Merry Go Round

Album: All Shook Down (1990)
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Songfacts®:

  • You wake to another day and find
    The wind's blow'in out of key with your sky
    Only you can see
    And the rain dancin' in the night
    Everybody stands around in daylight


    "Merry Go Round" is about Mary Lucia, younger sister of Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg. Lucia is a music-industry figure in her own right, having worked since 2005 as on-air personality for multiple Minnesota radio stations and shows. Her show Popular Creeps (named after a song from Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the 1992 debut solo album by Replacements drummer Chris Mars) won the Minnesota Music Award for "Best Locally Produced Show" twice. She's also written for multiple outlets. Lucia also narrates the audiobook version of Trouble Boys: The Story of the Replacements, by Bob Mehr.

    "Merry Go Round" isn't a celebration of Lucia's achievements. As with most Westerberg songs, it's about life's troubles and unfairness. Specifically, it's about Lucia as an unhappy child. The Westerbergs grew up in a working-class home frequently filled with tension. The song's lyrics are elliptical yet give a clear impression of a forlorn girl born into sad circumstances.

    Westerberg has characterized himself as a defeatist always drawn to the losers, victims, and tragic characters of life. He wrote another such song for his older sister with "Waitress In The Sky."
  • "Merry-go-round" is another term for a carousel. It's an amusement-park ride consisting of a circular platform that rotates with characters (usually horses) for children to sit on and ride. In the Western world it's an archetypal symbol of childhood innocence and joy. Juxtaposed against the jaded portrait of the girl in the song, it amplifies the song's sorrow in contrast.
  • The band shot the song's video on a sound stage in Hollywood. Jesse Dylan, son of Bob Dylan, directed it. The Dylan clan has an interesting history with The Replacements. It's told in the story of "Like A Rolling Pin."
  • "Merry Go Round" was the lead single off The Replacements' seventh studio album, All Shook Down. The band felt things coming apart but didn't know it would be their final studio album together.
  • The song held #1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks - a respectable showing for a band that never had big sales. In Trouble Boys, author Bob Mehr makes the point that this achievement was "illusory." Rock radio was fading in 1990 and being replaced by alternative radio, which would become dominant in the '90s. "The 'Mats had gotten caught in the slipstream between the demise of the AOR (album oriented rock) as the dominant format and the rise of alternative radio as a viable commercial entity," Mehr writes.

    In a strange twist, the band that had started as hard-edged and raw as any out there had evolved into a sweet melody maker just in time for hard-edged, raw music to take over the airwaves. Bad timing colored the fate of The Replacements from the beginning of the band to the end.
  • Replacements drummer Chris Mars started to remove himself from the band during the making of All Shook Down. His personal problems with Westerberg had gotten worse, especially after Westerberg's sobriety removed drunkenness as an excuse for their conflicts.

    For his part, Westerberg openly criticized Mars to the press. He later claimed he was trying to "light a fire under his ass" and get Mars motivated again, but Mars didn't take it that way. He bailed before recording was over, though he's in the video for the song.
  • Charley Drayton drums on the track (as well as on "Someone Take The Wheel"). Drayton has drummed all over the place. He's performed with The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Mariah Carey, and a bunch of other top-shelf acts.

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