To date, no book-length Hüsker Dü biography has been published,
nor has any of the band members committed his memoirs to print. There are,
however, several books out there that examine various aspects of the
Hüskers' history, legacy and music, a few of them at considerable
length. I've attempted here to give a rundown (and my own biased opinions)
of those with which I'm familiar. I'm always
happy to learn of others.
Arnold, Gina. Route 666: On the Road To Nirvana. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993. Gina Arnold's detractors are many, and often vocal in their criticism of the style, tone, and accuracy of her writing. If you already don't like her, this book probably isn't going to change your mind. Inspired by the mainstream breakthrough of Nirvana, she decided to recount the history of punk rock... starring Gina Arnold. She approaches the subject on a scene-by-scene basis, typically choosing to focus on a single "representative" band for each region. The Twin Cities chapter centers on the Replacements, with a paragraph or two in the middle expressing her (glowing) opinion of Hüsker Dü.
Azerrad, Michael. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2001. Thirteen hyper-influential 80s bands are explored in depth. Until a more thorough treatment emerges (don't hold your breath), Azerrad's detail-rich Hüsker Dü chapter will likely remain the definitive account of the band's story. The chapters on the other bands (Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Butthole Surfers, etc, etc) are equally strong, and any one of them would suffice to make this book essential.
Blush, Steven. American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Los Angeles: Feral House, 2001. A punk vet's overview of the scene, drawing heavily on personal interviews. There are a couple of pages about Hüsker Dü in the Minneapolis section (with quotes from Grant), and scattershot references elsewhere.
Carducci, Joe. Rock and the Pop Narcotic. Los Angeles: 2.13.61, 1994. Carducci, SST insider and longtime punk-scene participant, offers enough fascinating gossip and first-person anecdotes, including plenty of Hüsker dirt sprinkled throughout, to fill nearly 400 pages. Hard to ascertain the degree of embellishment in these tales, but the book's a great read.
Carducci, Joe. Enter Naomi: SST, L.A. and All That. Centennial, Wyoming: Redoubt Press, 2007. Yet more tales from SST's golden age, interwoven with the life story of the late Naomi Petersen, who started hanging out at Black Flag gigs as a teenager and became the SST house photographer. Carducci was close to her when they both worked at SST and maintained contact for a time after she moved east, but like many of Naomi's friends from the early days, eventually lost touch with her. Stunned by both the news of her untimely death and the fact that it took so long for him to hear of it, Carducci was moved to write this book as a sort of eulogy, liberally using personal correspondence and excerpts from Naomi's diary. Though there are fewer Hüsker references than in Rock and the Pop Narcotic, there are still plenty of anecdotes involving fringe characters in the Hüsker story, like Spot, Mugger, Merrill, Greg Ginn, and of course Naomi herself. Lots of wonderful photos as well, including this one of Grant at KXLU studios in LA and this shot of the Hüskers that was used as one of the publicity shots to promote the New Day Rising LP.
Ciminelli, David & Knox, Ken. Homocore: The Loud and Raucous Rise of Queer Rock. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2005. Collection of short, readable chapters, more or less chronological, that pretty much stand on their own as essays and tell the story promised by the subtitle. A full chapter devoted to Bob Mould is built around an interview that was presumably conducted within a year or two of the publication date. The focus of the interview, not surprisingly, is on Bob's perception of himself as a gay man, how it relates to his music, and why he took his time coming out. Bob is candid, and, among other things, explains in some detail the reasons for his falling out with Dennis Cooper over the Spin piece that was Bob's first major public acknowledgment of his sexuality.
Cavanagh, David. The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry for the Prize. London: Virgin Publishing Ltd, 2000. Cavanagh tells the Creation Records story, all right, in excruciating detail. This thing is the size of the Old Testament. No Hüsker, per se, but several Sugar and Mould anecdotes. Cavanagh argues that it was a combination of Alan McGee's foresight, Bob's shrewdness, and the British music press that broke Sugar. There are also passages that deal critically with the 1994 Undrugged show (Creation 10th anniversary) at the Royal Albert Hall, and the disappointment of the Creation staff upon first hearing the FU:EL tracks.
Cooper, Dennis. All Ears. Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 1999. This compilation of non-fiction pieces by novelist Dennis Cooper includes the infamous Spin article he wrote about Bob Mould in 1994. (Bob seems to have felt that Cooper betrayed him, including off-the-record remarks and slanting the article in such a way as to exploit Bob's homosexuality at a time when Bob was still partially closeted.)
DeRogatis, Jim. Kaleidoscope Eyes. London: Fourth Estate, 1996. Subtitled Psychedelic Music from the 1960s to the 1990s, this book approaches Hüsker Dü from a different angle. DeRogatis, Chicago Sun-Times Music Editor and longtime Hüsker fan, devotes some ink in the chapter on 80s & 90s guitar bands to a discussion the Hüskers' debt to (and unashamed love affair with) psychedelia.
Earles, Andrew S. Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock. St Paul MN: Voyageur Press, 2010. At long last, a complete biography of Hüsker Dü, a work by writer and sometime performer Andy Earles. Earles secured the cooperation of Grant and Greg in his effort, but Bob declined to participate (preferring, understandably, to tell his part of the story via his own memoirs). Earles made a conscious decision during the writing process to focus on the music itelf, its development, and its impact, rather than on gossipy stories about the band members' personal lives. There are still plenty of interesting tales and observations, but don't expect to read much about who did what to whom. Much of the focus is on the pre-Warner years, leading some reviewers to express the wish for more info about the Warehouse era. The writing itself is not bad at all... but the editing, to be blunt, is pretty woeful.
Gimarc, George. Post Punk Diary 1980-1982. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997. A day-by-day account of key events in the punk world during the three years specified in the title. The four Hüsker releases that occurred in this time frame are noted on the appropriate days, along with interesting supplementary info about the band. The style is unpretentious and the concept works better than it sounds.
Glinert, Ed & Perry, Tim. Fodor's Rock & Roll Traveler USA. New York: Fodor's Travel Publications, 1996. An encyclopedia of USA rock & roll landmarks for the traveler. The Hüsker references are naturally concentrated in the Minneapolis-St Paul entries, but the band is also cited in a bunch of other "played here" lists.
Humphrey, Clark. Loser. Portland: Feral House, 1995. Exhaustive examination of Seattle punk through the years, beginning in 1851 (not a typo). Hüsker Dü, of course, were only occasional visitors to that scene and so are only mentioned in passing, with a brief anecdote about the 1985 shows at the Omni Room.
Hurchalla, George. Going Underground: American Punk 1979-1992. Stuart FL: Zuo Press, 2005. Sprawling, ambitious survey of the punk scene, full of anecdotes, photos and reminiscences. Two chapters are principally devoted to Hüsker Dü and there are numerous other incidental mentions. This one is essential.
Keller, Martin. Music Legends: A Rewind on the Minnesota Music Scene. Minneapolis: D Media, 2007. Veteran music journalist Keller's book is heavily weighted toward the early years of the Twin Cities pop scene, but the last chapter bears the promising title "The Replacements and Husker Du: The Post-New Wave Era in Minnesota Music." Sadly, it's a very short chapter, and most of it is about the Replacements. Keller doesn't seem particularly interested or knowledgeable about this era; he quotes Wikipedia for some of the Replacements material. The two perfunctory pages on Hüsker Dü offer no real insights and seem to have been included for completeness' sake. Nice 1981-ish Greg Helgeson photo of the band though.
Jancik, Wayne & Lathrop, Tad. Cult Rockers. New York: Fireside, 1995. The inclusion of Robert Johnson, Bo Diddley and Shonen Knife among the 150 artists covered here gives a pretty good indication of the authors' intentions. The three-page Hüsker Dü section concisely addresses both the music and the background, but won't be particularly illuminating to anyone already familiar with the band. (The accompanying Workbook-era photo of Bob and his Strat catches him gazing heavenward in a strikingly Woody-Guthriesque pose.)
Larkin, Colin (ed.). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music. London: Virgin Publishing, 1997. Hüsker Dü rates a well-researched and mostly accurate half-page entry. Bob Mould gets almost as much space in his own section, much of which is devoted, not surprisingly, to his Virgin albums. (No separate entry for Sugar, Grant Hart, or Nova Mob.)
Mould, Bob (with Michael Azerrad). See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. Bob's written memoirs were published in June 2011, the end result of a three-year effort. Bob claims not to have held back, and the sheer volume of gritty detail and cathartic revelations in his stories certainly supports his contention. It's a chronological narrative, starting at birth, of Bob's personal, professional and emotional life. It answers a lot of questions, and, needless to say, it's a must-read for anyone remotely interested in Bob or Hüsker Dü. There are a lot of "So that's what that song is about!" moments. The work is also available as an audiobook, read by Bob himself.
Munday, John S. Justice for Marlys. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. Only peripherally connected to Hüsker Dü, this is the story of serial killer Joe Ture, among whose victims was Diane Edwards, subject of Grant Hart's song, "Diane." The author was dating (and later married) the mother of Marlys Wohlenhaus, another Ture victim, at the time of her murder. The focus, obviously, is on the Marlys case, but there are disturbingly graphic descriptions of Ture's other crimes, including the abduction, rape and murder of Diane Edwards. Though written in a style that's often stiff and awkward, this is a thoroughly chilling book about a profoundly creepy guy.
Popoff, Martin. Riff Kills Man! 25 Years of Recorded Hard Rock & Heavy Metal. Toronto: Power Chord Press, 1993. In this alphabetical (by band) collection of capsule reviews, Popoff decided that certain flavors of punk rock deserved to be among the nearly 2000 "hard rock" albums covered in this book. Land Speed Record, Metal Circus, Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, Candy Apple Grey, and Warehouse all appear here, but Everything Falls Apart has been overlooked. Popoff appears to regard the Hüsker material in a favorable light, but it's not always easy to tell because of his peculiarly turgid writing style.
Reynolds, Simon. Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 2005. The term "postpunk" is a bit misleading. This book is really about new wave bands, chiefly British, and is quite detailed if you're interested in that particular subgenre. A late chapter encompasses selected SST bands Minutemen, Hüsker (one page), Meat Puppets with Mission of Burma thrown in for good measure. The UK edition of the book described here includes material (a couple of additional chapters) that was omitted from the US edition.
Robbins, Ira A. (ed.). The New Trouser Press Record Guide, Third Edition. New York: Collier Books/Macmillan, 1989. Though not perfect, the Trouser Press guide is probably the closest thing there is to an official encyclopedia of indie rock, and remains a most useful reference work. Hüsker gets a big chunk of space (written by Robbins and John Leland) in this edition.
Robbins, Ira A. (ed.). The New Trouser Press Record Guide, Fourth Edition. New York: Collier Books/Macmillan, 1991. This edition features minor updates to the Hüsker entry, and newly added entries for Bob Mould and Grant Hart.
Sarig, Roni. The Secret History of Rock. New York: Billboard Books, 1998. Sarig's approach is to select a few dozen of the most influential bands and artists of various genres (mostly from the 80s, but a few from earlier eras) and examine them one by one. Each writeup is accompanied by a generous selection of "Why so-and-so was important to me" style quotes from other artists. Three very readable pages on Hüsker Dü.
Schinder, Scott (et al). Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama. New York: Delta, 1996. Selections from Rolling Stone magazine's never-ending series of list-o-centric articles ("Ten Shortest Red-Headed Guitarists") these things practically write themselves, and anyone can play. To be fair, there are a couple of decent, reasonably thoughtful longer pieces. Hüsker Dü turns up in about a dozen spots, mostly as just another item in a list. (Grant is honored as a member of the "substance abuse hall of fame." Ugh.)
Thompson, Stephen (ed.). The Tenacity of the Cockroach: Conversations with Entertainment's Most Enduring Outsiders. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002. This compilation of reprints of Onion A.V. Club interviews includes the long (four pages of two-column text), breezy conversation with Grant Hart originally published in The Onion in July 2000. Some of Grant's comments on Hüsker Dü history apparently contributed to a rekindling of his feud with Bob Mould.
Walsh, Jim. The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting. St Paul MN: Voyageur Press, 2007. Longtime Minneapolis musician and City Pages music editor Walsh has constructed a Replacements biography by interviewing (most of) the story's principal characters, along with some not-so-principal ones, and assembling the results into a coherent chronology. Unfortunately, the band members themselves elected not to participate, and the quotes from them have been lifted from previously published interviews. Nonetheless, the book is a lot of fun to read, and there is considerable Hüsker content. Bob and Grant (but not Greg) are quoted extensively, and numerous Hüsker anecdotes are contributed by others.
Wells, Steven. Punk Loud, Young and Snotty: The Stories behind the Songs. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press (Avalon Publishing Group), 2004. Wells' formula, as the book title suggests, is to look at each of the 75 or so bands (a few obscure choices, but mostly of the "usual suspects" variety) through the lens of one or more characteristic songs. The device works well enough; the book is entertaining, with breezily opinionated text and smart-alecky photo captions. The Clash, Ramones and Sex Pistols get the most exposure. Hüsker Dü merits a full page. The song: "Divide And Conquer."
Crossroads: The Experience Music Project Collection. Seattle: Experience Music Project, 2000. Selected glossy photos of EMP's rock museum artifacts dominate this large-format book. Eric Weisbard's punk-rock chapter, "New Day Rising," includes a Hüsker photo from the Zen Arcade album cover shoot, an uncropped image of the album artwork, and a couple of old Hüsker Dü ticket stubs.
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