Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If Only You Were Lonley

Grant Hart, Mark Olson, Prince Rogers Nelson, and Paul Westerberg were all born within three and a half years of each other in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Hart, New York-born Bob Mould and Illinois-born Greg Norton stated the hardcore band Husker Du at about the same time as Westerberg and his Minneapolis- born friends Bobby and Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars formed The Replacements. The two bands even performed together and had somewhat of a healthy competition in the Minneapolis music scene. Although by the time that Husker Du and The Replacements released their first albums in 1981, Prince had already released four albums, and was on the verge of mega-stardom with his fifth release 1999 (1982). Jim Walsh's book The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting, An Oral Historyhints that Westerberg and Prince may have gone to high school together, with Prince being a year ahead of Westy. Walsh even reports of a crazy 1981 Replacements outdoor show where "Prince sat on the grass wearing a confused smirk throughout the set." (p. 148) To quote Westerberg:
[Prince has] always been a great musician: If he's a pop star or he's in vogue is irrelevant. Like Coltrane or Sly Stone, he's creative, he's great. He's the shit. He's a great, great musician. And, in a way, I think that I am - you know, not as great - but maybe more of a songwriter. I am a musician and a writer, and I'll always be. And if I'm hip or if I'm an old man, that shouldn't really matter. I'm gonna do this forever, and I think we have that in common. (p. 53)
A few years later Mark Olson along with his Toledo-born pal Gary Louris and friends Marc Perlman and Norm Rogers formed the seminal alt country band The Jayhawks. Their first release came out in 1986. Likewise, in that same year a slightly younger Minneapolis-based band, Soul Asylum was releasing their second album.

It completely blows my minds that five very different, yet highly influential artists could emerge from a city like Minneapolis all within a few years of each other. This isn't New York, or Los Angeles, or even London. Its a land-locked city in the upper Midwest settled by Northern European loggers, where one freezes their ass off in the winter, and which, until very recently, contained an Norwegian Consulate. But, its also where Bob Dylan first learned how to play folk music.

The Replacements were massively influential on American rock music, while Husker Du similarly influenced hard rock and punk. Soul Asylum became a pop band with some huge hits in the early 90s, while, as mentioned, The Jayhawks were wildly influential in alt country and country music. And Prince, well, Prince's music has had some influence on every style of music, but most notably on pop and R&B. And, all of these artists are still active in their respective genres. Westerberg, Mould, Olson & Louris, and Prince all put out albums within the last year, they have over 30 years of music experience each. Westy was right, they are gonna do this forever.

Prince - Head.mp3
Buy: Controversy (1981)

Husker Du - Never Talking to You Again.mp3
Buy: Zen Arcade (1984)

Soul Asylum - Made to be Broken.mp3
Buy: Made to Be Broken (1986)

The Jayhawks - Martin's Song.mp3
Buy: Blue Earth (1989, reissued 2003)

The Replacements - If Only You Were Lonely.mp3
Buy: Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash (1981, reissued 2008)
This Westerberg solo track was not on the original album, but can now be found among the 13 bonus tracks on the 2008 reissue. This song was originally released as a B-side to "I'm in Trouble," The Replacements first official single.


~Melissa said...

Having grown up in the above mentioned crazy, mixed up, musical 80's here in the Twin Cities, you have to admit, we are pretty diverse. There is never a dull moment. There still are great things happening here. If you get a chance, check out The Current. They have a fabulous show on Sundays at 6pm central time called "The Local Show" Thanks for a nice read.


LD said...

Great post ... and timely. I was just thinking how good 1984 was for Minneapolis. Let It Be, Zen Arcade, AND Purple Rain all released within a few months of each other. Not many cities can boast a better trifecta of albums for a single year, let alone all coming out within a 90-day-ish period. And Soul Asylum released their debut, Say What You Will, during this period as well. Admittedly, it's hit-and-miss, but it's not without its charms ('Black And Blue,' 'Walking,' 'Happy').