We’re going to try to do something bigger than anything like rock & roll and the whole puny touring band idea. I don’t know what it’s going to be, we have to work that out, but it’s going to go beyond the whole idea of ‘punk rock’ or whatever. (Bob Mould)
Formed in 1979 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Husker Du eventually became on of the most recognizable names in rock music and for a good reason – their songwriting and musical skills were growing by leaps and bounds with each new album and only a tragedy and a number of unfortunate events prevented them from becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Band started out as a quartet which consisted of Bob Mould (then a freshman at Macalester College), Greg Norton, Grant Hart (who worked at a Cheapo Discs record store in St. Paul, which was frequented by Mould) and Charlie Pine. Hart and Mould shared their love for Ramones and soon started a band, recruiting Pine and Norton. Pine, however, was given a boot during their first show on March 30, 1979 and thus they became a trio (and remained that way until the end of their career, with line-up intact).
They were touring actively throughout the 80s, while playing their brand of incredibly fast and almost unlistenable hardcore music (although they never saw themselves as a purely hardcore band and one indicator of this is their name chosen to its lack of association with politics or social issues of the day). They attracted attention of SST Records chief Greg Ginn who signed them to his label in 1982.
Much of their early material (live album “Land Speed Record” and “Everything Falls Apart”) came out on Reflex Records, while fellow band Minutemen released Husker Du single “In A Free Land” on their own label New Alliance records, which, in turn, led to a deal with SST.
1983 EP “Metal Circus” showed a different side of the band – its combination of melodicism and more traditional hardcore sound (“Diane”, in particular, which was based on a true story of a murder) led to their recognition among college crowd and was played by many college radio stations across US.
1984 double album “Zen Arcade” was recorded in 1984 for $3,500. Its a concept album about a boy who is leaving home in order to face the world. Musically, it was a mix of hardcore, avant-garde and, in the words of Rolling Stone’s David Fricke it was “the closest hardcore will ever get to an opera … a kind of thrash Quadrophenia”. Album contained a whole number of instrumentals, including a 13 minute+ closer called “Recurring Dreams”.
Being cautious, however, SST pressed only few thousand copies of the album and the record sold out before the band went on tour and remained out of stock for months to come, which frustrated both band and fans alike.
A follow-up called “New Day Rising” was released in 1985, six months after the release “Zen Arcade”. “Flip Your Wig” came out in the end of 1985 and became their last album for SST. Both “New Day Rising” and “Flip Your Wig” were featured in top-ten Village Voice magazine critics poll.
During the recording of “Flip Your Wig”, Husker Du were approached by Warner Bros. and since the band felt that the notion of being on SST no longer seemed attractive, they signed a contract with Warner. They were also interested in retaining a full creative control of their work, which was another reason for a move to Warner.
Warner Bros. contract led to 1986 “Candy Apple Grey” and 1987 double-album “Warehouse: Songs And Stories”, both of which enjoyed modest sales and even led to a band appearance on Joan Rivers show. It is said, however, that both of them are seen as less important than the band’s work for SST.
The band’s career came to a halt, following a suicide of the band’s manager David Savoy and Hart’s addiction to heroin, which led to the break-up during a 1987 tour in support of “Warehouse: Songs And Stories”. “The Living End” post-humous collection was based on band’s final tour.