retro record

LISTEN: Punk pioneers The Replacements’ most straightforward love song is about a couple who’s anything but

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Quite a few songs from the past that have spoken to the LGBTQ+ community initially had to hide their true meaning in metaphors, innuendos, and entendres. That is not the case with The Replacements’ “Androgynous,” which is about as in-your-face with its message as possible.

The song tells the story of two individuals, Dick and Jane, who fall in love. That may seem pretty straightforward, but as it turns out, there’s nothing “straight” about their romance.

From the moment the tune begins, it’s clear that it’s about two individuals who don’t follow the norms of society. “Here comes Dick, he’s wearing a skirt / Here comes Jane, y’know she’s sporting a chain” sings the band’s frontman Paul Westerberg, who also wrote the cut.

Later on the track, the two characters switch things up, as is clear by the lines, “And tomorrow Dick is wearing pants / And tomorrow Janie’s wearing a dress.”

The gender-f*ck-leaning “Androgynous” would grab headlines if it were released today, but the song is actually decades old. It was first unveiled in 1984 as a track on The Replacements’s album Let It Be.

The full-length, their third, saw the band slow things down and mix up their punk sound, instead opting for something more contemplative and perhaps even a bit more digestible for the mainstream… though their subject matter remained as punk as ever.

Let It Be wasn’t a commercial success, but to this day it’s regarded as both an incredibly important album and one that still absolutely rocks. Rolling Stone featured it on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and as the magazine re-ranks and re-publishes that tally time and again, Let It Be climbs higher and higher.

In the years since the rockers first unleashed “Androgynous,” it’s gone on to become deeply meaningful to not only the gender queer community. The tune has been covered by several well-known acts, who each share its message of hope and love to their own fan bases, keeping the good word moving forward.

Grammy-nominated band Crash Test Dummies, known for their ‘90s smash “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” sent the hit to the Hot 100 chart in their home country of Canada. That was more than half a decade after The Replacements released it, and yet it was still ahead of its time.

More recently, he track was also covered by Miley Cyrus, Joan Jett, and trans musician and activist Laura Jane Grace of the band Against Me! The three performed the cut for Cyrus’s fundraising venture “The Backyard Sessions,” which raised money to support homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of “Androgynous” isn’t just its subject matter, but the way Westerberg sings about the subjects. He doesn’t focus on hate or a lack of understanding, but rather aims to show that this way of life can be meaningful and lovely.

In the last verse, he sings lines like, “they’re overjoyed in this world” and “the people dress the way that they please,” demonstrating a hope for the future.