Starting in the late 1970s, alt-weekly writer Martin Keller and photographer Greg Helgeson chronicled the birth of the Minneapolis Sound, the modern-rock revolution and the 1980s comedy boom.
The two seemed to be everywhere on the scene, “perpetually walking the thin-grooved line between fandom and journalism,” as Keller puts it in their new paperback, “Hijinx and Hearsay: Scenester Stories From Minnesota’s Pop Life” ($25, Minnesota Historical Society Press). Part photo book, part “fragmented memoir,” it summons an entire era in chatty chapters packed with revelatory images.
Here’s a sampling.
Dylan with his ex-wife, Sara, sprawled on the lawn at Macalester College in 1983 for the graduation of their daughter Maria; at left is Dylan’s brother, David Zimmerman. “Bob Dylan jump-started my writing career,” writes Keller. “I bought Minnesota’s most famous son a whiskey” at a 1978 gig by bluesman Luther Allison at the Cabooze. It was the first of his many brushes with Bob over the years, including a four-hour interview in 1983. Once, at a party for Elvis Costello, “Dylan showed up with a couple of his kids, including a young Jakob, who showed me how deftly he could wield nunchucks.”
Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Helgeson took this portrait of the former Time members just as their hitmaking career was taking off in 1984. “Jimmy has always been the more outspoken of the two, while Terry is typically the more introspective one, but his funny one-liners will catch you off guard and deliver the money quote.”
The comedian in 1981 with his mother, Ora, who inspired his Emmy-winning role in the TV series “Baskets.” Early one morning in 1990, Keller’s phone rang. It was Louie, “sobbing inconsolably. His mother had died during the night. He needed help with the obituary, and he wanted to talk.” When Louie came over to Keller’s apartment, a Hoagy Carmichael album caught his eye. The cover photo included “Louie’s dad, a trumpet player who died in 1980. He gasped as he reached for it. ... For a moment we sat silently trying to process this unsettling coincidence and emotionally loaded synchronicity.”
Tommy Stinson, left, was only 15 when Helgeson shot photos for the band’s 1981 debut album. Keller had been tipped to their self-recorded demo tape, resulting in “the first ’Mats story ever, anywhere.” Decades later, his son was in Cub Scouts with Paul Westerberg’s kid. “You haven’t got a complete picture of the anti-rock-star rock star if you’ve never seen him digging in the dirt for fossils at Lilydale Regional Park ... or jamming with the kids in his basement.”
Prince during his first concert as a solo artist, in January 1979 at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis. Keller interviewed him later that year: “He sat on the kitchen floor in Bobby Z’s apartment, his hair in long, cornrow braids and his guard up.” They didn’t have another sit-down until 1996 at Paisley Park, when Keller shared some vegetarian bean soup cooked by Prince’s then-wife, Mayte. “I think God puts you in the place you’re supposed to be,” the singer said. “Flying back from a concert tour from around the world, and you look down over the land and all the beautiful lakes, and it just feels like home, that this is where I belong.”
The late West Bank legend struck a relaxed pose in his backyard. As a bandleader, “he’ll never lose his standing as a historical linchpin that bridged the racial divide in the Twin Cities,” says Keller, while as a multi-instrumentalist and producer, “Murphy was on par with Prince.”
The Irish band on their second visit here in 1982. “They looked like Hobbits who had strayed too far from the shire” was Keller’s impression of the band when he interviewed them a few months earlier — all four piled onto a queen-sized bed at the Normandy Inn in downtown Minneapolis. “They seemed extremely shy. Somehow in our hour-plus conversation we got onto talking druids and Catholicism.”