Like all music scenes, the Twin Cities have their own pantheon of local greats. Prince, The Replacements, The Suicide Commandos, The Suburbs, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, and Atmosphere to name a few. Then there is Hüsker Dü. Active from 1979-1987, Hüsker Dü is a music typologist’s nightmare. Initially the band’s work could be described as ‘hardcore’, but over the years both songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, drifted more and more into poppier college radio territory. Taken as a whole the band’s catalog can claim, as with a number of other independent ’80s bands, inspiration for all the ‘alternative’ and ‘modern’ rock that was to follow (Kim Deal famously joined Pixies after answering an ad looking for a bass player who liked both Peter, Paul and Mary and Hüsker Dü). Perhaps more importantly, though, Hüsker Dü was at the forefront of the ’80s DIY movement which helped create the independent music scene (regardless of genre) that we enjoy today.*
It has been 25 years since Hüsker Dü called it quits following its final performance in Columbia, Missouri. During that time each of the band members has moved on with their lives. Bob Mould has had a very successful career both as a solo artist and with the band Sugar, Grant Hart has been less commercially successful but has put out some no less excellent music with the band Nova Mob and under his own name, and Greg Norton took his handlebar mustache to chef school and now owns a restaurant in Red Wing, Minnesota. I decided it would be interesting to explore how the places that were important to the band have changed in that same time period, so I did some research, grabbed my camera, and toured the Twin Cities. This is the result:
Bob Mould was raised in upstate New York and moved to St. Paul in 1978 to attend Macalester College. Macalester’s location hasn’t changed, but there have been quite a few buildings added to the campus since he graduated in 1982. In fact, a large portion of the campus would be unrecognizable to an alumnus who had not seen the campus in the last 30 years. Pictured here is the corner of Grand Avenue and Macalester Street, and both buildings in this photo existed at the time Mould attended the school. The building on the right is Weyerhaeuser Hall and the one slightly visible behind the trees is Weyerhaeuser Memorial Chapel.
Less than a block to the west of the above picture, this parking lot sits on Grand Avenue. It wasn’t always a parking lot, however. In a prior life there was a building here that housed Cheapo Records (the store has since moved about 5 blocks northeast), where Grant Hart worked. It was here where Mould went record shopping and met Hart. The two quickly realized they shared a lot in common and decided to start a band. They still needed a bass player, but Hart knew just the guy.
Greg Norton worked less than 2 miles from Cheapo at Northern Lights Records, 1451 University Avenue. It was in the Northern Lights basement that Hüsker Dü held its early rehearsals, and the store’s address was the band’s first mailing address. Today the address is a hair salon, but another record store Urban Lights Music is next door. If I had to guess, I’d say the store’s name is not a coincidence.
Mould, Hart, and Norton quickly began jamming together, but the first shows they played together were at Ron’s Randolph Inn, formerly located at 1217 Randolph in St. Paul, now also a hair salon. At the time the band was a quartet called Buddy and the Returnables with Charlie Pine acting as the band’s frontman and organist. The quartet lasted only a couple of shows, however, and Hüsker Dü was soon born.
The Norton family home, where Greg lived at the band’s formation, is located south of St. Paul in Mendota Heights. Many early rehearsals took place here, and the address was used as the home address of Hüsker Dü’s own label, Reflex Records (although most of its releases were on SST), until offices and a recording studio were acquired in Minneapolis. The neighborhood is a quiet middle class one that was clearly built in the ’60s and ’70s, and does not appear to have changed much in the last 30 years.
The band’s first show as Hüsker Dü took place at Jay’s Longhorn Bar, 14 – 5th Street South in Minneapolis, on May 13, 1979. The part-time steakhouse and part-time punk rock club was ground zero for the coming Minneapolis punk/hardcore scene, hosting everyone from The Ramones to Pere Ubu. In the summer of 1979, Hüsker Dü played the room constantly after simply setting up during the steakhouse’s lunchtime rush and playing until they were given a gig. Then they played some more. Today the Longhorn is a private parking ramp.
Since 1970, First Avenue has been located in Minneapolis’ former Greyhound bus depot. The site of most of the musical performances in Prince’s Purple Rain, First Avenue is one of the few venues played by Hüsker Dü remaining in the Twin Cities. The entrance to the 7th Street Entry is visible on the left side of the photograph.
First Avenue’s former coat room, the 7th Street Entry was opened in 1980 as a 300 capacity room. Hüsker Dü first played the Entry on March 26, 1980, and it was here that the band recorded its debut album Land Speed Record on August 15, 1981.
In 1982-1983, Mould acted as booker and promoter for Goofy’s Upper Deck at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis. Located 2 blocks from First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry, the room was on the second floor of a bar/strip club and focused on all ages shows for both up and coming Minnesota bands as well as national acts such as Black Flag and the Minutemen. Reflex Records recorded its live Twin Cities hardcore compilation Kitten: A Compilation at the Upper Deck in 1982. Today, like the Longhorn, Goofy’s is a parking ramp for Target Center and Target Field.
Located at 250 – 5th Street East in St. Paul, this window is the one featured on the cover of 1983′s Metal Circus. It’s an empty room at the moment. Below is the building across the street, which hasn’t changed much since Grant Hart took the album cover photo.
Starting in approximately 1983, 2541 Nicollet in Minneapolis, was the location of Nicollet Studios, Twin/Tone, and Reflex Records. It was at Nicollet that Hüsker Dü recorded New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, Candy Apple Grey, and Warehouse: Songs and Stories. The address was also the inspiration for Hart’s solo track “2541″. Today, the building’s office area is a Mexican restaurant, but the studio is still in use.
Above is East Cedar Beach in Minneapolis, the beach is featured on the cover of New Day Rising. With the amount of tree growth over the last 27 years I was unable to determine exactly where the photo was taken, but this is definitely the beach.
In his autobiography, Bob Mould describes what he states was the official break up of Hüsker Dü at the home of Grant Hart’s parents in South St. Paul. When I was researching the address of the home I learned it had suffered a fire in December of last year, but according to everything I was able to find it seemed the house was still standing. Much to my surprise, however, when I got to the address I found a vacant lot and a for sale sign. Like the band, the house is gone.
* For an in depth look at the band’s history and influence I strongly recommend Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, Bob Mould’s autobiography See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, and Andrew Earles’ Hüsker Dü: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock. None of these books is a perfect history of the band (the first only dedicates a chapter to the band and the later two both suffer somewhat from only presenting part of the story), but each will give the reader an overview of why Hüsker Dü is important.
An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: www.last.fm/user/cafreema Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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