March 1986: Hüsker Dü Make It to the Majors on 'Candy Apple Grey'

Hüsker Dü in 1987
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Paul Natkin/WireImage

On March 3, 1986, Hüsker Dü released Candy Apple Grey, their fifth album and first for a major label. If Warner Brothers had gotten their way, however, it would’ve been their second LP for the label.

After releasing their first few albums through indie label SST Records and touring them around the country, Hüsker Dü had built up a considerable following, substantial enough to have captured the attention of Warner Brothers. In turn, the label offered the band a deal, and despite the supposed stigma of leaving the indie life behind in favor of the corporate suits, Bob Mould, Grant Hart, and Greg Norton saw an opportunity to spread their music to a larger audience, a situation which was proving particularly important at a time when SST were occasionally guilty of being unable to produce copies of their albums at promotional events. The icing on the cake, though, was an assurance from Warner Brothers that Hüsker Dü would retain complete creative control.

What’s interesting about the band’s major-label deal was that Warner Brothers didn’t sign them with a presumption that they were going to suddenly start shifting platinum units. They did so because they were aware of how Hüsker Dü had built a fan base for themselves by being road warriors, so if they could maintain a low overheard, their chances of turning a profit were pretty strong. Also interesting - and, yes, this is what we were hinting about in the opening paragraph - is the fact that Warner Brothers had originally pitched the idea of releasing Hüsker Dü’s fourth album, Flip Your Wig, as their major-label debut, but the band decided to let SST do the honors instead.

In the end, Candy Apple Grey did end up setting chart records for Hüsker Dü, which is to say that they’d never had one of their albums chart before, whereas this one made it onto the Billboard 200. Granted, it never made it beyond No. 140, but the fact that it charted at all...for Hüsker Dü, that was a major accomplishment and one to be applauded.

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