The World’s Most Boring Book Pitch

….was unsurprisingly rejected by the folks at Continuum. Here is my garbage…laid out on the table. I wasn’t feeling it that week. Or, it wasn’t feeling me. I could have let some insane errors fly, too, despite what I thought was a suitable degree of proofreading. Here you go (minus header):

     While waiting for the 33 & 1/3 pitch window, it took little time to decide on Husker Du, and I’ll expound on that a little later. My tardiness in submitting a pitch can be blamed on one thing: It took days and days of waffling before I decided on which Husker Du album. 1985’s Flip Your Wig was picked from the short list, though what killed me (and my productivity) was the strength of other Husker albums. Now, provided you choose to put your trust in this project, everything else seems mapped out, easy; the album an obvious choice.

      To convince you why Flip Your Wig is the slam dunk I proclaim it to be, we must first look at why certain other universally-loved Husker Du titles were not chosen. Zen Arcade, released in 1984, remains a fan and critic favorite for flimsy reasons. Though it’s the first post-hardcore double LP concept album (though the release dates are the same, it was completed prior to the Minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime) and contains a handful of amazing Husker moments, it is a sprawling mess choked with too much unfocused hardcore. The antidote to this, New Day Rising (also ’84), dispensed with the filler and became the succinct blueprint for Flip Your Wig. Sadly, the former had the one-dimensional, brutally high-end production of SST’s in-house man, Spot, plus a 50/50 hit rate in terms of song craft. Flip Your Wig suffers from neither of these issues. Grant Hart and Bob Mould covered production duties themselves, and song-by-song quality is, for the first time, consistent over an entire album. Flip Your Wig’s follow-up, the band’s major label debut, Candy Apple Grey, came in a close second, whereas, Flip Your Wig is an airtight example of what made this band legendary, Candy Apple Grey is laden with ballads and personnel implosion, thus coming off like a Grant Hart/Bob Mould solo split album. It’s a minor miracle that the band held it together for the 1987 swansong, Warehouse: Songs and Stories.

     More so than any other 80’s underground album, even Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, Flip Your Wig predicted the sound of the late-80’s/early-90’s indie rock explosion. Sonic Youth may have encouraged indie rock’s embracement of off-kilter tunings and artfulness, but Husker Du presented a simpler, more subtle formula of greater staying power, especially when bands like Superchunk and Nirvana are considered. When a band claims to be influenced by Husker Du (The Pixies), or a music reviewer does this for them, Flip Your Wig is the sound being referenced. Of course, the terms “indie rock” and “post-hardcore” did not exist in 1985, so Flip Your Wig was consumed as one of the then rare examples of a middle ground between hardcore and the sonic flimsiness of college rock. The album’s brilliant pop and air-moving power can be traced back to 1982’s “Everything Falls Apart” – the first time that Husker Du married massive volume to massive hooks. The style would become over more prevalent as the band continued their two-album-per-year average, peaking on Flip Your Wig. The tracks “Flip Your Wig”, “Makes No Sense”, the instrumental “The Wit and the Wisdom”, “Green Eyes”, “Divide and Conquer”, “Hate Paper Doll”, “Games”, Flexible Flyer”, “Don’t Know Yet”, “Private Plane” and “Keep Hanging On” are all stronger than any previous Husker track.

     Band tensions were manageable during the 1983 – 1985 Metal Circus to New Day Rising period, but proved ruinous for the final years that covered Candy Apple Grey and Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1986 – 1987). As you can see, Flip Your Wig falls squarely in the middle. This transitional year will make for an excellent and occasionally incendiary back story for the album’s recording and release. It was the last time that the band was to be fully functional unit, both moods and attitudes were at an all time high. Bob Mould and Grant Hart, both openly gay at the time, claim to have never been lovers. Nonetheless, this dynamic has always added jump-from-the-page readability to the Husker Du saga. Bassist Greg Norton, the voice of reason, is a fascinating character in this story that went on to become a well-known chef and restaurateur following the band’s demise.

       My approach is threefold. I will intersperse a biographical format (album creation with interviews) with the infrequent anecdotal flashback to my personal discovery and fascination with this album as a teen, as well as documentation of the work that brought the book together (time spent with band members, etc). Please note that the personal material will differ greatly from what is expected when contemporaries venture into this terrain. Meaning, my stories and relation to this album will be very humorous, as opposed to the prosaic nostalgia trip. I plan for that particular writing to make up less than an eighth of the entire text. The flow of the book will be primarily chronological, covering the inception, release, and aftermath (subsequent major label signing) of Flip Your Wig.

      I foresee no problem regarding access to the three band members; connections were established when I worked on an exhaustive oral history of 80’s Minneapolis scene for Magnet Magazine. Joe Carducci, whom I have interviewed in the past, was SST’s label manager during the Husker heyday, and will be a valuable source for this book. The project will gel as all vitally involved parties as interviewed. While pre-Flip Your Wig history is essential, rest assured that it will not dominate any portion of the book. The 33 & 1/3 Series boasts a colorful cast, but the absence of Husker Du presents a glaring void. Additionally, the canon of music non-fiction has yet to count this band amongst its biographical conquests (aside from a chapter in Michael Azzerad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life). It is time for Continuum to lead in the race for a Husker Du book, as my instincts tell me that there will be at least three of them on the shelves by 2009.

 

 

 

 

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