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Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 --- An Oral History

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In the early 1970s, the Minneapolis music scene was no scene at all. Radio stations played Top 40 music; bars and clubs booked only rock cover bands and blues bands. Meanwhile, cities like New York, Detroit, and London were spawning fresh and innovative--and loud and raw--sounds by musicians creating a new punk and rock movement. A small but daring group of Twin Cities mus In the early 1970s, the Minneapolis music scene was no scene at all. Radio stations played Top 40 music; bars and clubs booked only rock cover bands and blues bands. Meanwhile, cities like New York, Detroit, and London were spawning fresh and innovative--and loud and raw--sounds by musicians creating a new punk and rock movement. A small but daring group of Twin Cities musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts wanted a piece of that action. To do it, they had to build it themselves. Complicated Fun brings together the recollections of the men and women who built Minnesota's vibrant and vital indie rock scene. Through interviews with dozens of musicians, producers, managers, journalists, fans, and other scenesters, Cyn Collins chronicles the emergence of seminal bands like the Suicide Commandos, the Hypstrz, Curtiss A, Flamingo, the Suburbs, Husker Du, the Replacements, and more. The subjects reflect on the key role that Oar Folkjokeopus record store, Jay's Longhorn bar, and Twin/Tone Records played by providing outlets for hearing, performing, and recording these new sounds. Complicated Fun explores the influences, motivations, moments, and individuals that propelled Minneapolis to its status as a premier music scene and, in turn, inspired future generations of rockers.


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In the early 1970s, the Minneapolis music scene was no scene at all. Radio stations played Top 40 music; bars and clubs booked only rock cover bands and blues bands. Meanwhile, cities like New York, Detroit, and London were spawning fresh and innovative--and loud and raw--sounds by musicians creating a new punk and rock movement. A small but daring group of Twin Cities mus In the early 1970s, the Minneapolis music scene was no scene at all. Radio stations played Top 40 music; bars and clubs booked only rock cover bands and blues bands. Meanwhile, cities like New York, Detroit, and London were spawning fresh and innovative--and loud and raw--sounds by musicians creating a new punk and rock movement. A small but daring group of Twin Cities musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts wanted a piece of that action. To do it, they had to build it themselves. Complicated Fun brings together the recollections of the men and women who built Minnesota's vibrant and vital indie rock scene. Through interviews with dozens of musicians, producers, managers, journalists, fans, and other scenesters, Cyn Collins chronicles the emergence of seminal bands like the Suicide Commandos, the Hypstrz, Curtiss A, Flamingo, the Suburbs, Husker Du, the Replacements, and more. The subjects reflect on the key role that Oar Folkjokeopus record store, Jay's Longhorn bar, and Twin/Tone Records played by providing outlets for hearing, performing, and recording these new sounds. Complicated Fun explores the influences, motivations, moments, and individuals that propelled Minneapolis to its status as a premier music scene and, in turn, inspired future generations of rockers.

30 review for Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 --- An Oral History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve Klemz

    The world that surrounded me in Minneapolis from 1974-1984. I lived in the Modesto, worked part time at Oar Folkjokepus taking my pay in records, went to the Longhorn as many nights as I could, ate lunch at the CC more times then I can count. The story of my favorite bands of all time, Curtiss A, The Suicide Commandos and The Replacements. But I also loved The Suburbs, Flamingo, Charlie Burton, Safety Last, Fingerprints, Figures,NNB and a bunch of others. I moved away from Minneapolis in the sum The world that surrounded me in Minneapolis from 1974-1984. I lived in the Modesto, worked part time at Oar Folkjokepus taking my pay in records, went to the Longhorn as many nights as I could, ate lunch at the CC more times then I can count. The story of my favorite bands of all time, Curtiss A, The Suicide Commandos and The Replacements. But I also loved The Suburbs, Flamingo, Charlie Burton, Safety Last, Fingerprints, Figures,NNB and a bunch of others. I moved away from Minneapolis in the summer of 84, so this book documents my world from the age of 20 to the age of 30. My only complaint (a minor one), is that I would have liked to have a chapter on the regional bands that played, especially at the Longhorn...Charlie Burton and Rock Therapy (later the Cutouts), The Jets, Shoes, Skafish, Johnny III and plenty of others that escape me now. They played often enough that they became a part of the scene.. For any music fan I recommend this book. Minneapolis was the place to be from 1974-1984.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Larry-bob Roberts

    Enjoyable oral history of the Twin Cities music scene. It ends around 1984, around the time I started seeing bands. Some of the ones in the book, like the Suburbs and the Wallets and Husker Du, were still around and I saw them perform. Others were already broken up. I had a lot of aha moments when I was reading this - like I didn’t realize about late-period Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap’s earlier bands or that he’s married to former First Avenue employee Chrissie Dunlap. No members of Huske Enjoyable oral history of the Twin Cities music scene. It ends around 1984, around the time I started seeing bands. Some of the ones in the book, like the Suburbs and the Wallets and Husker Du, were still around and I saw them perform. Others were already broken up. I had a lot of aha moments when I was reading this - like I didn’t realize about late-period Replacements guitarist Slim Dunlap’s earlier bands or that he’s married to former First Avenue employee Chrissie Dunlap. No members of Husker Du or the Replacements other than Slim are interviewed (and he’s not in the Replacements chapter) but there are plenty of people close to both bands who are. You can read Bob’s memoir or see the Grant Hart documentary if you want to hear from them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    This is a great group oral biography very much in the tradition of Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk or Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011. It has the benefit of being a little shorter that the latter and less repetitive. It entirely makes its implicit point that the Twin Cities were a really key scene for the emergence of a local punk/new wave culture. A possibly triggering event was the New York Dolls at the 1974 Minnes This is a great group oral biography very much in the tradition of Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk or Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011. It has the benefit of being a little shorter that the latter and less repetitive. It entirely makes its implicit point that the Twin Cities were a really key scene for the emergence of a local punk/new wave culture. A possibly triggering event was the New York Dolls at the 1974 Minnesota State Fair [!] that a lot of the pioneers saw. Also, it is clear from the book that without the Suicide Commandos, the whole scene might not have ignited. The power triad was Oar Folk Records, The Longhorn Bar, and Twin/Tones Records. Put those three things together -- a great record store, a great club, and a great local label, and you get synergy. Another big factor is the relative isolation of the Twin Cities. This is a little underplayed in the book though it is mentioned in a key quote in the last chapter. Why was this important? Well, it meant that when touring bands came, people really showed up. And because of the Oar Folk / Longhorn axis, they got some really amazing bands coming through from the UK and from the anglophilic side of Stateside punk: Buzzcocks, the Only Ones, the dBs. The distance to Chicago and Denver also inhibited a lot of local bands from doing national tours (and when they did get out, a lot of them stayed on the road for a long time, changing their local impact). There was also a special relationship between the Twin Cities and New York (for instance, Danny Amis -- more could have been made of this). A major act of music history recovery is an entire chapter on NNB. Wow. Go listen to NNB's single "Slack" on YouTube; it still sounds fresh. The book also justifiably foregrounds the Flamin' Oh's (they're even on Spotify). Sadly, some of the cooler bands are lost to Spotify: Rifle Sport, Man Sized Action, etc. I hope that gets rectified someday. I can attest that at the level of micro-fact, this book is right on the money. People talk about taking the bus across town to go to Oar Folk. Yup: I did that. And they mention the Mud Pie (vegetarian restaurant) practically next door. Yup: I got my calories there after buying singles at Oar Folk. Seeing these little things told right really upped my confidence in the editorial accuracy. A major plus of the book is that the quoted people don't, from what I can tell, embroider the history, which is all over Please Kill Me and another book in this tradition, From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World. I don't know if that's from the editing or because people in Minnesota are more honest, but as a reader I didn't feel like I was being had. Weaknesses to the book? There are three. One is that the title talks about "Minneapolis" punk and indie rock. Well, so many of the players came from Hopkins or Minnetonka, and St. Paul is kind of slighted. Second is the fact that there are no quotations from Hüsker Dü or the Replacements (except Slim Dunlap). And third is that I think there could have been a little more about what was going on with R&B and soul: There some stuff on Prince, but I think the interaction was a little more involved. Still, good stuff. If there's ever a second edition, it could use a discography and a cherry-picked CD (unfortunately there's just not enough on Spotify to represent the book's treasured tunes).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Clemens

    Wenn man Leute fragt, was ihnen beim Thema Musik aus Minneapolis / St. Paul einfällt, wird die große Mehrheit wohl nur Prince nennen können. Nur Musiknerds werden einem dann noch The Jayhawks, The Hold Steady, Soul Asylum oder Hüsker Dü und The Replacements nennen können. Dass die Twin Cities seit den Siebzigern eine überaus lebendige Musikszene hat, die in den früheren Achtzigern den Vergleich mit New York nicht scheuen musste wird viele überraschen. Wie es dazukam erzählt Cyn Collins in diesem B Wenn man Leute fragt, was ihnen beim Thema Musik aus Minneapolis / St. Paul einfällt, wird die große Mehrheit wohl nur Prince nennen können. Nur Musiknerds werden einem dann noch The Jayhawks, The Hold Steady, Soul Asylum oder Hüsker Dü und The Replacements nennen können. Dass die Twin Cities seit den Siebzigern eine überaus lebendige Musikszene hat, die in den früheren Achtzigern den Vergleich mit New York nicht scheuen musste wird viele überraschen. Wie es dazukam erzählt Cyn Collins in diesem Buch. Cyn Collins ist eine renommierte DJane beim Community Radio KFAI und hat für dieses Buch mit fast allen relevanten Persönlichkeiten der Szene sprechen können. Wie viele aktuelle Musikbücher überlässt sie das Erzählen voll und ganz den Protagonist:innen. In Deutschland ist dieses Verfahren durch Jürgen Treipels „Verschwende Deine Jugend“ bekannt geworden. Somit bekommt man ein Potpourri der vielfältigsten Erinnerungen präsentiert. Collins geht chronologisch vor und setzt 1974 ein. Es wird geschildert, wie Minneapolis von den musikalischen Entwicklungen in London, New York und Detroit infiziert wurde und Punk und New Wave hier auf eine Musikszene trafen, die bis dahin von Coverbands und Bluescombos dominiert wurde. Mit Punk wurde die Szene vollkommen umgekrempelt. Die ersten Lokalhelden waren die Suicide Commandos. Collins lässt nicht nur die ehemaligen Bandmitglieder zu Wort kommen, auch Menschen, die mit Plattenläden und Clubs die Struktur für die Entwicklung der Musikszene schufen, kommen zu Wort. Manche waren dafür so wichtig, dass ihnen ganze Kapitel in dem Buch gewidmet werden. So wird im Verlauf des Buches immer deutlicher, dass das pulsierende Herz der Szene dort der Club Jay‘s Longhorn war. Er war nicht nur der erste Club, der jungen aufstrebenden Bands Auftrittsmöglichkeiten bot, sondern hier trat auch alles auf, was in Punk und New Wave Rang und Namen hatte. Wenn man die Erinnerungen dazu liest, wird man den Eindruck nicht los, dass es ein magischer Ort gewesen sein muss. Auch das wichtigste lokale Plattenlabel Twin/Tone Records wird ausgiebig beleuchtet. Hier haben alle veröffentlicht, bevor sie den Majors wechselten. 1984/85 war dann der absolute Höhepunkt der Musik aus Minnesota. Hüsker Dü veröffentlichten ihr Meisterwerk „Zen Arcade“, The Replacements brachten „Tim“ heraus und Prince wurde für „Purple Rain“ gefeiert. Hier kommt dann auch das Buch zu seinem Ende, aber die Musikszene der Twin Cities ist weiter ungemein vital. Am Buch ist einzig zu bedauern, dass kein Mitglied der Replacements oder Hüsker Düs zu Wort kommt. Warum das so ist, darüber kann man nur spekulieren. Ungeachtet dessen gibt das Buch in eine Szene und Zeit, die man gerne live vor Ort miterlebt hätte.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joe Fahey

    I really took my time reading this book, mostly saving that last chapter because I didn't want it to end. I picked it up at the book release at the Electric Fetus and Cyn signed it and wrote something really nice. This was such an enjoyable read about a fascinating time in Minneapolis music and in the world at large. The transition from cover bands to original bands and the blurry areas in between. I can imagine how much research and interviewing went into the book and how much probably ended up I really took my time reading this book, mostly saving that last chapter because I didn't want it to end. I picked it up at the book release at the Electric Fetus and Cyn signed it and wrote something really nice. This was such an enjoyable read about a fascinating time in Minneapolis music and in the world at large. The transition from cover bands to original bands and the blurry areas in between. I can imagine how much research and interviewing went into the book and how much probably ended up on the cutting room floor. The oral history approach works so well here. Great interesting stories from so many creative, adventurous people with such wry senses of humor and fun. That whole week was fun and well timed with the Suicide Commandos' new record which also deserves 5 out 5 stars. I went to music events every night that week, all kinds of people were in town for it and it was such a heartfelt celebration of the love and history that's contained in the book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Excellent book documenting the beginning of the Minneapolis indie/punk scene. Told through oral stories much like Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, this was an appropriately entertaining format for this sort of history. The early chapters about the formation of the scene and the bands who populated it were especially illuminating, the latter chapters on Husker Du and the Replacements less so, but overall this is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of Minneapolis music and its nati Excellent book documenting the beginning of the Minneapolis indie/punk scene. Told through oral stories much like Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me, this was an appropriately entertaining format for this sort of history. The early chapters about the formation of the scene and the bands who populated it were especially illuminating, the latter chapters on Husker Du and the Replacements less so, but overall this is an essential read for anyone interested in the history of Minneapolis music and its national and international influence.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Daryl

    Continuing my exploration of local music journalism, after reading a couple of books about the Replacements, I picked this one up mostly because it had a chapter on the Flamin' Oh's, one of my favorite bands. While I was in high school and college during most of the time period covered in this book, I didn't really get into the music scene (and then, quite heavily) until just after this. So while I knew about most (but not all!) of the bands, musicians, and others profiled here, there was still Continuing my exploration of local music journalism, after reading a couple of books about the Replacements, I picked this one up mostly because it had a chapter on the Flamin' Oh's, one of my favorite bands. While I was in high school and college during most of the time period covered in this book, I didn't really get into the music scene (and then, quite heavily) until just after this. So while I knew about most (but not all!) of the bands, musicians, and others profiled here, there was still a lot to learn and expand on. A couple of major takeaways: kind of amazed that in the early to mid-'70s, Minneapolis didn't have many venues for live music and especially for bands playing original music. That certainly changed in the ensuing decade(s), a fact that Cyn Collins covers quite well. Secondly, on a related note, I found it cool how important record stores were to the discovery, exposure, and spreading of new music. (I worked in record stores from '84 through about '93, and while I feel we did some of that, it wasn't as important as it had been before.) And lastly, Robert Wilkinson (lead singer and guitarist of my beloved Flamin' Oh's) points out how different things are today. "Anybody can make a CD in their bedroom," while back in the day, bands had to tour and play to work out their chops and develop their musical identity. Putting out a single (45), an EP, or even a full-length record was a huge deal back then. I got really nostalgic reading this book, and wishing for those long-gone days, and wishing I'd gotten involved in the music world a bit sooner than I did, so I could have experienced some of the things the book talks about. (And I could have; I was around and in the Twin Cities, just not aware.) The only drawback of the book was the "oral history" aspect - not my favorite method, although it works pretty well here. Lots of those quoted are familiar figures to me, but many were not, and I found myself flipping to the back of the book to refresh myself as to who was who (in the "cast of characters"). I don't really have a good suggestion, but it would have been nice to have an easier way of knowing who people were (and what band(s) they were in, and how they were related to others). Really enjoyed reading this.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patti

    By the time I was old enough to get into bars and clubs in the early 1990s, Minneapolis was on its third generation of rock bands. Of course the bigger acts were revered and praised, but I was surprised how many bands from the first generation were still around - Curtiss A, Flamin' Oh's, The Wallets. And of course many musicians were playing under other names - Mighty Mofos, Del-Lords, and probably others I can't remember. By the time I was 21, The Uptown Bar, 7th Street and First Ave were the p By the time I was old enough to get into bars and clubs in the early 1990s, Minneapolis was on its third generation of rock bands. Of course the bigger acts were revered and praised, but I was surprised how many bands from the first generation were still around - Curtiss A, Flamin' Oh's, The Wallets. And of course many musicians were playing under other names - Mighty Mofos, Del-Lords, and probably others I can't remember. By the time I was 21, The Uptown Bar, 7th Street and First Ave were the places to be. Duffy's was (and probably still is) around, but their bands never interested me. I believe I've been to the Caboose maybe once, the Turf Club a few times and then other venues like Roy Wilkins, Orpheum and then later the Target Center. But the younger me would have loved Jay's Longhorn and Goofy's Upper Deck. Oh to have been born just 8 years earlier (not really). What I loved about this book was the spirit of camaraderie and helping each other out - the older generation mentoring and helping out the newcomers figure out the ropes. The music industry is a hostile place - especially nowadays, but even back then in the mid-80s. Nice to know that the musicians kept the spirit of DIY alive for as long as possible.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jeff J.

    A fun oral history of the Minneapolis music scene during the time I was attending the University of Minnesota. I think I enjoyed most the recounting of some key shows during that time, such as shows by U2, Tina Turner, REM, and Prince at the First Avenue nightclub. Members of many of the bands who performed at that time are included, including members of the Suburbs, the Suicide Commandos, and Soul Asylum. Others bands were discussed in depth but without member contributions, such as the Replace A fun oral history of the Minneapolis music scene during the time I was attending the University of Minnesota. I think I enjoyed most the recounting of some key shows during that time, such as shows by U2, Tina Turner, REM, and Prince at the First Avenue nightclub. Members of many of the bands who performed at that time are included, including members of the Suburbs, the Suicide Commandos, and Soul Asylum. Others bands were discussed in depth but without member contributions, such as the Replacements and Husker Du. The book brought back a lot of memories!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    Interesting read on the underground Minneapolis scene. I felt at times that interviews quotes were all over the place and did not stick to a linear story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Calee

    This took me FOREVER to read because I was constantly googling people in the book and their careers. This was such a fun read! I can’t wait to see what Cyn writes next.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Farley

  13. 4 out of 5

    Justscot

  14. 4 out of 5

    Will

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tommy

  16. 5 out of 5

    Christian Foust

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  18. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jen Peterson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Biggles

  21. 4 out of 5

    Steven

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kristi

  23. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  24. 5 out of 5

    Trennia

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Piercy

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kris

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pxt

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ned

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Feigh

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