I once posted (on a vastly inferior PW fansite) that “Can’t Hardly Wait” (from Pleased to Meet Me) was not only my favorite PW song but probably my favorite song by anyone, ever; it’s like standing at some magically delicious crossroads where so many of the the things that I love about Rock & Roll converge.
The song starts out with a simple Booker T & the MG’s-influenced “Memphis” guitar riff and then the drums kick in, and I mean kick in. (I’ve read that people bemoan that producer Jim Dickinson “reigned in” Chris and Tommy with the use of click tracks on this record but I don’t hear it like that – I’d gladly trade PTMM‘s in-the-pocket drumbeats over the near-anarchy of some of their earlier recordings.)
The lyrics are written almost as an imaginary phone call home from a lonely motel room somewhere out on the road: “Write you a letter tomorrow / tonight I can’t hold a pen / someone’s got a stamp that I can borrow / I promise not to blow the address again” PW sings with just the right amount of emotion. Then, a half verse (bridge?) and then one of my favorite-ever Replacements moments, when the Memphis Horns kick in, slyly nudging the song up a notch or two. And all this time the snake-like guitar and bass and firecracker drums are insistently propelling the song along…
After the horns make their entrance comes one of PW’s most-quoted lines: “Jesus rides beside me, but he never buys any smokes.” As this verse continues, PW’s vocals take the song to yet another level – there’s the yearning to be home, the joy of being in a Rock & Roll band, the disgust (or is it bemusement?) of life on the road when he sings of ashtray floors, dirty clothes and filthy jokes… (Throughout PW’s career he has sung with several voices – from the near whisper of “Sadly Beautiful” and the confessional “Here Comes a Regular” to the affected vocals of “It’s a Wonderful Lie” and the Classic Rock howl of “I’ll Be You” – but to me none come close to what he achieves on “Can’t Hardly Wait.”)
“Lights that flash in the evening through a hole in the drapes / I’ll be home when I’m sleeping / I can’t hardly wait.” Here Dickinson adds a swirling string section – not too obtrusive, and complimenting the horns, that guitar and the drums. The song fades out with PW repeatedly and magnificently singing/screaming “I can’t wait! Hardly wait!” several times, his voice striving to be heard above that beautiful din. “Can’t Hardly Wait” clocks in at 3:03 but feels much longer.
I’ve listened to this song hundreds and hundreds of times, and never get sick of it. I won’t say I find something new every time I hear it – but I do wear the comfort it brings me like an old sweater.