Western suburbs residents who drive along County Rd. 16 near the Minnehaha Creek crossover in Minnetonka will notice a new blue sign along the way that may seem like a joke at first: “Adopt-a-Highway / Next 1.5 Miles Thanks to the Suicide Commandos Punk Rock Band.”
Turns out, the sign is as real as the house fire used in a music video near the sign's location back in 1977.
“We certainly made a big enough mess around there in our younger years, it’s time we made up for it,” laughed Suicide Commandos guitarist/co-vocalist Chris Osgood, who approached Hennepin County staff on a whim a few months ago when he saw that particular stretch of road was up for adoption. “I’m frankly surprised they let us.”
Osgood and his bandmates, Dave Ahl and Steve Almaas, mean business. They plan to patrol their newly adopted stretch of road for the next two years, as the Adopt-a-Highway program dictates. “We have our green reflective safety vests now and everything,” Osgood said. “It might be our next album cover.”
It’s not just a random stretch of road for the Commandos. Considered Minnesota’s first punk-rock band – they recorded for Mercury Records in the late-'70s and mentored Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs and the Replacements -- Osgood and Ahl spent three wild years living in a rundown house near the road (aka McGinty Rd.), which they dubbed the Utopia House. It had no running water two of those years but was good enough for rehearsing and crashing -- and was only $30/month to rent.
“That $30 a month is the only way a punk-rock band in those days could afford to drive out to New York to play CBGB’s as much as we did,” Osgood said.
No surprise, the house was condemned in 1977, and the Minnetonka Fire Department planned a controlled fire to demolish it as a training exercise – which is what the Commandos and local filmmaker Chuck Statler (of Devo visual fame) used as the backdrop for the video to “Burn It Down.”
Osgood himself still lives in the area and says he already walks that corridor regulary toward the creek to go eye the fish quantity (he’s an avid fly fisherman). “I’m out there picking up trash already most days,” he said, half-jokingly calling on all his peers to consider their own highway adoption. “I think now is the time for every punk-rock band to make good on their reputation and serve their community like this.”
To give credit where it's due, plenty of local musicians probably already have donned reflective vests and done road cleanup before -- just not voluntarily.