Twin Cities PBS has been a constant supporter of local music for many years. The Lowertown Line has showcased close to 40 artists over the years and continues to be an exposure resource for artists, big and small. The series is a diverse offering of Minnesota artists, many of whom influenced by our past. Before this new crop of artists sprung up, the 80’s were filled with musical icons out of Minneapolis. Prince, Morris Day and the Time, Hüsker Dü, The Jets, Ipso Facto, and The Replacements are just a few that inspired and influenced our Minneapolis Sound. TPT created a documentary during this influential time, speaking directly to many of these icons. The pervading question was how Minneapolis shaped them and what exactly is “The Minneapolis Sound”.
On April 8th, TPT’s Minnesota Experience is bringing that documentary out of the vault and including some very special additions. Creator Emily Goldberg is back to share some commentary on the experience and how these icons were back then. Bianca Rhodes, daughter of drummer Jellybean from The Time, joins the discussion to share stories from her childhood past. The documentary is filled with early footage of performances and interviews with groups, and how their careers developed from there. Laid out in sections, it transitions back and forth between the original documentary and this valued commentary. Emily, Bianca and host Toussaint give the renewed feature added relevance and perspective on that era. The Minneapolis Sound is still finding outlets through bands even today.
I received an advance copy of the feature, along with a Minnesota ‘nice’ conversation with Daniel Bergin, the producer of the series. Spending 13 years in the music industry, my version of the Minneapolis Sound was a form of funk, new wave, and synth-pop. Synthesizers replaced real horns and were used as features, not like a typical background fill. Most of the time the rhythm was faster and less syncopated than what we’d think of more traditional funk. Electric guitars were clean, then would switch over to a louder, more processed tone for solos. Finally, the drums were treated heavily in compression and sampling. Think of the famous Roland TR-808 drum machine. All of these technical examples were thrown aside when watching this film. As Daniel Bergin shared, the Minneapolis Sound has been defined as many different things.
3″There’s a lot of groups with the Minneapolis Sound, unfortunately (pause) they don’t have that chili sauce or that bacon grease, but they doing good” says Alexander O’Neal.
There are a few reasons Daniel is pulling this out of the vault. First, we’re approaching Prince’s 3 year anniversary of his untimely death later this month. There’s a different tone since his death, more focused with a memorial vibe. We’ve also seen his influence spread over the course of 30 years since the documentary first aired. Second, learning how we got here today and where our musical foundation in Minnesota came from is important. Finally, as we’ve pulled away from the 80’s, there is a deeper appreciation of the era. The theatrical attire, catchy dances, and sense of style is iconic in itself. The Minneapolis Sound affected our culture on a national scale.
The documentary has a lot of special gems in the one hour journey. Jimmy Jam gives us a tour of Flyte Tyme Studios and effectively juggles a Grammy. There’s an awkward interview with Hüsker Dü where you could feel something was off, only to learn they broke up soon after the taping. We learn The Replacements reason for declining an interview. It’s also filled with commentary from Emily Goldberg on her reason for providing the voice-over on the film, which I found fascinating. There’s an important distinction and discussion that host Toussaint Morrison asks about racial divide. Bianca Rhodes provides important feedback and commentary on the “Purple Family” that opens a larger window into that group. Finally there’s a inside look at First Avenue and it’s impact in the Twin Cities. As Daniel shared, there’s much to look forward to when speaking about that venue as we approach its 50th year anniversary. Look for a new documentary about First Avenue in the coming year (hint hint).
The stories of The Jets, Ipso Facto, and The Wallets solidify the depth of our scene, while keeping The Replacements and Prince mysterious. As Bianca states our scene is just like her dad’s name, Jellybean. “It’s just a bunch of us doing a lot of different things, a lot of different flavors, a lot of different colors, but we are all in this beautiful jar called Minnesota.” And that is so much more than a technical definition of the Minneapolis Sound in which I used to think.
There are four opportunities to catch The Minneapolis Sound next week. Tune in April 8th at 9pm on TPT 2 for the first airing, April 9th, 11th, and 12th for the others.
View the trailer here: https://www.tpt.org/minnesota-experience/video/minneapolis-sound-preview/