Somewhere amongst the boxes of junk commemorating my misspent youth is an old cassette that helped point me toward my misspent adulthood. If you can believe it, in 1979 KQRS ran radio spots for the legendary Jay's Longhorn Bar. One that caught my ear used the Swinging Blue Jeans' "Hippy Hippy Shake" and touted Minneapolis's own "Hipsters" (or so I thought) and "their unique take on the music of the Kinks, the Who, the Flamin' Groovies and many more...." I taped the ad on my little Panasonic and played it over and over and over.
My ninth-grade Beatles/Mersey- beat-addled brain began concocting elaborate Cavern Club fantasies. Many a dull math class I spent drawing spiral-bound cartoons of my imaginary "Hipsters" onstage, clad in leather waistcoats and skinny ties à la Hamburg, 1962. I flunked out of math, incidentally.
Months later, while perusing a box of newfangled local 45s at the Fridley Northern Lights, I came across a picture sleeve of four burly brutes with the cryptic word "Hypstrz" stamped at the bottom. My heart broke momentarily upon divining this was the very combo I had long imagined to be cheeky, loveable mop-toppers. This crew looked every inch a bunch of grizzled MPD detectives after an overlong Moby's happy hour. And a steady diet of Winchell's doughnuts. But the four-song 7-inch only cost $1.49, so I happily parted with a day or two's lunch money to gratify my curiosity.
Immediately after dropping the needle on the record, I was unexpectedly blown out my bedroom window (just like the guy in those Twisted Sister videos!). This was truly PUNK-ified garage music; a high-speed hurricane of mid-'60s Brit snot and MC5 revolutionary rama lama. My then-abundant hair stood on end hearing Randy Weiss's brain-boggling bass runs and Ernie Batson's pulverizing guitar. It sounded like a meat grinder gone haywire. Brother Bill Batson's diet-pill vocal delivery on "Hey Joe" was somewhere beyond manic.
I bought the Hypstrization LP that followed and was given an extended shock treatment of the same mania. The version of James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy" is still definitive to me--explosive dynamics delivered with steamroller strength. I saw them live as soon as I became legal, my musical mind now blown well and truly to bits.
In 1984 I formed a punky beat group called the Funseekers with Paul Paiement, whom I had met at a Hypstrz gig. We were among many kids our age who are still inspired by what they learned at the Batson Brothers' knee. Little did we know they had planted the seeds of a seemingly never-ending "garage revival." Along with the Chesterfield Kings on the East Coast and the Crawdaddys in San Diego, the Hypstrz were the first to mine a forgotten motherlode of hopelessly obscure 45s dropped worldwide by hapless teen combos, the members of which had long since vanished into real estate sales, drug-treatment centers, fusion bands, who knew.
I spent the following 20 years or more playing in bands offering a bill of goods similar to the Batsons', though never matching their H-bomblike model. Thankfully, my teenage idols offered endless encouragement. Bill rebuilt our crap amplifiers and lent us microphones; his autograph still adorns my bedroom door, applied after he had driven way out to Coon Rapids to deliver said crap amp. I was so proud and still am. I even stole their drummer for several months to record the Funseekers LP.
Randy Weiss, to my ears still the most seriously underrated bassist around, once offered us some unforgettable advice: "Pick your drug and stick with it!" We did, and those Hypstrz records can still fuck you up like nothing else!
This year Bomp Records is reissuing the Hypstrz's live album, Hypstrization, fittingly, on 180-gram vinyl.
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