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A Brief History of the Bands and Artists
Babes in Toyland, an all-female trio, formed in Minneapolis in 1987, and released two albums on the local Twin/Tone label in 1990 and 1991; they signed to the national Reprise label in 1992. Drummer and Minneapolis native Lori Barbero and vocalist/guitarist Kat Bjelland were the core members with Michelle Leon, Maureen Herman and others playing bass at various times. Babes in Toyland's last live performance was in 2000.
Hüsker Dü, a trio comprised of South St. Paul high school student Grant Hart, record store clerk Greg Norton of Mendota Heights and Macalester College student Bob Mould, formed in St. Paul in early 1979. The band performed frequently at the Longhorn and Seventh Street Entry venues which featured original new wave and punk music in downtown Minneapolis. Rebuffed by the local Twin/Tone label, they founded their own "Reflex" label and released their first single in 1981; they later signed to the California-based SST label. The strong individual songwriting skills of Hart and Mould as well as their no-holds-barred live performances yielded them a Warner Brothers recording contract in 1985. Hüsker Dü was the first indie band to sign to a major label. The band split up in December 1987. Grant Hart formed Nova Mob in 1989 and released two albums. As a solo artist he released the critically-acclaimed "Good News for Modern Man" in 1999 and performs and tours regularly. Following Hüsker Dü's dissolution, Mould recorded and toured as a solo artist for two years then founded Sugar, another trio, in 1992. The band released two albums before Sugar went on a permanent hiatus in 1995. Mould continues to tour, record, and write scripts for World Championship Wrestling. Greg Norton, however, has left the music business altogether and owns The Norton's, a restaurant in Bay City, Wisconsin.
Information Society was founded at Macalester College in January 1982 by Kurt Valaquen (ne Harland), Paul Robb, and James Cassidy, all recent graduates of Irondale High School in New Brighton, Minnesota. Their band's name was taken from Alvin Toffler's Future Shock. Inspired by Gary Numan, DEVO, Kraftwerk and other heavily electronic bands, InSoc (as they were popularly known) was an anomaly in the early-1980s guitar-centric Minneapolis music scene and made their Seventh Street Entry debut in June 1982. Twin/Tone released their first album, "Creatures of Influence", in 1984. Unbeknownst to the band (which now included Amanda Kramer and Murat Konar), the "Running" single from this LP had become an underground hit in Bronx dance clubs and came to the attention of Tommy Boy, an independent record label in New York City. Shortly afterwards, Warner Brothers purchased an interest in Tommy Boy and signed Information Society to their Reprise label in April 1987. Information Society's eponymous LP went platinum when it was released the following year. The "What's On Your Mind? (Pure Energy)" and "Walking Away" singles from this album became MTV video favorites. In 1993, after two more releases, Tommy Boy dropped the band. Valaquen subsequently purchased the band name from his partners, moved to the Bay Area and composes soundtracks for video games like "X-Men 2."
Prince, one of rock and roll's most original and prolific artists, started his musical life as member of Grand Central (later Champagne), a teenage band in the Near North neighborhood of Minneapolis. He was signed to the Warner Brothers label when he was barely 20 and released five genre/gender-bending albums in as many years. Prince became an international superstar with Purple Rain, a 1984 semi-autobiographical movie that included "performances" filmed at First Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. The "Purple Rain" soundtrack peaked at Number One on the Billboard 200, won two Grammys and an Academy Award. Through the remainder of the 20th century, Prince continued his prolific output and greatly expanded his merchandising and fan club enterprises, using the Internet, to eliminate the middleman. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year he was eligible.
The Replacements, consisting of the Stinson brothers (Bob and Tommy), Chris Mars, and Paul Westerberg was founded as Dogbreath in a southwest Minneapolis neighborhood in late 1979. Renamed The Impediments and finally The Replacements, the band opened for the hometown heroes, The Suburbs, at the downtown Minneapolis Longhorn in early June 1980. Fourteen months later, their first LP debuted on the local Twin/Tone label that also released their next two albums as well as several EP's and singles. The quirky, break-your-heart quartet signed to Sire, a national label, in 1985 and produced four albums for them. Bob Stinson was fired from the band in 1986 and replaced by Slim Dunlap, a long-time fixture on the Twin Cities' original rock and roll scene. Mars later left the Replacements as well and with only two original members remaining, the band broke up in 1991. Westerberg, Mars and the younger Stinson released well-received individual efforts in 1993. Sadly, Bob Stinson died of undetermined natural causes in early 1995; five years later, "Stinson Boulevard", recorded by his post-Replacements band, Static Taxi, was released posthumously. Since 1996, Mars has devoted his creative energies to a successful career as a visual artist. Westerberg and Tommy Stinson (who has been the bassist for Guns N' Roses since 1998) continue to compose, perform and record; both released acclaimed solo CD's in 2004.
Soul Asylum, originally Loud Fast Rules, was founded in the summer of 1981 by southeast Minneapolis high school students Dan Murphy and Karl Mueller; Dave Pirner joined soon afterwards. By 1984 Pirner had assumed primary singing duties, the band had changed their name to Soul Asylum and added drummer Grant Young, the first of several drummers. Hüsker Dü member Bob Mould produced their debut release on the local Twin/Tone label. Soul Asylum signed to national label A&M in 1989 and later Columbia Records in 1992 where their "Grave Dancers Union" release skyrocketed them to national fame. "Runaway Train", a single from the album, received a Grammy for "Best Rock Song of the Year" in 1994.
The Suburbs, true to their name, hailed from Minneapolis' western suburbs and were founded in the autumn of 1977. Their eponymous EP released in April 1978 was the local Twin/Tone label's first release. Keyboardist Chan Poling and guitarist "Beej" Chaney fronted the band and were joined by Hugo Klaers on percussion, guitarist Bruce B.C. Allen, and Michael Halliday on bass. A "new wave" dance band, the Suburbs signed to the national Mercury label in 1984 and two years later released an LP on A&M. They played frequently at the Longhorn, most often as headliners but also opened for national acts like the B-52s and Iggy Pop. After a hiatus from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s, they regrouped and played sold-out shows at First Avenue in 2002 and, opened for the B-52s once again, this time at the 2003 Minnesota State Fair.
Suicide Commandos, founded in 1974, were Minnesota's first punk band and are frequently credited with setting the stage for other original rock and roll bands like The Replacements and Hüsker Dü. The trio, comprised of Excelsior and St. Louis Park residents guitarist Chris Osgood, drummer Dave Ahl and bass player Steve Almaas, was the first Minnesota band to play in at New York City's CBGB's club and Max's Kansas City. They signed to Blank Records, a short-lived Mercury imprint, released "The Suicide Commandos Release a Record" in 1977 and were featured in Minnesota's first music video, "Burn It Down", produced by Chuck Statler. Their final concert, a mythic evening at the Longhorn in downtown Minneapolis, was recorded and released as "The Commandos Commit Suicide Dance Concert" on the Twin/Tone label in 1979, re-released on CD by Garage D'Or in 2000 and again on vinyl as Vol. 34 of the "American Lost Punk Rock Nuggets" series on Rave Up Records, an Italian label in 2002.
The Time formed in 1981 with members from two popular teenage bands that played in Minneapolis' Near North neighborhood in the mid 1970s: Flyte Tyme and Grand Central, renamed Champagne in about 1977. With Morris Day (Grand Central's drummer and later vocalist) as its wisecracking, licentious front man, Jerome Benton his "valet", Jesse Johnson, and former Flyte Tyme instrumentalists Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moir, the band released its eponymous first album on Warner Brothers. They made their First Avenue debut in late 1981, released two more LP's (which went gold and platinum, respectively) and were featured in Prince's movie Purple Rain in 1984. The band continues to tour and perform and released a live album in 2004.