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Hijinx and Hearsay

Hijinx and Hearsay

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Scenester Stories from Minnesota's Pop Life

Author Martin Keller, Photography Greg Helgeson, Foreword Bob Mehr

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 1, 2019)

A look back at famous and infamous artists, musicians, and entertainers who came through Minnesota, viewed through stellar photos and engaging stories from two guys who were there on the scene.


In the summer of 1979, while disco was dying and new wave and punk were rising from the underground, two twenty-something guys were thrown together on a new music monthly ignobly called Sweet Potato. One had a Canon camera, the other a thirty-six-pound Royal typewriter. Over the next several years, the two chronicled the Minneapolis scene and the cultural landscape of the Twin Cities, covering some of the most influential artists, musicians, writers, comedians, and entertainers of the past forty years. They profiled legendary musicians from across the globe and across musical genres—Paul and Linda McCartney, Bob Marley, U2, James Brown, John Lee Hooker, Devo, and more—as well as homegrown talents ranging from Dylan and Prince to the Replacements and Hüsker Dü. They covered such disparate writers as William Burroughs and Dr. Seuss, and young, up-and-coming comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Louie Anderson, and Lizz Winstead.​

In Hijinx and Hearsay, writer Martin Keller and photographer Greg Helgeson are at it again, offering a delectable, fun, and fresh perspective through Helgeson's photography (much of it never seen before) and new stories and insights by Keller that shed fascinating light on a singular, influential era in popular culture in Minnesota.

Also of interest:
First Avenue: Minnesota's Mainroom
Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis
Prince: Before the Rain
Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984
I Live Inside: Memoirs of a Babe in Toyland

​MNopedia article: First Avenue & 7th Street Entry

Minnesota History articles: PunkFunkRockPop and Funky Towns

MNHS Collections: PunkFunkRockPop

Author information

Martin Keller is a professional journalist, author, screenwriter, pop culture critic, editor, and columnist. For the past 25 years, he has served as a veteran public relations specialist. Keller covered the arts, business, and cultural affairs for several Twin Cities publications, including Minnesota Monthly, the Star Tribune, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, City Pages, and Twin Cities Reader, and his worked has appeared in such national publications as Rolling Stone, Billboard, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. He is the author of Music Legends: A Rewind on the Minnesota Music Scene and Storms: Tales of Extreme Weather Events in Minnesota.

Expertly working with Canon and Leica cameras for more than 40 years, Greg Helgeson has fervently documented some of the most renowned artists and public figures in a variety of disciplines, from international superstars to local legends. His work has appeared in a range of periodicals, including Rolling Stone, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Village Voice, Du Monde (Paris), Mojo (England), the Star Tribune, City Pages, and Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, as well as in numerous books and on album covers.

Bob Mehr is an award-winning reporter covering music for Memphis’s daily newspaper, the Commercial Appeal. He is also the author of Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements. A New York Times best seller, the book earned the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson award for outstanding musical biography. Selected as book of the year by NPR, Rolling Stone, and Amazon, it was also named one of the “100 Greatest Music Books of All Time” by Billboard.

Reviews and news

TPT's Almanac


MPR News

The Current's Rock and Roll Bookclub

Pioneer Press

Star Tribune

MplsStPaul Magazine

Minnesota Monthly

Minnesota Daily

Southwest Journal

AM950 (30:55 mark)

WATCH: Facebook Live video of book launch at Electric Fetus

Advance Praise:

“Finally, a book that slips behind the Minneapolis Sound and everybody who poured love sexy into it—plus the Twin Cities’ crazy comedy scene, and quite a few stops in between, from Lake Wobegon to Hipsterville! Greg Helgeson’s photos alone make it worth picking up. Throw on some Morris Day and the Time, U2, or get you some Devo crankin’ as you motorvate through Martin Keller’s written adventures from an era that’s as relevant today as it was when your cassettes got jammed in your dash and all that tape unraveled.”
Louie Anderson, three-time Emmy Award–winning comedian, actor, best-selling author, and St. Paul native

“Marty gives us a real insider’s view of why Minnesota has one of the funkiest, most unique and collaborative music scenes in America. Not only was he there, but he can remember it all!”
Bonnie Raitt, ten-time Grammy Award–winning musician

“Martin Keller deserves a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame simply for crowning Prince with the handle “His Royal Badness.” Luckily for us, Keller’s talent far transcends the bestowing of pitch-perfect monikers. In Hijinx and Hearsay, he beautifully bears witness to the magical confluence of people (from international icons to local heroes) and places (from the Twin Cities to rock ’n’ roll heaven) at the time when Flyoverland somehow alchemized into pop cultural Oz. Seen from the scene, written from the heart, and rocking with soul, Keller has produced an instant classic.”
Neal Karlen, former contributing editor for Rolling Stone and author of nine books, including Prince Off the Record

“Like all the great chronicles in the annals of music journalism and criticism, Martin Keller and his trusty photographer Greg Helgeson were there for scenester stories, listening in the moment and capturing the wonderful tales and important details that bring a special time and its music alive. Reading the stories and seeing the photos is like having a beer with old friends, set to a great soundtrack.”
Jim DeRogatis, cohost of the nationally syndicated radio show Sound Opinions and author of Let It Blurt and Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly

“Martin Keller’s well-written stories reveal journalists, too, were experiencing a heyday, a metamorphosis that honored tradition while breakneck tumbling toward the unknown between the late seventies and early nineties. In his incredible personal accounts, Keller gives the sense he knows he is living in a moment, a unique, volatile, and artistic collision course. And instead of turning away, he digs in to find a truth in a time that now seems beyond belief. Maybe he’s really our Virgil, leading us through the nine layers of the Twin Cities’ many scenes, providing a perspective from those on the roller coaster, because he was right there, screaming with us!”
Kevin Kling, playwright, storyteller, and contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered

Hijinx and Hearsay rocks! There, I said it, and I’m proud. Truth be told, in the eighties, I was a patron of the Twin Cities club scene and saw lots of music shows. And like the flush pages of this cool book, I, too, was able to bear witness to some stage magic from the local heavies: Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs, the Replacements, the Wallets. Hell, I’ll even put Curtiss A on this list. This shit was real! And I gotta tell ya, all these years later, I am so blissfully grateful to have gotten to watch it go down, and maybe drink a Grain Belt Premium while I did.”
Joel Hodgson, creator of MST3K (Mystery Science Theater 3000)

“I’ve been connected to Twin Cities entertainment since the earliest days of horse-drawn radio. Writer Martin Keller and photographer Greg Helgeson arrived shortly thereafter and began to chronicle the scene’s explosive international growth across the arts and entertainment realms. This book is a must read, full of fun and in-depth historical insights not just for Minnesotans, but for the world.”
Owen Husney, Prince’s first manager and author of Famous People Who’ve Met Me

“Great stories from a great writer. Such evocative portraits of those flourishing days of comedy and music in the Twin Cities. I just love Martin Keller’s writing.”
Cathy Ladman, comedian, actor, writer, knitter

“Eyewitnesses to myriad local and touring artists over the years, Marty’s words and Greg’s images portray the uncommonly rich Minnesota music scene with an accuracy that can only be achieved by firsthand knowledge. These guys were there, and a deep connection pours off every page.”
Peter Jesperson, cofounder of Twin/Tone Records and former manager of the Replacements

“This book leaks the joy of words and images that skillfully capture counterculture. But what’s it about all this culture you can encounter in Minnesota? As a stand-up satirist, whenever I toured in cities across the country, Minneapolis–St. Paul always had hip audiences. I performed there with Louie Anderson, Lizz Winstead, and others. Dylan was a minimalist wit. When I asked, ‘How come you’re learning Hebrew?’ he replied, ‘I can’t speak it.’ When I mentioned the Holocaust, he responded, ‘I resented it.’ Among his many triumphs, local peace activist Marv Davidov led six hundred protesters in a civil disobedience action. Purple was my favorite color. I took LSD before Prince’s Purple Rain. It deeply remains. And ingesting Ecstasy on my first date with Nancy, I was wearing my purple Sweet Potato T-shirt. We’ve been married for thirty years, and I still wear it.
Paul Krassner, founder of The Realist, godfather of the underground/alternative press, cofounder of the Yippies (Youth International Party), and author of several books, including Zapped by the God of Absurdity

“Proud daughter moment! Get my dad’s book! All the cool stories that no one really believes when I tell them what my dad did! #hijinxandhearsay”
Siri Keller, music teacher and singer

Downtown Minneapolis circa 1981 with Martin Keller on TPT


Bob Marley and the Wailers: Of Black Bibles, Vexed Earth, and Shredded Time
Backstage, Bob begrudgingly posed for Greg amidst a bunch of percussion instruments. He also flirted with Pauline, one of the Schon Productions women minding the backstage area and in charge of catering (although the group ate their own prepared Rasta food, mostly curries). He sang a verse of the Hank Williams classic, “Hey, Good Lookin’” to her with a wide smile, his dreads tucked up under his cap. “Whatcha got cookin’?”

The Replacements: Go Team!
In burgeoning music capitals like the one materializing in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was easy to cheerlead for the Replacements.

U2: Like Hobbits Strayed Too Far from The Shire
They all fit on a queen-sized bed: Bono, the Edge (pre–stocking cap), Larry Mullen, and Adam Clayton. Barely twenty and making their second US tour in April 1981 at First Avenue (then called Sam’s), they looked like Hobbits who had strayed too far from the Shire. While Greg held off from clicking any shots of them in the cramped space, we began talking. Rather, Bono talked mostly. Born with the gift of gab, as they say, and he’s never stopped.

  • 256 pages
  • 150 b&w photos
  • 8 x 10 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341323

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