Our Band Could Be Your Life
Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad, is less about the music and more about the story of thirteen indie bands, including some of my favorites such as Dinosaur Jr, The Minutemen-- who provided the title-- Minor Threat, Mission of Burma, Husker Du, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, and Fugazi . . . and the story of these bands is surprisingly similar:
1) feel detached and isolated from the other young people around you
2) form a band
3) practice an insane amount while the rest of your peers are doing school, girls, sports, and other "normal" things
4) procure a beat up van
5) go on a DIY "tour" in aforementioned van, playing sixty shows in fifty days-- in odd venues-- to crowds ranging from a half-dozen to a hundred people, making very little money, barely enough to cover food
6) record an album on the cheap, very quickly, but proficiently, because you are so well practiced from your tour
7) do more tours in the dirty and cramped van, which will insure conflict between the band members and everyone else "touring" with you, but also get your name out there
8) finally receive critical acclaim, but after it is too late
9) attempt to sign with a major label, but either get screwed or lose artistic control or fall apart because of the constant touring
10) realize this would have been so much easier if the internet was around . . .
I give the book ten EP records out of a possible ten, and though I've outlined the archetypal structure of most of the chapters, God is in the details, and Azerrad treats the details just right-- he doesn't idolize or romanticize these bands and their music but he does get across the epic nature of what they were trying to accomplish, and he shows how they achieved success with minimal technology, support, popularity, and (sometimes) musical ability . . . as The Minutemen said, "We jam econo."