Hüsker Dü Database
Magazine articles & interviews

Stargreen #6, Dec 1995

Stargreen was the brainchild of Patrick R. Smith, who, as is obvious from this piece, was a devoted Hüsker Dü fan. He started the magazine in 1993 and wrote everything in the magazine himself — essays, articles, poetry. There's a website featuring some of his works here (but not all the links there still work). Stargreen #6 was dominated by this breezy, insightful paean to Hüsker Dü, and a stunning account of his visit to Auschwitz. The Hüsker article is actually a followup to an earlier piece he wrote in issue #4.

Music Section:      
Hüsker Follow-Up
   .....For Fanatics Only

Does anyone remember? That was the title of Stargreen four, the special music issue, which featured my sentimental tribute to Hüsker Dü, the Minneapolis trio I became obsessed with as a young punk rocker a decade ago. One reader was clever enough to notice my play on words. As some people know, the name Hüsker Dü, in addition to being a board game inthe 1970's, is a Scandinavian expression meaning Do you remember?
     My affections for the Hüskers took root in early 1983 when a high school friend lent me a tape. The friend, who now incidentally is a New York music writer, was the

sole rebel in our conservative Catholic prep school. (He also published a popular early '80's music zine - the first true fanzine I'd ever seen.) On side A of the cassette was a noisy jumble of songs from various bands. On the flipside, added to fill the empty space, was Hüsker Dü's Everything Falls Apart, a relentlessly loud, hyper-speed EP with a total playing time of about twelve minutes. It was a cover of Donovan's 'Sunshine Superman', buried amidst the chaotic thrash, that was first to catch my attention - a nascent glimpse of the band's ultimate capabilities.
     For years afterward I considered starting a fan club. There has never been one as far as I know, but the logistics of such an endeavor have prevented me from trying. I'm hoping to recruit some support here - if not for a genuine fan club, then at least for my scrapbook. I'm looking for old photos, fanzine interviews, flyers, tapes, etc., to add to my collection. At one point I had tons of such memorabilia, but most was lost or thrown away over time.

Bootleg Tapes For Trade

Spin magazine radio concert and interview, 1985
Cleveland, June 1987
Minneapolis, August 1985
Toronto, May 1985
London, 1985
Trenton NJ/Radio Finland, '85 &7amp; '87
Bob Mould: live acoustic on NYC radio, 1991
Boulder, Colorado, 1985
We Wish You A Merry Christmas promo cassette

     My first Hüsker concert was at the Channel in Boston, in December of 1983. When they took the stage, the audience thought some terrible mistake had been made. Three auto

mechanics from the garage next door had apparently broken in and were impersonating a punk rock band: two unshaven fat guys and a bassist with a handlebar mustache. Bob Mould was wearing a blue and yellow Hawaiian shirt, sweating like crazy and tossing handfuls of guitar picks at the crowd. They played a deafening, hour-long set without stopping between songs. People were fleeing, holding their ears and running into the parking lot.

         Flyer from the summer of 1984 for a show in western
         Massachusetts. The phone number for David refers
         to David Savoy, the Bostonian who became Hüsker
         Dü's manager before committing suicide in 1987.
         Savoy's death was an event the band never really
         recovered from, contributing to its dissolution later
         that year.

Do You Remember?

The Channel, Boston, December 17, 1983
The Rat, Boston, (with REM) March 1984
Harvard University (with REM), March 1985
Living Room, Providence RI, June 1984
Pulaski Hall, Easthampton MA, June 21, 1984
The Channel, Boston, September 30, 1984
Chet's Last Call, Boston, Winter 1984
Harvey Wheeler Hall, Concord MA, Winter 1985
Living Room, Providence RI, May 4, 1985
The Channel, Boston, May 5, 1985
Paradise, Boston, March 1986
Orpheum Theater, Boston, March 1987
Living Room, Providence RI, October 16 1987
Toad's Place, New Haven CT, October 18, 1987
     Above is a chronicle of the fourteen times I saw Hüsker Dü live. The most memorable show by far was the one at Harvey Wheeler Hall, an invitation-only gig on a cold Sunday night in 1985. Opening with 'Something I Learned Today', they played a small lecture room with no stage, while the audience - about fifty people - sat on the floor. The worst show is a toss-up between Boston's Orpheum performance in 1987 and the Harvard show with REM in 1984, where because of a horrible sound mix they were nearly booed from the stage. (Michael Stipe was wearing a Metal Circus t-shirt.)
     All fourteen times Bob used the same guitar, his venerable wood-tone Ibanez Flying-V, battered and patched with duct tape. And the band had another unforgettable habit: when leaving the stage between encores, they would turn the amps up full and lean their instruments against the speakers, coaxing ear-splitting waves of feedback from the equipment.

(the author's 10 favorites)

1.     Chartered Trips (Bob, Zen Arcade)
2.     Celebrated Summer (Bob, New Day Rising)
3.     Diane (Grant, Metal Circus)
4.     Eight Miles High (Bob, 1984 single)
5.     Terms Of Psychic Warfare (Grant, New Day Rising)
6.     Pink Turns To Blue (Grant, Zen Arcade)
7.     It's Not Funny Anymore (Grant, Metal Circus)
8.     Keep Hanging On (Grant, Flip Your Wig)
9.     Pride (Bob, Zen Arcade)
10.   Blah Blah Blah (Greg, Everything Fallas Apart)
Runners Up
If I Told You (Grant, New Day Rising)
Somewhere (Grant, Zen Arcade)
All This I've Done For You (Bob, Candy Apple Grey)

(the worst of Bob and Grant)

1.     Too Far Down (Bob, Candy Apple Grey)
2.     Amusement (Bob, 1981 single)
3.     You're A Soldier (Grant, Warehouse)
4.     No Promise Have I Made (Grant, Candy Apple Grey)
5.     Dead Set On Destruction (Grant, Candy Apple Grey)
6.     The Baby Song (Grant, Flip Your Wig)
7.     Gilligan's Island (Greg, Land Speed Record)
8.     Gotta Lotta (Bob, B-side of 1986 single)
9.     Ice Cold Ice (Bob, Warehouse)
10.   It's Not Peculiar (Bob, Warehouse)
Runners Up
Turn It Around (Bob, Warehouse)
Too Much Spice (Grant, Warehouse)
What Do I Want? (Grant, 1981 B-side)

     The first of the two preceding lists was the more difficult, especially trying to cull from Zen Arcade, an album with at least a dozen extraordinary songs. The second list was much easier. It's heartbreaking nowadays to be in the crowd at a Bob Mould or Sugar (Bob's new project) show, as someone invariably shrieks out, "Too Far Down!" - the number one selection of my throw-aways pile. Of the countless choices from the vast Hüsker archive, there's always some clown who wants to hear the worst possible song - a tuneless, nails-across- the-blackboard embarrassment from Candy Apple Grey, the one record we all could have done without.
     Hüsker Dü, for those who don't know, had two lead singers. Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart each wrote and sang about half the songs, with bassist Greg Norton chipping in on rare occasions. Not since the Clash had anyone pulled this off with much success. Separately, Bob and Grant have very different songwriting and vocal styles. Yet both on stage and on record, Hüsker Dü as a whole maintained a remarkably even keel. Each pulled his weight without tipping the scale. Unlike Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, Bob and Grant were a perfect complement, a sonic repartee that flowed refreshingly from song to song. Without either of the two, Hüsker Dü would have been exactly half as great. Tellingly, my best and worst lists are split just about fifty-fifty between them.
     Pundits from Spin to Rolling Stone are quick to make pious reference to the threesome's lengthy discography, Of course, ten years ago when the band was at its peak of productivity, it was ignored by all but the most daring publications. Today Mould, Hart and Norton are resurrected like some midwestern Velvet Underground, while the writers and critics knock heads as if discovering some long lost talent. Mould is revered, hailed as the second coming of Jimi Hendrix by fans who can't name a single track from Zen Arcade. Meanwhile, at loft parties everywhere, you can't swing a courier bag without hitting some marble-mouthed Kinko's employee whose biggest claim to post-punk credibility is a receding hairline and a second-balcony ticket stub from the droning Warehouse tour in 1987. "Yeah, man, I remember those guys."
     The rock & roll movers and shakers, desperate for something exciting in a genre void of new talent, would like

us to believe punk has been miraculously reborn in the form of consummate poseurs like Green Day (the punk Sha-Na-Na, in the words of Motorbooty magazine). Giving credit where it's due, the Boston Globe's Jim Sullivan, one of the best and least pretentious rock writers around, is refreshingly accurate in his 1992 review of Sugar's Copper Blue debut. Punk is finally buried, says Sullivan, "When Hüsker Dü played its swan-song at then end of the '80's."
     Terry Katzman, the Hüskers' first sound engineer and dear friend still, had this to say in the liner notes to the Everything Falls Apart re-issue: "Hüsker Dü seemingly defined the punk ethos circa 1980-1983 without necessarily embracing or endorsing it." Indeed, while encompassing the volume, energy, and do-it-yourself independence of the '80's hardcore movement, it set itself apart with a songwriting style all its own.
     But it was Terri Sutton, in her contribution to the Twin Cities' Dü Hüskers tribute album, who had the most eloquent eulogy I've heard to date, part of which I quoted in issue four. She sums up the essence of Hüsker Dü - the balancing of artistic extremes:

       'In time I came to think of Hüsker music as the
       shadowy underside of REM's child-eye vision of
       love and loss: their games of hide and seek took
       place not in some lilac-scented Eden, but under
       the opaque ice of six-month Minnesotan winter.
       Unlike too many of their contemporaries, though,
       Hüsker Dü's investigations of the psyche's cellars
       didn't start and end with rage and violence.
       Like 'Little Red Riding Hood' or 'Hansel and
       Gretel,' their compressed fairy tales were strewn
       with droll signposts, ripe berries and candy hous-
       es cast into prankish, teasing melodies.'

     Hüsker Dü are at once beautiful and terrifying, while never quite committing either way. For those who read my speech at the beginning of Stargreen three, you'll recall this touches on an underlying theme of the magazine: an appreciation for that which bridges two such disparate notions.



Land Speed Record

Curiously, the first Hüsker Dü album was a live LP, which followed two independently released singles in 1981 and 1982. An onslaught of high-speed thrash, Land Speed Record is a single set recorded start-to- finish at the 7th Street Entry in downtown Minneapolis. Typical of their early live shows, there are no breaks between songs. When SST released the CD version in 1988, it digitalized the entire recording as one long selection.* Push the button and it goes and goes, the band coming up for air just long enough for the frenzied calls of "2, 3, 4!" between songs. "Watch the mike!" yells Bob at one point, admonishing the unruly slam-dancers as a song comes crashing to an end; already he is three chords into the next. This is 'Ultracore' at its best.

highlights: Unbridled punk rock energy
lowlights:   Tedious after ten or fifteen minutes

Everything Falls Apart

This was a twelve-inch 45, for those who remember when music came in frisbee-sized disks that could be played at different speeds. Released on the Hüskers' own Reflex label, it is an intriguing mix of all-out hardcore and slower, somewhat more refined material. A sentimental favorite, this was the record that first introduced me to the band.

highlights: Best songs: 'Gravity,' 'Blah Blah Blah,' 'Wheels'
lowlights:   Worst song: 'Bricklayer'

* Not quite true: there are two tracks on the CD, corresponding to sides one and two of the vinyl LP.

Metal Circus

Another EP, this was the band's first project for SST; a seven-song release in late 1983. Metal Circus is probably the least-acclaimed and most underrated of all the Hüsker records. This is the one that Nirvana and Pearl Jam only wish they could have made: loud, brash, and haunting, yet completely free of heavy-metal pretension.

highlights: Best songs: 'Real World,' 'Diane,' 'It's Not Funny Anymore'
lowlights:   Only bad song: 'Out On A Limb'

Zen Arcade

In the spring of 1984 Hüsker Dü released the heralded 'Eight Miles High' single. Two months later came Zen Arcade, which takes its place in rock history as the most important album ever put out by an independent label. The depth and intricacy of this landmark double-LP are beyond elaboration.

highlights: Too numerous to mention
lowlights:   None

New Day Rising

Though lacking the diversity of Zen, this is the Hüskers' most honest, most quintessential effort; a flawless blend of power and pop that woke the country from its winter freeze in January of 1985. From the eerie beauty of 'Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill', to the blistering frenzy of 'Plans I Make', this is perhaps their definitive work, and the disk to buy for first time listeners.

highlights: Best songs: 'I Apologize', 'If I Told You', 'Celebrated Summer'
lowlights:   None

Flip Your Wig

Lousy production keeps this one from being a classic. Where New Day Rising was easily the band's best produced effort, Flip Your Wig is probably the worst. Despite its excellent song structures and compelling lyrics, the album wallows in a dull, lifeless guitar sound. Bob's flying-V was the star of New Day - sharp, loud, and crisp. Here it sputters disappointingly, lessening the attack of an otherwise great album.

highlights: Best songs: 'Flexible Flyer', 'Keep Hanging On'
lowlights:   Subway tunnel sound quality

Candy Apple Grey

In an interview years ago, Bob stated that Land Speed Record was the band's only regret. Here is the album far more deserving of embarrassment. Their Warner Brothers inaugural is the biggest letdown of Hüsker Dü's career. While earning some credit for daring to kick off a major label debut with the throat-tearing fury of 'Crystal', the Dü quickly runs out of gas, trying hopelessly to redeem itself with such overextended oddities as the piano-laced 'No Promise Have I Made'. Put simply, Bob and Grant try too hard to rekindle the diversity and experimentation tat worked so well earlier in their career. The results are awkward caricatures like the cloying 'Hardly Getting Over It', and the acoustic atrocity 'Too Far Down'.

highlights: Best song: 'All This I've Done For You'
lowlights:   Pretentious and plodding. Stupid title.

Warehouse: Songs And Stories

Brilliant at times, 1987's Warehouse would have been much more successful with some careful pruning. The band's second double-LP is far too diluted by mediocre material. While virtually all of Zen Arcade's tracks were worthy of vinyl, only about half from this one should have made the final cut. Warehouse sticks to straightforward rock - honest and pure on all four sides - but it never quite recaptures the buzzsaw edge so epitomized on New Day Rising. As things turned out, this would be Hüsker Dü's last record. There were rumors of keyboards and horns for the next one which, maybe thankfully, never came to be. A final testament to the band's enduring modesty: on the back of the record is a small picture of Bob, Grant, and Greg sitting cross-legged in a flower garden. Never before had they put a photo of themselves on an album.

highlights: Best song: 'Up In The Air'
lowlights:   World's ugliest cover art

Statues/Amusement The fourteen year-old vintage of the Hüskers' first record makes any post-punker feel like a senior citizen. A low-fi, low budget single, this is a punk record in the truest sense.

In A Free Land Years ahead of its time, this dirty-pop classic still sounds fresh.

Eight Miles High While Zen Arcade is the best indie album of all time, 'Eight Miles High' is arguably the best single. Bob's cathartic screaming, as the song winds to a close, is one of rock's greatest moments.

Ticket To Ride A collectors item, this was part of an NME magazine give-away in 1985. Hüsker Dü played many covers, from the Byrds to Elvis Presley to the Ramones. 'Eight Miles High' aside, this was their best, a song that so naturally lends itself to their sound. (The single also included an excellent Jesus and Mary Chain cut called 'Some Candy Talking.')

Love Is All Around The B-side to 'Makes No Sense At All' is the famed Mary Tyler Moore Show theme, a cutesy hometown tribute, originally penned by Sonny 'I Fought the Law' Curtis. (In this spirit, perhaps the Violent Femmes should have covered the Laverne and Shirley song.)

Do You Remember? This not-for-sale (meaning $25) Warner Brothers prom-disc offers various, often inappropriate cuts from the band's past albums. Meanwhile if you scour the bargain bins, you might also come across a similar, double-length interview LP put out by Warner in '87, with Warehouse cuts and pithy banter from the band.

SPIN radio concert An extremely rare find, this record was a mid-eighties rebroadcast from a show at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis. Sound quality is terrible, and listeners from coast to coast got a taste of Hüsker Dü at its worst. The narration, too, is annoying. The band is introduced as "Minnesota's other success story." To this day I'm not sure if the reference is to Prince, the Replacements, or Walter Mondale.

Dü Hüskers - The Twin Cities replay Zen Arcade The present-day Minneapolis underground tips its hat to the Dü, as two dozen no-names tackle the impossible. Listening to this album is a lot like watching a little league game in Yankee Stadium: the spirit is there, but the result is pure novelty. Most impressive, though, are the Willy Wisely Trio rendition of the short instrumental 'Monday Will Never Be The Same,' and Muskellunge's 'Chartered Trips.'

Case Closed? An international compilation of Hüsker cover songs, mostly from Europe. Better than the Dü Hüskers project, this one pays well-deserved respect from around the world. Standouts are Germany's Strangemen doing 'Diane,' and an excellent cover of 'It's Not Funny Anymore' by Italy's Upset Noise. Baysix (origin inknown) come through with a spiced-up version of the sappy 'Hardly Getting Over It.'

The Living End The posthumous live album. Every band gets one. Unfortunately, this one fails to capture the memory of the Hüskers in concert. Never particularly graceful on stage, the band relied more on its brutal intensity than on a tight, polished sound. Shows were loud, prolonged explosions - the melodies buried within the noise. Here the songs are strangely tame, re-mixed to a deep, rich coherence, which is something I never witnessed in fifteen or so live performances. Comprehensive and powerful it may be, but The Living End misses the target.
The Warner Singles
From 1986 through 1987, Warner Brothers released several twelve-inch and seven-inch singles, most highlighting material from Candy Apple and Warehouse. The first of these included a furious version of the Beatles' 'Helter Skelter', as well as the amazing extended version of 'All Work And No Play.' Another had passable acoustic versions of 'Celebrated Summer' and Flip Your Wig's 'Flexible Flyer.' Its B-side inculded the little-known 'Fattie', a dark, mesmerizing instrumental of Zen Arcade caliber. Warner got daring at the end, as Greg Norton's 'Everytime' was a welcome treat in 1987. His last appearance as lead vocalist was five years earlier on Everything Falls Apart. The worst pf the Warner barrage was the tuneless 'Gotta Lotta,' which popped up again on a 1994 bootleg called Supernova.

Bootleg & Video
Several bootleg CDs of varying quality are floating around. Some of these are the same recording sold with different packaging, so be careful. There's one called Now And Zen that includes the out-takes from Zen Arcade. There is only one video that I know of - professionally shot and edited from a London concert in 1985. Its phenomenal version of 'Reocurring Dreams' is alone worth the twenty bucks.
Personnel Update
     In 1989 Bob Mould left Minneapolis for the east coast, living briefly in New Jersey and then in Brooklyn. He released two decent solo albums before settling into mediocrity with Sugar, who, despite their shortcomings, have probably sold more records than Hüsker Dü did in its entire nine-year career. A recent solo tour was somewhat redeeming. Bob has tried continuously to distance himself from the Hüsker Dü spectre, but he caught the audience off guard with unprecedented acoustic versions of 'I Apologize' and 'In A Free Land.' A leaner, meaner Mr. Mould, who has lost about thirty pounds since the good old days, now lives in Austin, Texas.
     Grant V. Hart, the barefoot drummer and vocalist, has given up percussion for the guitar. His first few solo projects were fairly admirable, including the catchy '2541' single and SST's Intolerance album. Since then his Nova Mob project has been inconsistent. Its Last Days Of Pompeii record was decent, but the self-titled follow-up album was a bore. Like Bob, Grant also has slimmed down considerably; a symbolic shedding of the past, perhaps.
     Greg Norton, always the quietest but most friendly of the three, has not been heard from, musically, since the '87 breakup. He supposedly runs a restaurant in St. Paul called the Table of Contents, still sporting his handlebar mustache and driving a Camaro.

The Metal Circus mystery:
Coincidence or conspiracy?
A. The three empty seats. We assume they correspond to Bob, Grant, and Greg, the band's three members.

B. On the desk is a copy of the Everything Falls Apart EP. Its cover is flipped over, with the old Hüsker logo and credits facing upward.

C. A photo of a mustachioed man. Is this Greg Norton?

D. This is a framed picture of Chairman Mao. I'm clueless.

E. Strangest and most cryptic of all. On the desk amidst the strewn pages is a model airplane. Look very carefully at the writing onthe plane's left wing, and you'll see the following: NAR-007. (It's easy to spot on the old-style cover, but you'll need a magnifying glass for the much smaller CD.) The number is seemingly meaningless until you realize this: Land Speed Record, Hüsker Dü's first album, was originally put out ny New Alliance Records (NAR). It was the label's seventh release. Sure enough, there on its cardboard spine is the catalog code NAR-007!

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