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10 Best Hüsker Dü Songs

Husker Du Warehouse Songs and Stories

Hüsker Dü are among the embarrassment of riches to emerge from Minnesota in the 1980s – their state’s contemporaries include Prince, The Replacements, and Soul Asylum. The three-piece band played energetic and emotive music – they started playing hardcore punk, but blew the genre’s boundaries open with their 1984 masterpiece Zen Arcade. They were prolific in their prime, releasing five studio albums between 1984 and 1987, two of them double-LPs.

Hüsker Dü featured two vocalist/songwriters – guitarist Bob Mould and drummer Grant Hart. Mould’s adrenaline fuelled rockers contrast with Hart’s natural pop leanings and gentler voice. Bassist Greg Norton completed the trio – his crisp basslines are often prominent, holding the band’s songs together underneath Mould’s wall-of-noise. He’s also the proud owner of punk’s only handlebar moustache.

Photography by Naomi Petersen. Distributed by SST Records.

Hüsker Dü are ripe for reevaluation – they’ve never remastered their albums or released a best of compilation. They never reunited after their 1987 split, and it’s now impossible with the 2017 passing of Grant Hart. Revisiting these ten favourites, they’re an all-time great rock band, mixing intelligent and tuneful songs with exhilarating energy and virtuosity. With only one song, 1985’s Flip Your Wig is underrepresented – I would have like to have found room for Hart’s ‘Green Eyes’ or Mould’s ‘Makes No Sense It All’.

10 Best Hüsker Dü Songs

#10: Hardly Getting Over It

Husker Du Candy Apple Grey

from Candy Apple Gray, 1986
On 1986’s Candy Apple Gray, the band’s first record for a major label, Mould recorded a pair of lovely acoustic ballads. ‘Hardly Getting Over It’ performs the difficult balancing act of conveying vulnerability without sounding overwrought or contrived. It outstays its welcome at six minutes, but the chiming folk sus2 and sus4 chords are lovely.


#9: She Floated Away

Husker Du Warehouse Songs and Stories

from Warehouse: Songs and Stories, 1987
Hart’s best song on Hüsker Dü’s final album is in 3/4 and is effectively a sea shanty, despite Mould’s jagged guitar. It features some of Hart’s best lyrics – the opening line “With her grandmother’s face and her father’s brown eyes/Her own force of will to her mother’s surprise” is evocative and sets the scene perfectly. “A man has two reasons for things that he does/The first one is pride and the second one is love” is one of the most profound lines in pop music.


#8: Eight Miles High

non-album single, 1984
Hüsker Dü covered The Byrds’ classic eighteen years after its initial release – it was recorded during the Zen Arcade sessions, and released before the album. There’s clearly some psychedelia in Hüsker Dü’s DNA, and their raw cover retains the spirit of the original. Byrds’ leader Roger McGuinn later said on Twitter that “I thought it was very creative!”


#7: Could You Be The One?

from Warehouse: Songs and Stories, 1987
The lead single from the band’s highest-selling album distressed some long-term fans with its mainstream sound. It’s closer to power pop than to punk, sweetened by Grant Hart’s harmonies. The non-album b-side was a rare Greg Norton composition, ‘Everytime’.


#6: Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely

from Candy Apple Gray, 1986
Hart wrote the best song on Hüsker Dü’s major label debut – ‘I Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely’ is another late-period Hüsker Dü song that comes close to power-pop. The song’s main hook is Hart’s drumming in the chorus – a simple hit on each beat of “lonely” before an agile fill. The b-side was a live cover of The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’.


#5: Celebrated Summer

from New Day Rising, 1985
The month that Zen Arcade was released, Husker Du were already back in the studio recording a followup. ‘Celebrated Summer’ launches with an abrasive Bob Mould riff, playing off against Greg Norton’s bass. But it’s also pretty and contemplative, with a twelve string acoustic guitar providing contrast later in the song.


#4: Never Talking To You Again

from Zen Arcade, 1984
The first sign of non-orthodoxy on Hüsker Dü’s towering double album Zen Arcade was its third track, Hart’s ‘Never Talking To You Again’. Hart and Mould sing together in terse harmony, only accompanied by acoustic guitar. It was never released as a single, so I assume the cover art featured on the right is a bootleg.


#3: Chartered Trips

Husker Du Zen Arcade

from Zen Arcade, 1984
Zen Arcade is a towering punk record, stretching punk in all sorts of unexpected directions; unbelievably, all but two of its 23 tracks were recorded first take. Mould’s Chartered Trips is an intense rocker where the meaning is unclear – it could be about leaving home or going off to war. Mould’s vocal is high-pitched and strained, giving the song even more intensity.


#2: The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill

Husker Du New Day Rising

from New Day Rising, 1985
‘The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill’ is a great example of Hüsker Dü’s methodology – writing a tuneful pop song, then smothering it in guitar noise and emotive vocals. Hart’s voice is catatonic in the final verse. According to a commentator on Songfacts “This is a song about a woman (friend of Grant Hart) who was dying from cancer and she was drinking several bottles of “heavens hill” vodka daily because of terrible pain and alcohol for her was like a painkiller. And that was literally girl who lives on “Heaven Hill” vodka. Grant told that story in 1990 for one Serbian magazine, I still have it with me.”


#1: Flip Your Wig

Husker Du Flip Your Wig

from Flip Your Wig, 1985
Mould and Hart share lead vocals on the opening track from their second 1985 album. It’s a great move as Hart’s boyish voice complements Mould’s gravelly tones. ‘Flip Your Wig’ is an oddly structured song, divided into three distinct modules; the pair trade verses, then a lengthy Mould guitar solo, then Hart and Mould sing the chorus in unison.

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Did I miss your favourite Hüsker Dü song?

On a related note, it’s only recently occurred to me that two of my favourite bands to emerge from the tail-end of punk in the early 1980s both had songwriters named Robert and Grant. Along with Hüsker Dü, Brisbane’s The Go-Betweens had Robert Forster and Grant McLennan as the dual lead singers. Both Grants have passed away, while both Roberts are still making music.

71 thoughts on “10 Best Hüsker Dü Songs Leave a comment

  1. I really only know Hüsker Dü because of their unique name. If you pronounce their name the German way, it actually sounds a bit like Turkish – to be clear, this is not meant to be a joke or being disrespectful. It’s solely based on sound and my recollection of having heard some Turkish people talk.

    Perhaps, Hüsker Dü weren’t all that popular in Germany – not sure. Their music certainly sounds very hard charging. At the same time, it stays relatively melodic. The latter is something my stubborn pop ear likes. Still, given the intensity, I’m not sure I would want to hear an entire album in one row.

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  2. Top Husker Du songs

    Books about UFOs
    She Floated Away
    Could You Be the One?
    The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill
    Everything Falls Apart
    Charity Chastity Prudence and Hope
    New Day Rising
    Terms of Psychic Warfare
    Sorry Somehow
    Back From Somewhere

    But probably my actual favorites are by Sugar.

    Liked by 1 person

      • To be honest I never got into Zen Arcade. I like Warehouse and New Day Rising but I didn’t like the others as much. Not enough good songs on them. I know that people who are really into Husker Du really like those other albums so maybe I just wasn’t into them enough. Idk. Actually I was more into Sugar as far as albums go.

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  3. I liked Grant Hart’s songs much better than Bob Mould’s in Husker Du, but what’s weird is that Bob Mould got better after Husker Du when he started writing more tuneful stuff that was more like Grand Hart’s stuff. Especially in Sugar , and some of the solo stuff.

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    • You’re correct that Mould wrote a lot of abrasive stuff in Husker Du, then lightened up for Sugar. There’s a lot of great stuff on Workbook, Mould’s first solo album, but I barely know any of his other solo stuff.

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      • Most of the solo stuff wasn’t all that great except for the one called Bob Mould from 1998 or something. The one with Egoveride on it. That song is greater than anything Husker Du ever did, but it was a real exception though cuz most of the solo stuff isn’t nearly as good. I went to see him when that album came out when he did a tour of small clubs and bars, and I got drunk and he yelled at me. He told me to shut up. I felt bad.

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        • I’d argue that Mould’s solo stuff is pretty exceptional. Workbook is great, and I really like Black Sheets of Rain even thought it’s become OK to dunk on that one. The two solo albums after Sugar (the s/t from ’96 with Egoveride and Last Dog and Pony Show) are OK. His aughts output was spotty–his foray into electronic music on ’02s Modulate divided the fans, though there are a few good songs on it, and the rest of the decade was attempts at “return to form”, albeit with vocoders. The stuff he’s done in the last decade, from 2012’s Silver Age onward is pretty great. If you haven’t paid attention to his solo output since the ’90s, I’d start with that album and move forward.

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        • Dog and Pony and Bob Mould are the ones I liked best. I kind of liked the electronic one and I think that was the last one I heard completely. And maybe one other one too. I think his 2 best solo songs are Karma Canyon and Egoveride. They even outdo Husker Du as far as I’m concerned

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        • Those are good songs. But I still say you should check out his later solo stuff, Silver Age and beyond. He’s managed to return to some of the power of the Huskers days, still melded with the melodicism of Sugar, and not done in a contrived way either.

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    • I like both Hart and Mould equally in Husker Du, but I’d agree that Hart’s stuff stood out more because there was less of it. I know a lot of it was due to Mould’s “no more than 45% of the album will be songs by Hart” mandate. But Hart’s less-than-prolific output after the breakup may mean he needed the competition to keep himself motivated. That being said, I do like much of Hart’s solo output–Intolerance, Good News For Modern Man, and Hot Wax are good. I couldn’t get into Nova Mob or his last album, The Argument. I really wished he put out more music.

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  4. Good list! A lot of your top tens are great in my eyes. I also like the fact that you have stuff from the last two albums, as some “true fans” disregard those albums. My quibbles would be with “Eight Miles High” (a cover that could be considered the definitive version of the song, but still a cover) and “Hardly Getting Over It” (overlong and overrated in my opinion). I’d replace with “Diane” and maybe “Books About UFOs”. I’d also like to somehow squeeze in “I Apologize”, “Divide and Conquer”, “Flexible Flyer”, and “No Reservations”.

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  5. The only Husker Du I ever listen to anymore is The Living End. Cuz it’s got all their best songs all in one place. And the sound isn’t too much different than the studio stuff. I listened to the Sugar albums a million times more than I ever listened to Husker Du. I wish Sugar would have gone forever cuz I love those.

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    • I have it on CD but have never listened to it much, My copies on the first two releases are all one continuous track, so I also don’t listen to those much, but I should go back and review all three sometime.

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      • There’s only a couple tracks on Living End that sound crummy cuz the sound ain’t that good, but some of the other ones are better than the studio versions. And a lot of the vocals have this cool echoey sound that really adds something. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but its awesome. Then when you go back and listen to the originals on the studio albums they don’t sound as exciting. And Target and From the Gut are much better than the originals. And Sheena Is a Punk Rocker sounds good too.

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  6. I always wondered where the song Everytime came from and then I just read what you wrote up there and found out it was a B side. They do it on the live album but I could never figure out where it came from originally. It’s one of their best songs ever . And I figured it must be a Grant Hart song because it sounds like one.

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        • I agree that they could have fit “Everytime” on Warehouse. I don’t agree that “Everytime” is a great song. From what I’ve read Norton decided to write that song because he was realizing that since Hart and Mould were the songwriters, they would be the ones to continue receiving the lion’s share of the royalties after the band ended. Norton did contribute songs to the earlier albums but stopped around Everything Falls Apart, probably after realizing he wasn’t the songwriter the other two were. That being said, I do enjoy listening to the live “Living End” version of the song. Mould and Hart sound like they are having fun playing the song, probably because it was a song that neither of them had written.

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        • Indeed!

          I just relistened to “Everytime”. I’ve only heard the live version (good energy, bad vocal) so I listened to the actual “album” version. I liked it better. I still don’t think it’s a particularly stellar song, but it had an energy that lacked on Warehouse, more “punk” than they had been in some time. I’m wondering if it got axed because it didn’t fit the energy of the rest of the album? Or maybe Grant was being petty, as adding a Norton song would most likely be at the expense of a Hart song?

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        • That could definitely be a contender, though I always liked the energy of it.

          By the time Warehouse came out, Grant was fighting hard to keep his 45% share of songwriting duties. The story I was told was that Bob already had an album’s worth of songs going into Warehouse, so Grant had to write basically an album’s worth in retaliation. That’s why Warehouse was a double, and probably why Hart’s contributions weren’t as strong as they had been in the past. It’s definitely a comedown after writing the strongest songs (and the two singles) off of Candy Apple Grey.

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        • I think Warehouse is great the way it is, in all its glorious excess. (Ask me what I think about Sandinista! 😉) My main problem is it’s a lot of good songs with not a lot of great songs. There needed to be more “Could You Be The One”s.

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        • This is my new revised Top 10. Cuz the one up there I made a long time ago on one of your other posts about Husker Du. I have a brand new number one that didn’t even appear last time. And even more Grant Hart ones than before.

          Now That You Know Me
          Books About UFOs
          It’s Not Funny Anymore
          She Floated Away
          Keep Hanging On
          The Girl who Lives on Heaven Hill
          Everytime
          Could You Be the One
          Back From Somewhere
          Friend, You’ve Got to Fall

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  7. Oooh, good one . . . very happy to see “Never Talking to You Again” on the list. As a small eulogy to Grant, I actually cited that one as a mind-blower on first play, and it remains a fave . . . https://jericsmith.com/2017/09/14/never-talking-to-you-again/

    Let’s see, my list, off the cuff, looking at the discography chronologically, would be something like . . .

    Diane
    Never Talking to You Again
    Somewhere
    Newest Industry
    Turn on the News
    Celebrated Summer
    Makes No Sense At All
    Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely
    Sorry Somehow
    She Floated Away

    In re Bob’s post-Husker career, my fave of his albums, by a long-shot, is “District Line.” Incredible songs, deeply personal, and it’s the one album where I think he merged his techno, folkie, and rocker elements most effectively. The song “Again and Again” is, I think, the finest of his post-Husker career . . .

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  8. A great list… but I would have She Floated Away further up and pushed Hardly Getting Over It, Celebrated Summer and Eight Miles High out. Likely have Books About UFOs (maybe top 5), Diane, and, of course, New Day Rising instead.

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  9. This is a band I want to know more about but quite frankly don’t know much at all. From what little I’ve heard I do think I would like them…They seem edgy but with catchy songs.

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    • The US 1980s underground stuff is some of my very favourite music – early R.E.M., the dBs, Meat Puppets, The Replacements, all great. I kind of resent 1990s rock music for being a lot more popular, while not as good to my ears.

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      • I was watching a short bio on the Replacements and I just ordered an audiobook now that is downloading to my phone by Bob Mehr.

        That was the problem…those acts never reached the masses but the bands they inspired did. Many of those you have mentioned were influenced by Big Star and ended up sort of like them but to a bigger audience.

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        • The other side of the problem was the 90s bands that were influenced by some of the 80s underground acts tended to get big by imitating some of the lesser aspects of those earlier bands, and then bring down the standing of the earlier band in the process. Case in Point: Goo Goo Dolls, who were initially heavily indebted to The Replacements. (Westerberg even wrote a song for them.)

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        • I don’t know all the Goo Goo Dolls stuff but the song Name is the best thing of that kind that I ever heard. Alternative Rock ballad or Indie ballad or something. Idk what you would call it. Its great though.

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        • I wonder what I’m in store for? Well they were all pretty young and drunk at the time. The reviews are great but yea I saw a few fans saying that.

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    • I only know the name of the Golden Palominos but they look interesting. The 1985 album with Richard Thompson, Michael Stipe, John Lydon, Chris Stamey, and Bernie Worrell looks interesting. Syd Straw turns up on backing vocals on lots of things.

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      • Real mixed bag Aph. Lots of interesting music. I still havent listened to all the library. jack Bruce shows up on a couple albums. The album i have has Stipe, Mould and a woman named Amanda Kramer on vocals. Plus RT on guitar. Just thought it was cool that you had the Husker take when I was listening to the album.

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  10. Its a great list and I can’t quibble with anything on there, although my personal favorite has always been “divide and conquer”. I shredded the steering wheel on my ’74 Celica blasting a cassette of “flip your wig” and beating the crap outta that poor thing!!

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