PunkFunkRockPop: The Minneapolis Music Collection

Guitar Pick Souvenir

Guitar Pick Souvenir
view enlarged image

Originally calling its music "underground," the Suicide Commandos, Minnesota's first punk band, was founded in 1974 by three friends: guitarist Chris Osgood, bass player Steve Almaas, and drummer Dave Ahl. Osgood liked to play with white picks, which he used and gave away as souvenirs, because they were easier to find when he lost them on the stage floors during his energetic performances. The emblazoned picks, manufactured by Ernie Ball of Santa Barbara, California, exemplified good fun and affability, a contrast to the aggression and discontent later associated with punk music.

Over the next four years the trio, augmented by lighting wizard Linda Hultquist, expanded its audiences from Minneapolis's Blitz Bar to New York's pioneering rock club CBGB's, the Albert Lea Ice Arena, and Minneapolis's Uncle Sam's (renamed First Avenue in 1982). Before the band's demise in 1978, the Commandos recorded two LP's, an EP, and a single, enjoyed the adulation of an official fan club, and, with Minneapolis filmmaker Chuck Statler, made "Burn It Down," probably Minnesota's first music video.

In addition to headlining at Jay's Longhorn, just off Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, the Commandos also opened for international stars Iggy Pop and Patti Smith and toured with Pere Ubu. In July 1977, the Commandos opened at Kelly's Pub, St. Paul, for punk pioneers The Ramones: "The crowd did go berserk … [for] the Suicide Commandos. So much so that after their triumphant final set … people were hollering for the Commandos, even as The Ramones were mounting the stage. … Lead guitarist Chris Osgood, in teen heaven having shared the bill with The Ramones and held his own, was heard to remark that he shoulda just killed himself on stage, 'cause life just doesn't get any better."1

    1. Twin Cities Reader, July 8, 1977, p. 9.