Fans will have the opportunity to experience Hüsker Dü‘s formative live sound from a period well before the legendary underground rock trio had officially released any music. The group’s new archival release, Tonite Longhorn, features 28 previously unreleased tracks recorded at the Longhorn Bar in Minneapolis across four shows between July 1979 and September 1980.
A limited black vinyl edition with artwork from late Hüsker drummer Grant Hart and liner notes from Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore will be released on April 22 in celebration of Record Store Day, while a digital version will arrive Aug. 25 through Hüsker Dü’s own Reflex Records. Additional vinyl variants are expected at a future point.
The first taste of Tonite Longhorn is the breakneck, Bob Mould-sung “Do You Remember?,” which was recorded at Longhorn on July 13, 1979, when Mould and Hart were still only 19 and had only been playing together with bassist Greg Norton for a few months. The performances were taped by the band’s longtime soundman, Terry Katzman, who also helped Hüsker Dü self-release some of its early music on Reflex. Indeed, the material on Tonite Longhorn, which includes a cover of the Ramones’ “Chinese Rock,” was recorded several months before the January 1981 release of Hüsker Dü’s first official single, “Statues” b/w “Amusement.”
“Most artists begin their careers by looking to their heroes for inspiration,” says Mould. “Tonite Longhorn is a comprehensive overview of three teenagers paying homage, experimenting with different genres, and — most importantly — building a foundation for things to come. We knew what we had: good chemistry, great melodies and harmonies, and an overabundance of young (and sometimes dumb) enthusiasm. We knew we were different, and we knew we were on to something different.”
“The audition. Bob was done with his freshman year [at Macalester College] and we didn’t have any gigs lined up,” says Norton. “He was considering going home to Malone [N.Y.] for the summer. Grant shows up all frantic and tells us we need to load the gear and get to the Longhorn — we had an audition. We arrived during their lunch service, load in, and start playing. The manager comes storming out of his office and stops us. What the hell do you guys want?, he asks. Grant says, we want to play here. He replies, fine, you can play the opening set Friday night — just stop playing and get out of here. That set is here, July 13th, 1979. We passed the ‘audition’ and the rest is history.”
While a full reissue campaign of the group’s SST Records discography remains stalled due to longstanding disputes between the two parties, Tonite Longhorn can be seen as a complement of sorts to Numero Group’s 2017 boxed set Savage Young Dü. That long-gestating project featured four LPs of rare and unreleased music dating from the band’s formation to its 1983 signing with SST, including alternate takes of Hüsker Dü’s entire 1982 debut full-length, Land Speed Record.
“Hüsker Dü could play hardcore to death but they were not hardcore through and through — they were something else,” Moore writes in the Tonite Longhorn liner notes. “And that’s what I fully related to and what I’m hearing in these live recordings unearthed from those days, which made such magnanimous impressions it’s as if they are the batteries of our lives as we continue to tick off the years.”
Hüsker Dü split acrimoniously in 1988 after a brief, failed tenure on major-label Warner Bros. Records. Mould went on to a fruitful career as a solo artist and with his ’90s band Sugar, while Hart also recorded solo and with Nova Mob before his 2017 death from liver cancer. After years of refusing to do so, Mould now regularly performs Hüsker Dü material in concert, including such classics as “Flip Your Wig,” “I Apologize,” “Makes No Sense at All,” and “Hardly Getting Over It.”
Norton largely stepped away from music in the early 1990s to pursue a career in the restaurant industry, but was planning to tour last year with the band UltraBomb before he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. A GoFundMe campaign set up to raise money for his treatment has generated more than $62,000 to date.
Here is the track list for Husker Dü’s Tonite Longhorn:
Insects Rule the World
I’m Not Interested
Can’t See You Anymore
Do You Remember?
All Tensed Up
Don’t Try To Call
Industrial Grocery Store
Do the Bee
Do You Remember?
Ode to Bode
Don’t Have a Life
All I’ve Got To Lose
Don’t Try It
What Went Wrong
Call on Me