Friday, December 12, 2008

Hüsker Dü (1981-84)

So what's your favorite band?

I'm sure we have all heard (and asked) that question more times than we can count. To many people, it ranks right up there with 'What's your favorite color?'

I don't know about you, but that's always a tough one for me to honestly answer. Over the years my alliances have shifted back and forth so many times, I would be hard pressed to name but one.
As a kid, it would have been The Monkees (I thought Mike Nesmith was the coolest person on the planet Davy Jones? Not so much...). For sheer longevity, I would have to say Talking Heads. Or maybe Public Image Limited. For a year or so I would have pointed towards the Dead Kennedys - perhaps even the Minutemen. Maybe The Residents? If asked during the past couple of years, I would have to side with Captain Beefheart.

One of the bands I have championed the longest (besides Talking Heads and PiL) would be Hüsker Dü. Not to be confused with Hūsker Dū.

- Hüsker Dü logo; 3 Individuals United... until they break up

Forming in the Minneapolis-St. Paul section of Minnesota (home of Mary Richards and Nick Bockwinkel) during 1979, Bob Mould (guitar, vocals), Grant Hart (drums, vocals), and Greg Norton (bass) would blaze a molten trail through the American underground until disintegrating in spectacularly messy fashion in late 1987.

The first time I heard Hüsker Dü was through my Uncle Larry (Donald to you - and almost everyone else) in... I want to say 1984. The tape, Everything Falls Apart, blew my fourteen year old sensibilities away. No surprises there, really; the record is considered by many to be a classic in whatever genre you toss it in.

You see, I took everything Larry allowed me to listen to very seriously.
His influence on me was absolute - even though he probably has no clue as to the extent. Being close to ten years my senior, I'm sure he saw me as nothing more than a twerp kid. And we all know how annoying twerp kids can be.

I, on the other hand, saw Larry as a doorway to something 'More'.

At a time when I was formulating whatever identity I would later go on to have, the man hipped me to so many things: movies, television, video games, music - even cereal (Quisp forever, Captain Crunch never!). With him, it wasn't enough to simply play the music for me, or help waste quarters at the local 7-11, or to eat the cereal with me. No, Larry would explain why whatever it was we were doing was valuable; it was never 'Because I say so!'

Every kid needs an Uncle Larry in their lives.

- March 12, 1987. Lakewood, Ohio. It sucked. Thanks, Lar.

Hüsker Dü provided me with many firsts.

* Shortly after that 'listening session', I snagged the just-released Zen Arcade on vinyl as one of my first record purchases (along with Talking Heads' Remain in Light and Public Image Limited's self-titled first release).
It was love at first listen; I had begun to expand.

* They were the first band I could self-importantly toss out to friends as one of the 'Great Unknowns'. None of them ended up liking Hüsker Dü, but that never stopped me from trying.

* One of the first concerts I went to was going to see Hüsker Dü promote their Warehouse: Songs and Stories album. Mould, Hart, and Norton were solid, yet uninspired. They played the entire album, first cut to last, with two encores: Zen Arcade's Reoccurring Dreams and Chartered Trips. Talk about a let down. As Larry's good friend Joe remarked, 'I could have stayed home, closed my eyes and listened to the damn thing!'
And he was right. Bob Mould still owes me $9.00.

* One of the first times I groped a chick's breast was during a make-out session while listening to Land Speed Record. I've never been able to look at the album in the same light.

* The first time I got drunk, I ended up serenading a girl I was crazy about with a sloppy version of Flip Your Wig's 'Green Eyes'. She wasn't impressed. Nor were any of the other people in her apartment building I woke up that morning.

- Forever to remind me of breasts. Thanks, Margie.

Oh, the band?

Let's just say that in the mid 80s, there were two college radio darlings that everyone expected to break into the mainstream: REM and Hüsker Dü. And I thought Hüsker Dü was the better of the two.

There were several phases to the band. Much like the several phases that all of us go through in life. Starting off as angry and speed fueled, Hüsker Dü would travel faster than just about every band before them. Bob Mould's guitar sound, innovative still, was that of steel melting. Youthful passion personified.

Following 1984's Zen Arcade, the band's material would mature for the sake of melody.

And heroin use.

But that's another story.

Phase One...

Links of Interest:

* Land Speed Record, 1982 - A Day Without a Record Blog
* Everything Falls Apart and More, 1983 - Punk Not Profit Blog
* Metal Circus & Zen Arcade, 1983/84 - Bloody Revolutions Blog

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