Artist Spotlight: Hüsker Dü

On April 27, 1987, influencial Minnesota hardcore band Hüsker Dü appeared on the CBS program Late Show with Joan Rivers to give a short interview and promote the album that would eventually be their last. Although a large chunk of the chat had to be cut from Late Show for time purposes, I was able to assemble a complete transcript of the conversation after hours of painstaking research and from piecing together testimonials from the band, the estate of Joan Rivers, and Sir Ian McKellan. I Apologize if this Makes No Sense At All.

JOAN: Joining us right now is one of the most prolific rock groups in the country. This is their latest album, it’s called Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Here to sing “You Could Be the One,” is Hüsker Dü!
(BOB MOULD (guitar, vocals), GRANT HART (drums, vocals but not on this song), and GREG NORTON (bass, mustache) play the irresistibly catchy “Could You Be the One.” BOB smiles with delight after nailing a particuarly difficult guitar solo. After the number, Joan invites the boys to sit down for an interview).
JOAN: Now I sure you’ve heard this until you’re nauseous. What does “Hüsker Dü” mean?
GREG: Ah, ok, Hüsker Dü is, uh, Danish and it means “do you remember?”
JOAN: Ok, and how did you pick it because Danish isn’t your average language to just pick it up from?
GRANT: Just kinda uttered it one night and–
BOB: It’s a children’s board game also. It was popular in the 60s and 70s and…now in the mouths of babes.
JOAN: Are you Danish? Is any one of you?
GRANT: I’m not Scandanavian in the least.
JOAN: Well that makes sense to me, ok. Now, you used to be–because I’ve been doing my homework on you a little bit–much more of an underground kind of group. Know what I’m saying? Much more radical.
GRANT: We were 17 and 18 years old as well. And uh, the band is uh, evolved over the course of 8 years.
JOAN: Are you getting knocks on this since you’re coming up? Because you signed with Warner Bros. which is a very big label.
GRANT: That’s sometimes an excuse for people to not do anything is to knock people who are–
JOAN: Yeah.
(GRANT nods)
JOAN: But did you find yourself playing different kinds of music? You went from being radical to being–(JOAN makes a “moving forward” motion with her hands)–How did it change?
BOB: Y’know, with anything you do, with any kind of craft, or any kind of art, or anything, as you get older your emotional spectrum becomes a little more involved, a little wider. It’s not just screaming about how messed up the government is and how much you hate your parents anymore, y’know, it’s–
JOAN: It’s singing into a better medley?
BOB: Yeah.
JOAN: Now, each one give us your names. I want to know who’s the calming one, who’s the wild one, in the group.
BOB: My name’s Bob Mould. (BOB bulges his eyes as the audience applauds his name) I guess calm, I guess calming.
JOAN: You’re the calm one!
BOB: Yeah.
JOAN: (to GREG) And you are?
GREG: Uh, I’m Greg Norton. And I’m sort of halfway in-between the calming influence and the wild influence.
JOAN: Alright, and? (to GRANT)
GRANT: I’m Grant.
JOAN: Obviously you’re the wild boy?
GRANT: That’s what they tell me, I don’t know.
JOAN: Now whenever we get a musical act on the show I like to do a little research. (JOAN pulls a box of records out from underneath her desk. The band is visibly impressed.) I’ve been listening to these in my dressing room all day. I made a few calls to a Minneapolis record store and they had them all in stock. Uh, Joke Oarfolkopus.
GRANT: Oar Folkjokeopus?!
GREG: That’s where we met!
BOB: Yeah, Greg worked there while Grant and I were frequent patrons. Our first practice was in the basement.
JOAN: Oh my! Small world. Now, what I’d like you guys to do is give a little information on each record to give a prospective listener insight on what to expect.
GRANT: Sounds good.
BOB: Put them in chronlogical order, please.
(JOAN starts with a record depicting two fellas inside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.)
JOAN: Now, I have to be honest. Not a fan of this one. It gave me a migraine.
BOB: Very loud, very fast. Just some dumb kids screaming with reckless abandon. During this time we toured a lot of land and did a lot of speed.
GRANT: Most of the songs sound the same. Except for the last one.
BOB: At the end of this live album I tell the audience that we’ll be back for another set. Those more pleasant songs have yet to be released.
(The next record features a blue Rorshach Test shaped like fighting parents)
JOAN: This was a big improvement, I felt, though it’s mostly a mixture of great songs and forgettable mush. One track is literally called “Blah Blah Blah.”
BOB: On this record we started to grow as a band with better melodies and songwriting. Lots of political commentary too; “In A Free Land” is one of the best songs we’ve ever done.
GRANT: Our cover of Donavon’s “Sunshine Superman” is simulataneously sweet and sinister.
GREG: I wrote a couple songs on this one.
(The next record shows the inside of a cluttered office building. A picture of Mao Zedong sits on a desk)
JOAN: Another fierce, black-and-white record; though I liked this one a lot more for some reason.
BOB: The words and music are now working together instead of being, like you said, mush. Power with a purpose. “Real World” is a rampaging hardcore song about being an upstanding citizen.
GRANT: The song “Diane” is a chiller about a local girl who was raped and killed. It’s sung from the killer’s point of view. (The audience murmurs, GREG coughs).
(The next record features the Three Stooges in profile standing in the penultimate scene of A Brave Little Toaster)
JOAN: Now I have to say, this is probably the best record that I’ve never been able to finish.
GRANT: We wrote these songs in an abandoned church–
BOB: It’s never really been done before on the punk scene. An eighty-minute concept album that tells the story of a boy who runs away from home. They’re piano interludes, hardcore jazz, Indian chanting, tracks looping backwards–
GREG: It’s us at our most experimental.
(The next record shows two doggos, also in profile, purifying themselves in the waters of Lake Minnetonka)
JOAN: This album is my personal favorite of yours. It’s like someone put the Beach Boys in a blender. Sweet, heartfelt songs that want to beat you up.
BOB: It’s a pop record in hardcore clothing. A great batch of songs.
GRANT: The record sounds even better if you turn it off after Track 12.
(The next record depicts cake decorations melting on a blacktop)
JOAN: And this one seems to nearly complete the transition from hardcore to pop. There’s only screaming on two of these songs.
BOB: We were ready to move to the big leagues with more accessible songs. We shot our first music video. This album theorhetically should’ve been on Warner Bros. but we did it as a thank you for our former label.
JOAN: It says here that you’re old label was Psst
GRANT: Uh, SST. That’s probably a typo.
(The next record depicts barf)
JOAN: This is the first Warner Brothers album, correct? Lots of dark stuff on here. I have to say Grant, I was especially impressed with your effort on this one.
GRANT: Thank you. (BOB grumbles visibly)
(The final record depicts David Bowie’s rec room)
JOAN: And this is your most recent one, the one you’re here to promote.
GREG: Yeah.
JOAN: I have to say, this sounds absolutely nothing like your first record. I mean that it a good way. There’s something great in almost every song. The beginning of “Friend, You’ve Got to Fall;” the end of “Ice Cold Ice.”
BOB: In the last four years we’ve released three albums and two double albums for a grand total of seven albums.
JOAN: Amazing.
GREG: Though Warehouse kinda sounds like two solo albums smashed together.
BOB: ….
JOAN: Ah! What a pleasure, the three of you, will you come back again?
BOB: Yeah.
JOAN: We’ll be right back in a few minutes with the 85-year-old marathon winner and actor Ian McKellan. OK? Ok.

launchpad mcquack’s Hüsker Dü album grades
Land Speed Record C
Everything Falls Apart B-
Metal Circus A-
Zen Arcade A-
New Day Rising A
Flip Your Wig A-
Candy Apple Grey B
Warehouse: Songs and Stories A

and here’s a Power Hour playlist
1. “Divide and Conquer” (3:46)
2. “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” (3:31)
3. “I Apologize” (3:37)
4. “If I Told You” (2:08)
5. “Never Talking to You Again” (1:40)
6. “Green Eyes” (3:02)
7. “Standing in the Rain” (3:47)
8. “Diane” (4:28)
9. “Celebrated Summer” (4:02)
10. “Pink Turns to Blue” (2:42)
11. “Hardly Getting Over It” (6:06)
12. “Flexible Flyer” (3:02)
13. “Real World” (2:48)
14. “Could You Be the One?” (2:35)
15. “In a Free Land” (2:53)
16. “Makes No Sense at All” (2:46)
17. “Books About UFOs” (2:49)
18. “Eight Miles High” (3:55)
Total: (59:27)
Note: Substituting “Hare Krsna” for “Flexible Flyer” would get you an even 60 minutes and a substantially worse playlist.