Our Band, Your Life

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of Michael Azerrad’s seminal history, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981- 1991.  The book traces the beginning of what we now call indie rock by profiling thirteen bands who made their own way without major label support at a time when such a move was considered an admission of failure.  Azerrad wisely refrains from attempting an encyclopedic overview, opting instead for a series of sketches, anecdotes, and origin stories.

There are the usual rock tour tales of debauchery, bad food, and worse accommodations, along with some uniquely punk ways of rewarding fans. Going to a Black Flag show meant a high likelihood of getting clocked by Henry Rollins, while Gabby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) loved to fill a wiffle ball bat with his own piss and wave it at the front row.

But the book is much more than a chronicle of bad boy behavior.  It’s a blueprint for musicians – or any artist, really – to build a career without waiting for permission from existing institutions.  Countless bands have been inspired by the book since it came out a decade ago, and several of them held a tribute concert at the Bowery Ballroom last month.  You can stream it in its entirety at NPR here.

As good as that show was, I did feel like the book could use a companion mixtape with representative songs from the original bands.  So I made one!  Download here.  (The cover photo above is from a Minor Threat show.)   Tracklist below the fold:

1 | Bombastic Intro / Big Black
from Songs About Fucking

2 | Human Cannonball / Butthole Surfers
from Locust Abortion Technician

A part of me was introduced to you
then it walked right out the door.
And tonight you’re probably feeling
like a human cannonball.

3 | Gimme Gimme Gimme / Black Flag
from Everything Went Black

You know the world’s got problems
I’ve got problems of my own!
Not the kind that can’t be solved
With an atom bomb.  

4 | Touch Me Sick / Mudhoney
from Superfuzz Bigmuff

I won’t live long and I’m full of rot
Gonna give you, girl, everything I got

5 | Trem Two  / Mission of Burma
from Vs.

The face at the window, the features I know
I try to escape but the world is too slow
The question is big, the question is wide
I can’t see around it.  I see only one side

6 | History Lesson – Part II / Minutemen
from Double Nickels on the Dime

Our band could be your life
Real names’d be proof
Me and Mike Watt played for years
Punk rock changed our lives

7 | Unsatisfied / The Replacements
from Let It Be

Everything goes
Well, anything goes all of the time
Everything you dream of is right in front of you
And liberty is a lie

8 | Indian Summer / Beat Happening
from Jamboree

Breakfast in cemetery 
Boy tasting wild cherry
Touch girl, apple blossom
Just a boy playin possum

9 | Brendan # 1 / Fugazi
from Repeater

10 | The Glory of Man / Minutemen
from Double Nickels on the Dime

Starting with the affirmation of man,
I work myself backwards using cynicism

11 | Wasted / Black Flag
from Nervous Breakdown

I was so wasted
I was a hippie
I was a burnout
I was a dropout I was out of my head

12 | The O-Men / Butthole Surfers
from Locust Abortion Technician

13 | Kill Your Idols / Sonic Youth
from Sub Pop 100

Kill your idols
Sonic death
It’s the end of the world
and confusion is sex

14 | The Model / Big Black
from Songs About Fucking

Playing hard to get, she smiles from time to time
It only takes a camera to change her mind

15 | Weatherbox / Mission of Burma
from Vs.

The air is round and the world is flat
And everything is clearly impossible
Clearly impossible
Inside the weatherbox

16 | Little Fury Things / Dinosaur Jr.
from You’re Living All Over Me

Tried to think what’s over me, it makes me crawl
Then she runs away from me, faster than I crawl

17 | In N’ Out of Grace / Mudhoney
from Superfuzz Bigmuff

Oh God, how I love to hate
Sliding in ‘n’ out of grace
Save me Lord, and fuck the race
Sliding in ‘n’ out of grace

18 | Think Again / Minor Threat
from Out of Step

A hand to your mouth, a performing yawn,
I guess you know what the fuck is going on

19 | Merchandise / Fugazi
from Repeater

Merchandise keeps us in line
Common sense says it’s by design

20 | Turn On The News / Hüsker  Dü
from Zen Arcade

I hear it every day on the radio
Somebody shoots a guy he don’t even know

21 | Sludgefeast / Dinosaur Jr
from You’re Living All Over Me

I’ve got the guts now
To meet your eye

22 | Tunic (Song for Karen) / Sonic Youth
from Goo

Dreaming, dreaming of how it’s supposed to be
But now this tunic’s spinning – around my arms and knees
I feel like I’m disappearing – getting smaller every day
But when I open my mouth to sing – I’m bigger in every way

23 | Never Talking To You Again / Hüsker Dü
from Zen Arcade

There are things that I’d like to say
But I’m never talking to you again
There’s things I’d like to phrase some way
But I’m never talking to you again

24 | Red Head Walking / Beat Happening
from Dreamy

Kiss that girl
Kiss that girl
She’ll cut your heart like diamonds
End of story

25 | Sixteen Blue / The Replacements
from Let It Be

Brag about things you don’t understand
A girl and a woman, a boy and a man
Everything is sexually vague
Now you’re wondering to yourself
If you might be gay

Your age is the hardest age
Everything drags and drags
One day, baby, maybe help you through
Sixteen blue
Sixteen blue

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