Selections from The Punk Vault [Husker Du]

Husker Du – Eight Miles High 7″ (1984 SST Records)

It is probably a pretty safe bet that if you are a fan of punk rock from the 1980s, then you probably have at least heard of Husker Du. My first exposure to the band came via a radio show a couple of not-yet-friends of mine had at our High School radio station. Their names were Kathy and Robert (aka: Shrub). The song they played was a cover of The Birds’ “Eight Miles High” and I was an instant fan. I used to tape their shows when I was a freshman in school because my access to money and records was limited by where I could walk and what I could buy on my allowance until I got a part time job when I was a little older. I used to rewind the tape and play that song over and over and every trip to a record store I’d look for any of their records.

Husker Du formed in 1979 in Minneapolis, MN. Grant Hart and Greg Norton were working at a local record store and met a man by the name of Bob Mould who was a frequent visitor to the store. They became friends and decided to form a band. Their name was taken from an old children’ board game which translates as “Do You Remember”. In 1981 they released their first 7″, Amusement/Statues on their own Reflex Records label.

The band hit the road and pretty much toured non-stop for years, pausing only to record more records. Their next release was the live Land Speed Record on New Alliance Records. The band recorded it at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. The title was pretty accurate as they blazed thru their set without ever stopping for air. Even though that material was speedy fast hardcore, they still showed hints of the melody that would become their trademark throughout their career. Shortly after that, they put out another 7″, In a Free Land also on New Alliance Records. At the time this was the best thing they did and now stands as one of the rarest pieces of Husker Du vinyl there is, especially if it has an insert with it as not all of them did.

The band returned to putting out their own records again for their first full-length studio album, Everything Falls Apart. This is where they really got a chance to show off their now famous buzz saw guitar sound along with their brand of melodic hardcore. At the time they really were a unique band and all their stuff certainly stands the test of time.

The band found a new home in SST Records for their next record, a 12″ EP called Metal Circus. It really was sort of a co-release of sorts between SST and Reflex Records in theory, but SST was the ones who actually manufactured, sold, and distributed it. More touring followed and when the band made it out to CA, they recorded what in my opinion is one of the best punk rock records of all time.

In 1984 the band released Zen Arcade, a double concept album about a boy who leaves home to go out in the world on his own. At the time, no other band had done something like that and really no one has since. The sound was a bit more refined than the stuff on Metal Circus and the sound a bit more melodic, but it still packed one hell of a punch while at the same time showing a new side to the band. It was embraced by such things as college radio and Rolling Stone magazine at the time and really got the band noticed.

A year later, another great album followed up, New Day Rising, along with more touring of course. All that touring and sadly I never got to see the band play due to either lack of funds, and more importantly lack of transportation! The next release, and their last for SST was Flip Your Wig which showed the band going more into the “post punk” or “college rock” direction. The songs were more accessible and didn’t have as much bite to them, but still remained quite good.

Following the release of that album, the band did something that was a really big deal at the time. They signed to a major label. They were being courted by a couple different ones but ended up signing to Warner Bros. I remember what a huge deal that was to the punk rock community at the time and it was talked and written about everywhere. Candy Apple Gray was their first major label release, and while a pretty good record, it wasn’t nearly as good as the previous ones.

After a couple singles the band released what turned out to be their final album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories which was another double album. At this point the band were splintering apart and not getting along. Their long time manager had passed away and after one last tour, which no one knew would be their last, the band gave up. The biggest rift was between Grant Hart and Bob Mould, who were likely wrestling for control of the band as both men were the songwriters. They had a unique setup, as whoever wrote the song would also be the one to sing it, they didn’t have a “lead singer”, they all would sing depending on what song it was and who wrote it, though as time went on, it was pretty much just Grant and Bob writing all the songs and singing them.

Upon their split, Bob Mould started did some solo records and formed the band Sugar. Grant Hart put out a couple of solo records and formed the band Nova Mob. Greg Norton ended up becoming a chef I believe. The band never reunited upon their split and I think there still is bad blood between Grant and Bob to this day.

Picking just one Husker Du record to feature, and one song was a tough one because I love everything they have done. Sure not every record is a masterpiece, but even the weaker stuff was better than most bands and they never put out something that flat out sucked. I decided to go with the song that got me into them in the first place.

As always, if you have any additional information, or were in Husker Du and want to share some stories, please get in touch.

Listen to “Eight Miles High” from the record (right click and “save target as…”)






17 comments

  • Always cool to see Husker Du get some props. Forever under-appreciated. Your summary is well done and diplomatic. Finding stuff about my favorite band always makes for a good day – thanks.

  • Remember always hearing about the Hüskers and how much I’d like them. So I bought Warehouse: Songs and Stories and just thought “bland, bland, bland… what’s everyone talking about?”

    Then some months later was blasted Eight Miles High and was totally blown away and now got it; such raw emotion. Then started a 17 year love affair that isn’t going to finish anytime soon.

    Jeez, I even like Warehouse now too and this is probably my all time favourite song by any band still…

    Cheers!

  • One of the best 45’s I have. Wore it out. Also, New Day Rising. Great album. Keep up the great reviews. I’ll have the record soon!

  • I heard recently that Grant joined Bob up on stage for a couple songs at a recent Bob solo gig. This was pretty amazing news to me, also an immense fan of the band. I never saw them either, I was stuck in Bolingbrook or stuck in DeKalb during their lifetime. Metal Circus was the first punk record I ever bought, I got it at the infamous Rose Records and Devon sold it to me. Then he handed me a flier for an Out Of Order show at Metro and told me all about the punk bands I would come to love in time. The one Husker Du song that always slays me is “I Will Never Forget You” on Zen Arcade. That song just wails.

  • My mom used to cut Grants hair from the time he used to play with GI Joe in the chair while he got his hair cut until the break up of the band. I remember I brought a signed poster to art class in about 1985 and all the punkers went nuts.

  • “Eight Miles High” is, in my opinion, one the greatest things Husker Du committed to record. Its one of my favorite songs ever. Thank God this one is still available (in some form) from SST. Now its time to remaster those crappy sounding CDs.

  • I agree, all those SST CD’s are in dire need of being remastered. Sadly I don’t seem them going to the trouble. They continue to sell and they are far to lazy it seems. The vinyl sounds fine but all the CDs are crap.

  • The CD’s do sound like shit. Unfortunately, Bob, Grant, and Greg can’t seem to figure out how to get the rights to the back catalog away from SST to get this shit remastered. I remember reading an interview where this point came up, and there seemed to be a lot of mistrust between the guys over who would be cashing in.

    And yes, Grant and Bob did perform two songs together last October at benefit for Soul Asylum bass player Karl Mueller – “Never Talking To You Again” and “Hardly Getting Over It”

  • The SST records (especially Zen Arcade) sound like crap because they were rushed in the studio. Plus SST’s house producers “Spot” wasn’t all that swell at extracting sound from the noise. If I rememebr, Zen Arcade had to be mixed with-in a 36 hour period or so.

    And it has been said that contributing to the split up of the band was the suicide of their road manager (I think his name was Dave Savoy) and the “sexual tensions” in the band between Mould and Hart.

  • If the Husker guys can’t figure out how to get their tapes from SST, I would have to believe the problem lies on the Huskers side. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Grant Hart interview, no matter what its about, where he doesn’t lash out at Bob Mould at least once or twice. I did read something quite a while back where the band had taken some action against SST for unpaid royalties (what a surprise!) but I never heard what came of it. Sonic Youth, the Meat Puppets, and Dinosaur Jr all got their albums back from SST (Sonic Youth and Meat Puppets via legal means, and as for Dinosaur Jr, I read that J Mascis just purchased the masters from Greg Ginn), so I’m sure the Huskers could do the same if they could work together, which they seem unable to do. I’m sure they’d have no problem finding a good label to remaster and reissue all those CDs if they ever got the rights back from SST.

  • The “sexual tension” of which you speak is solely the product of media speculation which arose after it was revealed that both Bob Mould and Grant Hart were gay, a fact that was revealed well after the band’s break up. The real problem in Husker Du was that Bob Mould wanted to control the band, Grant Hart’s resentment towards Bob because of that turned into a personal hatred, and Greg Norton decided to sit back and let the two of them battle it out. The fact that Bob also sobered up while Grant became a heroin user only made things worse. Supposedly, Bob was planning on replacing Grant with a drum machine on what would have been Husker’s 3rd Warner Bros. album before they decided to put the band to rest.

  • I always loved that “sexual tension” revelation. Of course if two people in a band happen to have the same sexual preference it always has to be for each other, right?

    I guess it makes Husker Du seem more intriguing in a cable television kind of way. I don’t recall anyone I knew back then either knowing or caring about any of that.

  • I had been quite a fan for quite a while, and- starting when I first met them in 83 as a pretty young HC kid) Grant Hart enjoyed chasing me… I was always very straightforward about my stance. Mould was always a gentleman, as opposed to drunken chickenhawk Grant. As anyone who’s actually been a junkie rather than chipped and claimed to have a habit knows; most of your sex drive disappears after a bit… so the last time I saw them, Grant was aminly concerned with his methadone- which was the River City Reunion show in Lawrence, KS at Liberty Hall in 1987, organized by Bill RIch, my local promotion partner, and James Grauerholz, Burroughs camp queen and close friend of mine. They were great. On that tour they’d been- ’cause Mould can be a bitch- playing Warehouse-songs and stories end to end, I’d heard- not here. Here, for the old Lawrence crowd in attendance- as well as Biafra fresh off his trial, Ginsberg, Burroughs, et al, they pulled out the stops and went back to LAND SPEED for material In a free land” and this tune “8 miles” were shit-hot- I’ll always remember that, even though in that period the HUSKERS had become a studio band, Bob and Greg lit by those spots and the 40 foot flying V shadow- no lighting other than 3 spots and the house lights… Anyhow, after the show that night I passed up a chance to fuck Marianne Faithful- TRUE- (she was in town for same event) to hang with the Huskers and Jello at the Motel instead (Marianne , very sloppily drunk and late 30’s to my 20 had dragged me back to her room- ostensibly after more beer, I got up and left. She eventually found me, but alas the moment was lost) ANyway, I had nothing but a job and school the next day, so I said fuck it, I’d trek with the Huskers the few miles/hours over to Columbia’s Blue Note for the next show. Somewhere in all this, either in Lawrence or Columbia, Grant spilled some of his take-home doses/had them stolen/got ahead of himself (I’ve heard all three versions from him at various points) and was getting sick. Supposedly. Anyway. Husker Du was- from what little of the nasty I saw- pretty obviously over. I personally offered to drive back to Lawrence and get some juice from Uncle Burroughs KUmed center program take-home stash by begging and pleading on their behalf, but to no avail…

  • holy shit! see b. walsbys name here! How are you? T Kepley (old Flipsider, Lawrence’s Outhouse promoter)

  • david dale has some great husker stories. Me and a friend saw them on the day that New Day was released. We brought the album with and Bob didn’t know it had released yet. That was my first Husker show. We snuck into the “bar” before the show at Laluna in Portland, OR and bought the band beers. At first I called Bob, Grant because I had never seen a picture before. Bob was talking about how the government controls the media. I will never forget staring up at Bob from the front row as they opened with Something I Learned. Very powerful rock-n-roll moment for me etched in my brain.

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