“Around the time I was making my first records, probably the independent label I was buying the most stuff from and hearing the most about was a label in -- believe it or not -- Minneapolis, Minnesota.”
So began this week’s edition of “Hardcore Troubadour Radio,” Steve Earle’s weekly show on SiriusXM satellite radio, which was dedicated entirely to the music and bands that recorded for Twin/Tone Records.
The Texas-bred country-rock vet dug deep into the discography from Minneapolis’ pioneering indie-rock label in the hour-long program, covering not only the obvious acts (Replacements, Soul Asylum, Jayhawks, Babes in Toyland) but also deep cuts by Curtiss A, the Suicide Commandos, Suburbs, Wallets, Jets ('70s rockers, not '80s pop stars) and Fingerprints. He also pointed out and played tracks by some of the many influential non-Minnenotan acts who also issued Twin/Tone albums, including Robyn Hitchcock, Ween, the Mekons and NRBQ’s Al Anderson.
Earle knew his stuff, too. He credited Twin/Tone co-founder Peter Jesperson for a lot of his schooling on the label and scene (Jesperson is now a v.p. at New West Records, which has issued most of Earle’s recent albums). Speaking on Curtiss A, for instance, he pointed to the Dean of Scream’s penchant for visual art: “He’s one of those guys [for whom] art is art, the kind of guy who inspired me later to step outside my comfort zone writing songs and do other things.” He also called late Wallets frontman Steve Kramer’s post-bandleader career at the Kramer & Hest ad agency a “prophetic” changeover since, he said, “The way you break a young band now is through ads.”
Here’s a little of what Earle said on some of the better-known names on his playlist:
Soul Asylum: “We can be really hard on bands that work really hard and finally have a hit. Later, Soul Aslyum did, and people criticized [them]. ‘Runaway Train’ was one of the best singles I’ve ever heard, on one of the best records I’ve ever heard.”
The Jayhawks: “When I got out of jail, I started hearing about these kids from the Midwest who could cite Townes Van Zandt chapter and verse.”
Babes in Toyland: “I loved this band. They rocked really [expletive] hard.”
And here’s the full playlist from the episode:
- The Suburbs, “You” (1978)
- The Jets, “Lover Boy” (1978)
- Fingerprints, “Down” (1979)
- Curtiss A, “You or You or You” (1980)
- Suicide Commandos, “You’re Not the First One” (1979)
- The Wallets, “Totally Nude” (1986)
- The Replacements, “Unsatisfied” (1984)
- Soul Asylum, “Ship of Fools” (1986)
- Al Anderson, “Crazy Like a Fox” (1989)
- The Mekons, “Hole in the Ground” (1987)
- The Jayhawks, “Five Cups of Coffee” (1989)
- Robyn Hitchcock, “Beautiful Girl” (1990)
- Ween, “You F---ed Up” (1990)
- Babes in Toyland, “Bruise Violet” (1992)
The all-Twin/Tone episode of “Steve Earle: Hardcore Troubadour Radio” – although, technically speaking, the Babes song he played wasn’t issued on Twin/Tone – will air again Wednesday at 8 p.m. Central Time on SiriumXM’s Outlaw Country channel. It’s also available on demand to subscribers. You have to love the idea of “Bruise Violet” and that particular Ween tune being played on a “country” station.