During my first academic year at my college radio station, from the fall of 1988 through the spring of 1989, there was one song I was desperate to hear, even as it remained agonizingly elusive.
Before I showed up at the station, the Minneapolis trio Hüsker Dü was a mere abstraction to me, an oddball name and a few stray music reviews that strained to convey the tuneful thunder of their sound. Once I heard music from the band, I fell fast and I fell hard. Other albums in the band’s catalog were considered more important — more seminal — but I adored the swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories above all others. There was an amazing sense of agitated exchange across the four album sides, a feeling of aggrieved competition engaged by the band’s two songwriters, creative visionaries both. When I first listened, I didn’t realize the levels of contentiousness that existed in the relationship between Bob Mould and Grant Hart, but I heard it, I felt it.
Hüsker Dü was over by the time I got my FCC card and flipped on a radio station microphone for the first time. Hart was the first one to extend the creative argument past the confines of the band. His debut solo single, “2541,” was released on SST Records in 1988. At the time, “2541” was speculated to be all about the dissolution of Hüsker Dü, its lyrics wistfully remembering better days at a certain address as a sad ending has arrived. “Now everything is over/ Now everything is done/ Everything’s in boxes/ At 2541,” Hart sings, announcing the close of a relationship with a ruefulness tinged by anger.
My station got serviced with records from SST all the time, but we didn’t get that single. I ached to hear it, wanting to extend the drama I found on Warehouse. On some level, I just wanted more Hüsker Dü, and the best possible option in the wreckage after the breakup was a song about the band from the man who wrote nearly half its songbook, including stellar entries “Books About UFOs,” “Green Eyes,” “I Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely,” and “You Can Live at Home”.
Of course, all the speculation was wrong. “2541” wasn’t about Hüsker Dü. Hart supposedly had at least the foundation of the song as far back as the recording sessions for New Day Rising, the band’s third studio album, well before the end. He gladly disparaged lore around the song and the residence within it. “I don’t want to bust any bubbles or myths, but it was just a fuck pad,” he informed the audience at a show earlier this year.
The emotional rawness and highly fraught personal exposure that some saw in Hart’s songwriting was equally up for disparagement by the creator himself.
“I DON’T PUBLISH SONGS THAT I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO HEAR,” Hart wrote in a Facebook Q&A. “I HAVE TAKEN STEPS TO PREVENT ANYBODY FROM EVER HEARING ‘MY FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY’ AND ‘MY DADDY’S PEE-PEE’.”
Whether he liked it or not, some of found deep, resonant truths in Hart’s songs. That was part of the skill he brought to his craft. He wrote in such a way that it was easy to find whatever was needed within his lines, his melodies, his beats. The lyrics were just specific enough to lap over into the universal, open to interpretation and then assured application.
I eventually heard “2541.” We never got the single, but the track was included on Intolerance, Hart’s first solo album, released in late 1989. I played it on the air many, many times, usually offering my own mistaken reading of the song. I may have been wrong about the particulars, but I think I was basically correct about the core of the song, its fierce and fervent heart. Deep down, we’re all looking for that place that has windows big enough to let in the sun.
Listen or download –> Grant Hart, “2541”
(Disclaimer: Hart was instrumental to the creation of a load of great music that can bought right now at your favorite local, independently-owned record store in a manner that compensates both the proprietor of said store and the designated recipients of all proceeds due to the artist. If nothing else, you could inquire about Savage Young Dü, the entirely atypical archival project on Hart’s most famous band. Hart was a key contributor to the project’s assembly, and it is already being cited as a jaw-dropping bit of legacy-building. I offer this song in this space as tribute and encouragement to engage in commerce, not as theft. I will gladly and promptly remove the file from my little corner of the digital world if asked to do so by any individual or entity with authority to make such a request.)