mystery to me, but the picture of what it meant to be in a touring rock band was getting sharper and I was pretty sure I wanted a piece.
Pleased To Meet Me was recorded in Memphis, home of the aforementioned A. Chilton, with legendary producer Jim Dickinson. The sessions marked the formal departure (or booting, really) of Bob Stinson as well as Guru/Band Dad/Manager Peter Jesperson. Dad Dickinson had lobbied to get him in the sessions, as he had dealt with the likes of Chilton and Panther Burns previously, but sadly, it was a no-go. Allegedly, one Mat still managed to vomit on the ceiling at Ardent, but shenanigans were kept at bay for the most part. Paul handled the guitar parts admirably (see The Ledge, yowza!), save for the guitar solo he passed off to Dickinson's son Luther on Shooting Dirty Pool. Luther was but fifteen at that point, and a big Steve Vai fan, so don't tune in if you're looking for 'Clapton in the Roosters' type of guitar hero-ism, but it sure is pretty irritating that even Luther's quasi-embarassing early recordings ended up on a Replacements record. I hope he's thanked his Dad daily since for the opportunity.
For me, Pleased To Meet Me marked the beginning of the end. Soon Mars was booted from the band and, though we didn't know at the time, it moved closer and closer to solo record time for Paul and Tommy. Never underestimate the ability of label to totally negate any success a band has managed to build prior to signing.