Musicheads Essential Artist: Hüsker Dü

Husker Du on the High Bridge
Husker Du. From left: Greg Norton, Grant Hart, and Bob Mould. (Steve Hengstler/Courtesy of Numero Group)
Musicheads Essential Artist: Husker Du
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St. Paul trio Hüsker Dü shaped the sound of punk rock as it exploded out of Minnesota and laid the groundwork for grunge and alternative rock music.

The three members of Hüsker Dü — Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton — first found one another in the aisles of St. Paul's record stores. They would rehearse together in Bob's dorm room at Macalester College, and in March 1979 they played their first shows together at the nearby Ron's Randolph Inn, billed as Buddy and the Returnables.

Before long, they would be known as Hüsker Dü and became regular performers at the Longhorn Bar, the influential short-lived punk club in downtown Minneapolis. They were also one of the first bands ever to play the 7th St Entry, back when it was still in the process of being converted from a deserted bus depot cafe into a music venue — and would record their landmark debut album there, Land Speed Record.

Hüsker Dü stood out from the other punk bands of the era for a few reasons. Their unique approach to hardcore combined aggressive playing with more emotionally complex, memorable melodies: an unprecedented combination that Dave Grohl once described as "the Byrds meets Black Flag."

They also came from a more blue-collar St. Paul background than their Minneapolis art-school punk peers. By the mid-1980s, Hüsker Dü had broken out of touring the hardcore circuit to become a critically adored national act, releasing an impressive and prolific run of albums that still endure today — including their breakout double album Zen Arcade, which made Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest albums of the '80s.

Hüsker Dü signed to Warner Bros. Records, but just as their music began receiving the mainstream attention it deserved, tensions between Bob and Grant reached a boiling point and would eventually cause the trio to implode. Hüsker Dü performed together for the last time in 1987.

All three of Hüsker Dü’s members continued making music. Both Bob and Grant pursued solo careers while Greg Norton played bass for regional bands like Porcupine. Though decades have passed since they were active as a trio, Hüsker Dü’s legacy still looms large — and in Minnesota they will always be regarded as one of the flagship bands for Minneapolis's punk rock heyday, when the earthshaking noise that bubbled up from the Twin Cities underground was heard around the world.

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