Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From The American Indie Underground, 1981–1991

By Michael Azerrad 

(Backbay Publishers, 2001)Our Band Could Be Your Life

This extraordinary book by acclaimed music writer and journalist Michael Azerrad expertly chronicles the musical revolution that took place in the United States during the 1980s; an era remembered in that country chiefly for its strongly renewed political and social conservatism under President Ronald Reagan.

Yet, as Azzerad notes, a small but significant network of bands, record labels, fanzines, radio stations and others conspired to fight against the creeping militarism and jingoism, along with the banality of mainstream culture, and proceeded to reenergise the bloated American rock scene with their fearless DIY attitude and inspirational belief that anyone could make vital music and not just the big and carefully crafted rock and pop stars of the day.

These bands – amongst many others – created a movement and way of life (as the Minutemen inspired title of the book alludes to) plus a variety of sublime music that was at times deeply personal, challenging, and eventually incredibly influential and timeless.

Azerrad begins his tale in 1981 with the emergence of US hardcore punk pioneers Black Flag and neatly ends the book ten years later in 1991, just as Nirvana’s Nevermind toppled the mighty Michael Jackson from the top of the Billboard 100 and brought this thriving underground crashing for better or for worse into mainstream consciousness.

Besides the aforementioned Black Flag, other legendary bands chronicled in detailed and page turning fashion include the Ian MacKaye-led Minor Threat and Fugazi, San Pedro’s econo punk heroes the Minutemen, Boston’s groundbreaking Mission of Burma, Chicago’s unsettling noise rockers Big Black, New York’s avant-garde favourites Sonic Youth plus Minneapolis’s rowdy rock ‘n’ rollers The Replacements and their cross city rivals, seminal hardcore punk rockers turned alternative rock kings Hüsker Dü.

An absolute must read for anyone interested in learning about the career trajectory of these legendary bands and their movement, or those looking to reminisce about this incredibly inspiring era in American music history.