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Complicated Fun

Complicated Fun

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The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 --- An Oral History

Author Cyn Collins

Minnesota Historical Society Press (May 1, 2017)

The origins of Minneapolis’s legendary indie rock scene, as told by the people who were there and made it happen.


In the early 1970s, the Minneapolis music scene was no scene at all. Radio stations played Top 40 music; bars and clubs booked only rock cover bands and blues bands. Meanwhile, cities like New York, Detroit, and London were spawning fresh and innovative—and loud and raw—sounds by musicians creating a new punk and rock movement. A small but daring group of Twin Cities musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and enthusiasts wanted a piece of that action. To do it, they had to build it themselves.

Complicated Fun brings together the recollections of the men and women who built Minnesota’s vibrant and vital indie rock scene. Through interviews with dozens of musicians, producers, managers, journalists, fans, and other scenesters, Cyn Collins chronicles the emergence of seminal bands like the Suicide Commandos, the Hypstrz, Curtiss A, Flamingo, the Suburbs, Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and more. The subjects reflect on the key role that Oar Folkjokeopus record store, Jay’s Longhorn bar, and Twin/Tone Records played by providing outlets for hearing, performing, and recording these new sounds. Complicated Fun explores the influences, motivations, moments, and individuals that propelled Minneapolis to its status as a premier music scene and, in turn, inspired future generations of rockers.

Also of interest:
Hijinx and Hearsay: Scenester Stories from Minnesota's Pop Life
First Avenue: Minnesota's Mainroom
Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis
I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland

Minnesota History article: PunkFunkRockPop
MNHS Collections: PunkFunkRockPop

Author information

Cyn Collins is the DJ/host of KFAI radio's "Spin with Cyn" program and a radio documentary producer for KFAI and She is the author of West Bank Boogie: Music, Mayhem and Memories (2006) and a freelance music, arts, and culture journalist whose work has been published in City Pages, the Star Tribune, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TC Metro, Pulse of the Twin Cities, RIFT music magazine, Southside Pride, and more. She lives in Minneapolis.

Reviews and news

In the media:



Fox9 with M.A. Rosko

The Current's Rock and Roll Book Club

City Pages

The A.V. Club

Secrets of the City

MplsStPaul Magazine

Rochester Post-Bulletin

Twin Cities Geek

Minnesota History

Advance Praise:

Complicated Fun is a great rock book that works the same way as a great rock song. Find the right voices, lead with a riff, spit some truth, then watch everything explode. The result? Punk messing with punk, and birthing indie rock.”
Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings

“Cyn Collins’s indispensable and incredibly entertaining history puts the reader inside the record store, at the club, and in the practice space with the music geeks who brought one of America’s greatest music scenes to life. The only thing this book is missing is the music—you’ve gotta buy that separately.”
Mark Baumgarten, author of Love Rock Revolution: K Records and the Rise of Independent Music

“In 1984, Minnesota music owned the world. While it may seem like it exploded out of nowhere, such a vibrant scene doesn’t happen overnight. Complicated Fun tells the story of the pioneers, misfits, punks, and musical mavericks who paved the way for what became the most original and exciting music scene of that era. Cyn Collins does a fantastic job coaxing the stories from the people who lived it. This is a tale that needed to be told about bands that need to be heard.”
Kevin Cole, KEXP-FM radio in Seattle, former DJ at First Avenue/7th Street Entry

“A comprehensive, intensively reported tribute to a creative scene that is too often overlooked by rock historians, written by someone who cares deeply about the music and the people making it.”
Melissa Maerz, music writer and senior producer for VICE News Tonight

“Occasionally, genius flows from geographically isolated communities. The Minneapolis music scene in the early ’80s is an excellent model and shows how the passions of an inspired community can lead to broad cultural influence. Complicated Fun faithfully examines this story through detailed commentary from many of the scenesters and artists that made Minneapolis happen. This is a must read for fans of punk/indie culture.”
Bruce Pavitt, author of Sub Pop USA and Experiencing Nirvana

“‘You had to be there.’ Well, no, you didn’t! Laden with earnest, firsthand anecdotes of a window in time when the Minnesota punk and indie music scene created itself, Cyn Collins’s book is fun to read and perhaps instructive for anyone who wants to change the world themselves.”
Chris Osgood, singer/songwriter/guitarist for the Suicide Commandos

“Cyn Collins’s oral history of Twin Cities punk and indie rock depicts the iconic events and people with the cheerful one-upmanship of tales told around the campfire. More remarkably, it also uncovers the parts played by lesser knowns, like the Commandos’ explosives expert Linda Hultquist, the after-show party host Jody Kurilla, and the barely recorded but essential NNB. Best of all, Complicated Fun shows how a vital and nurturing network erupted from a few dedicated music lovers, illuminating how hungry people were (are) to create—not just music, but community. So, what are you waiting for?”
Terri Sutton, freelance writer and former City Pages arts editor

“To this day, the so-called counterculture has always been my family—the punk movement is more infiltrated with rogue intellectuals, as opposed to derelicts, than people think. Say what you will, but they’re smart people, and they’re great mentors—my mentors.”
Dave Pirner, singer/songwriter/guitarist for Soul Asylum

“In Complicated Fun, you can almost hear the voices of the players from the fertile late ’70s/early ’80s Minneapolis music scene. Memory is a strange beast, but the wide scope of interviewees ensures that this is a fair summary and a damn good documentation of the era.”
Peter Jesperson, music industry professional and cofounder of Twin/Tone Records

“Cyn Collins has diligently collected prodigious stories from the memories of musicians and fans who experienced the greatest moments of Twin Cities music history.”
Lori Barbero, drummer/singer/songwriter for Babes in Toyland

Written and produced by Cyn Collins for KFAI & AMPERS:
Minneapolis Music Scene: 1975-1980, Part I
Minneapolis Music Scene: 1975-1980, Part II

  • This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
  • 392 pages
  • 80 b&w photos and illustrations
  • 6x9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681340326

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