Monday, October 19, 2009

Marky's song #13: Hüsker Dü – “Diane”

(Hüsker Dü, part one)

Hardcore songs are supposed to be valued for their speed. A genre based on aggression naturally veers in that direction. So much so that when a song is presented that advances at a milder pace (like “Public Defender” by S.O.A. or the bridge in Minor Threat’s “Screaming at a Wall”), it immediately garners attention: the monotony of velocity is broken up. That’s the first thing I noticed about this song when I first heard it, but what happened about 1:10 in was much more jarring.

We already have one song tangentially related to the band in question, and I have a second one on the brain to follow this post up with eventually. That’s the amount of influence Messrs. Mould, Hart, and Norton had on the collective conscious of underground rock. Anyhoo, this track is from the Metal Circus EP, a 45-RPM slab of vinyl that chugs right along at the expected pace until this, the middle cut on the three-song B side.

I’ll try to describe the scene here: a shy kid by himself in his room on a late autumn afternoon. He notices that this one song clocks in at nearly twice the length of any other song on the record. His ears perk up a little at the opening mantra-like drumbeat, followed by a bass part played through a flanger pedal. And then he catches these opening verse lyrics:

“Hey little girl, do you need a ride?
I’ve got room in my wagon, why don’t you hop inside?
We can cruise down Roberts Street all night long
But I think I’ll just rape and kill you instead…”

OK, so you figured out that the kid in question was me. There’s no prize for that. The lyrics are printed right on the back of the album cover (those of you too young to have owned vinyl will have to simply trust me on this) and I still missed it. I was lying on my back on the bed with the album jacket on my chest and not looking at the lyric sheet. So I sat up and said to myself “wait…what? What the fuck did he just say? I picked up the needle and restarted the song, as if I was just not hearing right and he’d say something different the second time around.

This song is about the murder of Diane Edwards, which occurred in the Minneapolis area in 1980. It’s not the kind of topic I’d come to expect from a hardcore band. This was far too disturbing, far too vulnerable for hardcore – or was it? This EP is pointed to as the Great Leap Forward for Hüsker Dü, where they began to leave their hardcore sound (but not their ethos) behind and move towards a poppier approach. “Diane” is not the first truly classic Hüsker Dü song (that would be “In a Free Land”), but it’s the one that got them noticed outside hardcore circles and played on college radio stations back when getting played on college radio stations actually meant something. Yet, this song is not the one that clinched them for me. That song will be the topic for my next post. Suspense! (Sort of.)

Partially because it's such a good song and partially because it's a simple three chord pattern that repeats through the entire song, “Diane” is an oft-covered indie rock epic that keeps getting tinkered with re-imagined. For the story so far, a search of YouTube found the following versions:

1 comment:

  1. Ah, you can hear where Sugar was born from in that opening musical line.

    This is one of the Husker songs I am familiar with. Excellent choice.

    Don't you ever wonder what these guys would have sounded like with good production and mastering? If it was what came out on Warner, I don't want to imagine it.