Big Windows To Let In The Sun

Until yesterday I didn’t know that Grant Hart’s song 2541, his solo debut in 1989, was covered by Robert Forster (of The Go-Betweens). Forster put it out in 1994 on a four track e.p.

I like it, Forster’s voice is good but he sticks largely to Grant’s song, it’s a pretty straight cover. When I found it on Youtube and then played Grant’s own version afterwards, I found that in the trail of comments beneath Grant himself had logged in and left a commentsaying he preferred Forster’s version.

The song is a beauty, full of great lines and hard won wisdom. It tells the story of a couple getting together, moving into a new home and then the break up and the leaving. Grant builds in small details that root it in personal experience- Jerry and Jimmy in the first verse who find the place and the phone number, moving in and having to keep the stove on all night long ‘so the mice wouldn’t freeze’, putting their names on the mailbox. The dream turns sour in the second verse though as Grant admits ‘it was the first place we had to ourselves, I didn’t know it would be the last’. From there the only way is down but all the while through the chorus we get the reminder of the attraction of the home, the big windows to let in the sun. The final verse sees the couple apart and moving out…

‘Well things are so much different now
I’d say the situation’s reversed
And it’ll probably not be the last time
I’ll have to be out by the first’

Story telling, moving and real, painting pictures with words, Grant had the full package as a song writer. He recorded the song twice himself, once for an ep 2541, a largely acoustic version (the one I posted yesterday) and then a fuller, band version that came out on his 1989 album Intolerance (which is my favourite). So here’s that version too…

Twenty-Five Forty-One

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Grant Hart

I was deeply saddened yesterday by the news that Grant Hart had died aged 56. It seems a bit silly to be actually saddened by the death of a musician you’ve never even met but there you go. Husker Du are a band whose songs and albums hold a place close to heart. Someone once said that Bob Mould’s songs in Husker Du were more consistently excellent but Grant’s peaks were peakier and it’s easy to roll off a list of Grant Hart songs that completely hit the spot- The Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill, Books About UFOs, Green Eyes, Keep Hanging On, Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Pink Turns To Blue, Turn On The News, She’s A Woman (And Now He Is A Man), Sorry Somehow, Never Talking To You Again, Flexible Flyer, She Floated Away…

Grant Hart was the hippie in a hardcore band- long hair, love beads, drumming with bare feet- who realised early on that drumming in a hardcore band could end up being pretty boring if that was all he did. So they became much more than a hardcore band, spearheading indie-punk through the 80s, paving the way for others to follow. Grant Hart was a drummer who knew how to write melodies and a songwriter who mainly dealt with the heavy stuff, but could cover it with shards of light. He took much of the blame for the break up of the band but he seemed to be the easy one to blame- he didn’t hide his problems with drugs. His first solo album Intolerance is open about it. His post-Husker Du albums are full of great songs too- 2541, You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water, She Can See The Angels Coming, The Main, My Regrets, Admiral Of The Sea- all come close to his Husker songs and pack an emotional punch. Grant and Bob were estranged for much of the rest of Grant’s life, appearing together only once to play two Du songs. They seem to have become more reconciled recently, communication opening up with a band agreed website to sell merchandise and a box set of their early works coming out in November. Their SST recordings still belong to SST who don’t seem to want to sell. And they should, so something right and proper can be done with the back catalogue.

Last year I wrote a Husker Du ICA for The Vinyl Villain- you can read it here. I named my 10 track compilation after one of Grant’s songs, Keep Hanging On (a song from Flip Your Wig) and used it to close my imaginary record. This is what I said about Keep Hanging On and I stand by every word even more now…

Keep Hanging On- there are so many songs I could or maybe should have closed this album with but this one always hits me right there. From Flip You Wig, buried away towards the end of side 2, the guitars are deliciously distorted, Greg’s bass builds, the drums thump and Grant sings his heart out. His voice sounds like he is just about hanging on but ultimately this is uplifting, life affirming stuff.

Only angels have wings, girl
And poets have all the words
The earth belongs to the two of us
And the sky belongs to the birds

You’ve given me so much happiness
That I’ll wrap up and give you this song
You gotta grab it with both hands
You gotta keep hanging on’

Thank you for all the songs Grant. They mean so much.

Bob Mould put this tribute on his Facebook page yesterday morning-

‘It was the Fall of 1978. I was attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. One block from my dormitory was a tiny store called Cheapo Records. There was a PA system set up near the front door blaring punk rock. I went inside and ended up hanging out with the only person in the shop. His name was Grant Hart.

The next nine years of my life was spent side-by-side with Grant. We made amazing music together. We (almost) always agreed on how to present our collective work to the world. When we fought about the details, it was because we both cared. The band was our life. It was an amazing decade.

We stopped working together in January 1988. We went on to solo careers, fronting our own bands, finding different ways to tell our individual stories. We stayed in contact over the next 29 years — sometimes peaceful, sometimes difficult, sometimes through go-betweens. For better or worse, that’s how it was, and occasionally that’s what it is when two people care deeply about everything they built together.
The tragic news of Grant’s passing was not unexpected to me. My deepest condolences and thoughts to Grant’s family, friends, and fans around the world.
Grant Hart was a gifted visual artist, a wonderful story teller, and a frighteningly talented musician. Everyone touched by his spirit will always remember.
Godspeed, Grant. I miss you. Be with the angels.’

You Can Live At Home

We’ve had precious few guitars here recently so here’s a blast of Husker Du’s indie-punk perfection, what turned out to be their last recorded notes. By 1987 the Huskers were thoroughly fed up with each other and the band. During the making of Warehouse: Songs and Stories Bob Mould told Grant Hart he would never have more than half the songs on any Husker Du album and true to his word Bob’s tunes outnumber Grant’s again. They sequenced the twenty songs alternately by writer but the last song is Grant’s. You Can Live At Home is mini-punk epic, with shards of guitar and echo laden vox. Mould hits a chord around the two minute mark that sends shivers up and the spine and the long coda fade out sees the two men vie for the final word on Husker Du, Bob soloing away and feeding back while Grant repeats the song title over and over. It is as good as they ever were (the Husker Du purists would disagree with me on this one. Warehouse came out on Warners. Sell outs and punk traitors y’see).

If it sounds a little tinny and small, this is what small bands with small budgets sounded like in 87- the radio loudness wars and punchy digital sound were years off. It’ll shrink sonically in comparison to other stuff if you play it on shuffle. But it’ll sound better. Husker Du were real one offs. Truly, there is no other band who could combine 60s idealism and writing, 80s punk, and melodies like this one could.

You Can Live At Home

Is The Sky The Limit?

Grant Hart- Husker Du survivor- has a new double album out shortly on Domino. It’s inspired by both John Milton’s Paradise Lost and William Burroughs, which would seem quite daunting were it not for the quality of the tunes, or at least the ones I’ve heard so far. Grant has a real way with melody and mood and let’s be honest- although Bob Mould is remembered as the key Husker, Grant wrote at least as many of their great songs. Grant’s solo career has its high spot moments too- the 2541 single, the Intolerance lp, the Hot Wax album from recently, some of Nova Mob’s stuff. The Argument promises to be up there amongst them.

Husker

The Bagging Area cat Husker died on Saturday evening. He was eighteen (human) years old, a good old age for a cat, and had lived with us since the summer of 1994. He will be missed. It has got to me much more than I thought it would.

He’d been slowing down all week and on Saturday afternoon his back legs were all wrong. When he couldn’t get up onto the sofa I knew it was the end. The end came with the emergency vet at an animal hospital in an industrial estate in Worsley (that is every bit as grim as it sounds). I signed the papers, watched him die and then came home.

His namesake, the band Husker Du and one of Grant Hart’s songs from 1984’s Zen Arcade.

Turn On The News

Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lost And Lonely

Nothing blows the cobwebs away quite like a blast of Husker Du. This song, a kiss off to somebody, written and sung by Grant Hart is a gem where the band do the Husker trick of marrying 60s pop and 80s hardcore. Top drumming too.

Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely

>Oh You’ve Got Green Eyes

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Jon Auer is one of The Posies, who play power pop. I think I know what power pop is without being able to describe it. I don’t know much about The Posies either, other than that Prestwich Stuart put a song of theirs on a tape he did for me years ago, the chorus of which went ‘It’s a different door to another dimension’ (or something like that) and I really liked it. Another band that I never delved any further into, despite the internet. Here, Jon Auer does a very lovely acoustic cover version of Green Eyes, a Flip Your Wig era Husker Du song written by Bagging Area favourite Grant Hart. It’s worth bearing in mind that given Grant’s sexuality this song is probably sung by a man to a man. Which gives it a different slant somehow.