Minnesota's Fifty Greatest Hits

The greatest Minnesota-made records of all time

 

The Gestures

Run, Run, Run

Soma single, 1964
The band was from Mankato, the single went to #1 locally and Top 50 nationally in the summer of 1964 (even got a spin on American Bandstand!) and sold over 100,000 copies. Sure, there were bigger hits by local groups of that era, but "Run, Run, Run" was the one for me--an exciting and dynamic arrangement, just the right amount of reverb, great harmonies, fabulous drumming, and a knockout guitar solo. Even the hint of a fake British accent on the word "Baby" was cool. A perfect rock 'n' roll single. --Peter Jesperson

 

The Castaways
Liar, Liar
Soma single, 1965
The Twin Cities' golden era of teenage rock 'n' roll peaked with this spooky and goofy attack on mendacity by these Minneapolis and Richfield high school and college kids. Less than two minutes long, the song, which hit #12 on Billboard in August of '65, cycles over and over through a four-chord change: C, E flat, G minor, F. It's a simple but uncommon progression, later put to good use for the verses of the Rolling Stones' "Cool, Calm, and Collected" (probably a coincidence, but one never knows.) The E flat, G minor, and Jim Donna's organ give the tune its haunted-house effect, which is roundly undermined by lead guitarist Bob Folschow's ridiculous falsetto hook. Bassist Dick Roby handles chief vocal duties; his forlorn delivery is wise both beyond his years and the song's nursery rhymes, and his scream before the guitar solo would go unmatched in Minneapolis music history till Curtiss A, Prince, Paul Westerberg, and Bob Mould made the Twin Cities a wonderland of screamers. --Dylan Hicks

 

T.C. Atlantic
Faces
Turtle single, 1966
"Faces" holds the distinction of being Minnesota's first truly psychedelic record ("Surfin' Bird" notwithstanding). Bristling throughout with mega-distorto keyboard and reverberating raga guitar, T.C. Atlantic predated the Doors by a good 12 months. That said, the Lizard King & Co. never summoned (shaman-ed?) anything as gnarly as this fuzzy blast of prescient 'Nam-era paranoia. Freddy Freeman's doom-laden lyrics suggest four mod swamis too unnerved to leave their St. Paul Park opium den. Or even the plywood-paneled downstairs rec room. T.C. went on to record the first local rock 45 to feature a full orchestra, the epic "20 Years Ago in Speedy's Kitchen." This, however, was their finest hour. --Keith Patterson

 

The Litter
Action Woman
Warick single; also available on Distortions, Warick,1967; and on Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 [boxed set], Rhino, 1998
This single by local punk/pysch/Anglophile pacesetters the Litter was a regional hit, but it failed to make the national charts, or rather the national charts failed to accept it--not too surprising considering how raw and loud and mean it is. Written by producer Warren Kendrick, the song was played and recorded with a pyrotechnic machismo inspired by the Who and the Yardbirds, an aesthetic loudly announced from the top with a feedback blast from guitarist Bill Strandlof. Following that is a whole lot of fuzz, bile, and squall backed by sex-beat clamor. Surely conscientious Lutheran parents were sent into a serious dither. Frontman Denny Waite employs a Jagger-derived snarl to match Kendrick's expression of frustrated, woman-hating concupiscence. Spurned by an allegedly haughty miss, the singer resolves to find an "action woman to love me all the time/A satisfaction woman before I lose my mind." (What he wants, perhaps, is a blow-up doll.) The tune was lifted from obscurity into some slightly less buried echelon of obscurity when it was chosen as the leadoff cut for 1979's Pebbles, a great collection of '60s punk rock inspired by Lenny Kaye's Nuggets. ("Action Woman" was later included on the Nuggets boxed set.) An exemplar of '­60s punk, "Action Woman" still sounds pretty damn nasty today. --Dylan Hicks

 

Crow
Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games with Me)
Amaret single, 1969
If you're skipping from "Action Woman" directly to the Suicide Commandos on this list, you probably dislike this song, with its bleating faux-Chicago horn section (the label's idea; Crow wasn't thrilled) and greasy baby-mama melodrama lyrics ("Sorrow will not change your shameful deed/You will bear someone else's fertile seed"). But few Top 20 rock hits from 1969 had anything as immediately funky as the tandem of Dave "Kink" Middlemist's organ licks--sadly muffled by the horns--and Larry Wiegand's monster-boogie bass, which 30 feet of concrete couldn't muffle. Black Sabbath covered this sans horns (Iommi does Kink's riff on guitar and Geezer's bass completely kills); if it's good enough for Ozzy, it should be good enough for anyone. --Nate Patrin

 

Wanda Davis
Save Me
Project Soul single, 1970; available on Midwest Funk, Jazzman Records, 2004
This 1970 groove single, a cover of the Aretha classic, is in $500 collector demand for a reason: Not only is it a rare recorded piece of pre-Prince Minneapolis funk, but the sound drifts on a unique path up the Mississippi. It's a dirty Southern groove with a massive drumbeat, snaking upward between Missouri and Illinois to catch the electric blues before stopping in the Twin Cities with a voice that--half Dusty Springfield, half Lyn Collins--seems to want nothing more than to find somewhere warm to stay. Like someone's arms. --Nate Patrin

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