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Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981-1991 Hardcover – July 31, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; First Edition edition (July 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316063797
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316063791
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nirvana's mega-bestselling Nevermind was credited with dramatically altering the American pop-musical landscape. Azerrad ably demonstrates that the "new" sound actually sprang from almost 15 years of innovation by hundreds of bands who remained "[b]elow the radar of the corporate behemoths." Linked under the loose rubric "indie rock," bands like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Minor Threat and the Replacements languished in the musical minor leagues because they were too experimental for commercial radio, made unfortunate career decisions or eschewed mainstream success. Yet these bands formed the nucleus of a new youth movement. Youths who defined themselves in opposition to middle-American values found an aesthetic and a community through the music. Given the fervor for indie progeny like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, the indie scene's impact was not insignificant and rock journalist Azerrad (Come as You Are) partly aims to trace that larger cultural legacy. But this thick slice of nostalgia, replete with colorful anecdotes that demystify even deliberately mystifying artists, primarily targets die-hard supporters of seminal 1980s indie bands, underground-club scenesters and 1980s college radio buffs. Though day-in-the-life bios predominate over extensive musical or cultural analysis, this is an astute insider's account of the collective accomplishment of these various bands: strong musical and political statements by people with little clout and even less financial support that reverberated throughout youth culture. A devotee himself, Azerrad is occasionally belligerent in his support of his subjects' art and attitudes, but he also deftly captures the thrill of being young, antiestablishment and impassioned the inspiring ingredients of all these bands. Photos. (July 31) Forecast: Indie culture has lost little mystique for insiders or outsiders, and with national TV and radio interviews, this tribute may draw the MTV crowd.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Music journalist Azerrad (Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana) makes it clear through his tales of 13 highly influential punk and indie rock bands from Black Flag to Beat Happening that his subjects could have easily been any misshapen, angst-filled, morbidly creative teens on the planet. In painting the portrait of the volatile 1980s underground music scene, he reveals the importance of subversive-minded musicians in an industry controlled by hit-hungry executives. Azerrad, however, is careful not to glorify this era: sprinkled throughout his inspiring pictures of musical revolt are details of the poverty and drug-induced dilemmas each band faced on its path to cult icon status. Featuring original interviews with the scene's leading lights (e.g., Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth), this collective biography is written in a cultured voice that even low-brow, in-the-know fanzine readers will appreciate. For all public libraries. Robert Morast, "Argus Leader Daily," Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

This book was a lot of fun to read - I recommend it to anybody who is interested in this era.
Michael P. McCullough
On the other, it seems like it gets mired in it's stylistic template and it comes off like Azerrad is trying to hard to write two books in one.
S. M. Robare
Azerrad does a remarkable job here with Our Band Could Be Your Life, an 80's look at the Indie Punk Underground music world.
M. Swinney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 87 people found the following review helpful By daibhidh on September 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I like this book a great deal; Azerrad writes well, for the most part, and neatly (perhaps too neatly) encapsulates some of the most important bands of the last 20 years, from Black Flag to (*gak*) Beat Happening. The book is loaded with interesting tidbits, stories, vignettes, and so forth. There are some great lines throughout, and it seems nearly every chapter has somebody offended by Public Image Ltd., in one way or another, which'll probably have John Lydon coughing up his tea and biscuits if he bothers to read it.
I am unsure whether Azerrad's doing indie rock revisionism in this work, however. The stories fall within the same narrative confines -- quirky, disenfranchised would-be rockers XYZ run into each other in an amusing fashion; decide to form a band; against all odds, they produce considerable sonic (and, of course, punk rock) excellence until they either implode or join a major label. They all seem to follow this basic arc, which seems a trifle tidy to me.
I came in on the earlier, punkier side of things (Black Flag, the Minutemen, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat), and I feel like Azerrad is weaving a tapestry linking those important bands to grunge and "alternative," creating a seamless web of musical innovation and negation culminating in Cobain's primal sonic scream. Not like the later bands aren't important, of course, but I think they were very different from each other, while Azerrad tries to paint them all with the same punk rock paintbrush -- it comes out more in the later chapters, where his comments are the equivalent of "how punk rock is THAT?" or "You can't get much more punk rock than that." Sure you can, Michael.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The 1980s are being turned to chum, diced into simple nostalgia bites, so that the decade is best remembered now for a few MTV synth pop hits, maybe a Springsteen/Cougar Americana song, hair metal and the Rolling Stones' "Steel Wheels" tour. What is always lost in the VH-1 retrospectives is the remarkable American indie underground movement that began in roughly 1979 (the first Black Flag EP), peaked in the mid 1980s and had its last gasp in 1991 (when Nevermind, a record that could not have existed without the indie movement, hit #1).
So it is a blessing that we have at last a fine, relatively unbiased and intelligent history of Husker Du, the Replacements, Sonic Youth, Beat Happening, the Buttholes, Dino Jr. -- bands that were the equivalent to the Beatles and Stones to me, and whose influence inspired whatever life there was to be found in 1990s pop music.
It's not a perfect book. For one, everyone will have gripes about which bands did and didn't deserve chapter-length studies (the most obvious oversight -- the Meat Puppets, and I'd go to bat for Camper Van Beethoven as well), and did we really need two separate chapters on Ian MacKaye's bands? Once a band signs to a major label its story effectively ends for Azerrad, which is fine when you're covering Dinosaur Jr., for example, but which also means that the Replacements' Tim -- one of their finest records -- isn't even mentioned. An influence of MacKaye's rather hysterical obsession with "purity", perhaps.
Azerrad's writing on the whole is fine, though he occasionally litters his prose with a gruesome slang phrase, like "all about" (viz.
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87 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Dave Hidebound on July 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Michael Azerrad's one of the best contemporary rock authors, and the work he did on the Nirvana book "Come as You Are" speaks for itself. He was able to tell a story that was devoid of opinions and let the facts speak for themselves, even if proof came out after the book's publishing that suggested that some of the pieces were exaggerated. Still, when it was announced that he was writing a book about the American indie underground of the 1980s, I was ecstatic. Finally, someone qualified was going to talk about an era of music that's sadly overlooked by most people. But upon reading this book, I was pretty dismayed to discover how half-baked "Our Band Could be Your Life" was.
Azerrad only interviewed about half of the people involved in these selected bands. For people he obviously didn't talk to, like Steve Albini, he instead pastes together quotes taken from 1980s fanzine interviews and places them in the book like they were actual recollections. He does cite these sources in the back of the book, but it's still a little bit dishonest. He doesn't even interview Calvin Johnson for the Beat Happening section. Why even bother include them then? Calvin was the Beat Happening as far as I'm concerned. With the Butthole Surfers, there's only accounts from King Coffey and some scant Paul Leary quotes that I suspect were also lifted. Both are integral members, but not interviewing Gibby Haynes is inexcusable. No Gibby, no Surfers. And there are other important people you'd like to hear from who aren't here like Black Flag's Chuck Dukowski and the Minutemen's George Hurley, among others.
I'm shocked with how Azerrad fills the book up with his opinions and half-truths.
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