In 1984 three of the best records of the year came out of Minneapolis. Prince hit the mainstream & started his purple reign (ouch !). The Replacements confirmed their rep in the UK, as the best band even your friends had not heard & Husker Du released “Zen Arcade” a hardcore concept album.
I would be a liar if I said that I listened to “Zen Arcade” as much as those other two LPs. In 1984 the Smiths and R.E.M. carried the swing round our yard. We were spending our weekends at clubs which played dance music. “Slippery People” by the Staples Singers was our record of the year. We heard Mtume more than Husker Du that year. It was not until 1987’s “Warehouse: Songs & Stories” that I got the band properly. It was the songs of Bob Mould, an irresistable combo of power and melody which did the trick.I know the, possibly, more cryptic songs of Grant Hart have their champions but it was Mould’s tunes which put me on to the back catalogue. I was just in time.
“Warehouse..” is a double album full of short, sharp blasts of adrenaline. This pop-punk power trio made the music I carried everywhere in 1987. It was a charge of energy for me. Let other people chill, Husker Du kept me on it. One memorable journey on an overnight ferry to Holland (anticipating an exciting week’s stay with our friends in Amsterdam) I race-paced the decks as the other passengers slept. The charge in the music matching and abetting my most excellent middle of the night mood. The personal stereo, the Walkman, was invented for times like these.
For the Summer Solstice that year we made our now annual pilgrimage to Glastonbury. One of my closest friends had turned up unexpectedly at our front door two days before the festival. I looked forward to sharing the weekend with him. By this time the music was becoming the centre of the festival. On the Saturday night the three closing acts were Richard Thompson, Los Lobos & Elvis Costello. It was that good. The music started on the Friday. Husker Du were on early, it was a good time to head down to the Pyramid and to get the party started.
Carl, my friend, had seen some good music played live in his time. We had seen the Stones, Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed & many others together. He had seen Bowie, the Pistols, Clash, Ramones & every other punk who got on a stage between 76 & 79. I left him to it as Husker Du went into a coruscating set, scorching through a set of songs mainly from the “Warehouse”. This was a big deal for me to hear this band play live. I only acknowledged my friend to pass around the good stuff, let him make his own mind up. After around 30 minutes I asked him “Whaddya think ?”. He said “if they keep this up they are the best band I have ever seen”. High praise from a man with very good taste.
He could be right too. After years of playing together the three piece had such a full sound and an effortless energy. I ain’t no critic, it was great. 20 seconds ago I found this clip. The opening track of “Warehouse”, the opening track of the set, from a festival just 14 days before we saw them. I love the internet.
This was to be the band’s last tour. A clash of egos, drug problems, the suicide of their manager, it all went a bit wrong. Mould & Hart, the songwriters, were no longer working in tandem & it was time to stop. Two years later Nirvana released “Bleach” and started the groundwork which led to grunge dominating the rock scene. A power trio with songs from the melodic side of punkiness…Mmmm. In my opinion if Bob Mould had not been a big, balding, gay bear of a guy but could have been marketed, like Cobain, as a young pop prince then rock history may have been different. It does not matter. Bob went on to make some brilliant music. I will be listening to it this weekend because I love his stuff & this music is worth a couple more of these things.