Yesterday, I saw a Husker Du sticker on a Volvo stationwagon and just like that, I was again a twelve-year-old girl in the back of a 1988 Honda Civic hatchback on a fall afternoon. I remember the smell of horse (the smell of my childhood) on the saddle-blanket I was sitting on, and clinging to my best friend Erin as her older brother took too many turns too fast on the way home from the barn. Randall was a senior at Indian Springs that year, and he was determined to work some kind of corrupting influence on his little sister and her friend in revenge for being forced to pick them up. Listen to this, he said, and pushed a tape into the player.
What came out of the speakers and rattled the windows of that little car was Husker Du and Eight Miles High. I was consumed with terror, nausea and elation as I experienced my first taste of American hardcore punk rock. Certainly,this was forbidden territory for a sixth-grader at Briarwood Christian School and surely I was among some bad people. I was thrilled to near-death. This, I remember thinking to myself, is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. I didn't know Black Flag from Bad Brains, Husker Du from a hole in the wall, but I knew that I had learned something about myself and I knew that I couldn't tell anyone at school about it.
Over the years, I slowly figured out how British punk had given way to American Hardcore and learned to love bands from the post-punk era like Mission of Burma, Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxie and the Banshees, U2, PiL and The Church. As I got older, I loved The Cure, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and REM. Now, when I hear people talk about U2, I laugh. Your U2 isn't my U2, I want to say. I hid this obsession with "secular music" (you've got to screw your nose up to pronounce that correctly) until I got caught buying Disintegration in Turtles when I was on a Briarwood Raiders outing. My Raiders leader told my mom I wasn't "walking with the Lord." My mom told her off. And I went back to my closet obsession.
Now, when I think about fall, I think about Husker Du and I laugh to myself about how long ago this music was popular. When I hear young musicians talking about their influences, I get that weird feeling that I'm utterly out of my era. Sure, I like Patty Griffin. Ryan Adams isn't half bad on a slow day. And I can get into Reg's Coffeehouse, but nothing, no nothing, blows my doors off like Husker Du on a bright blue morning.
Oy. Oy. Oy.