The suave piano man and the maniacal guitarist were the frontmen. But floppy-haired guitarist Bruce Allen was the heart and rhythm machine of the Suburbs, one of the most creative and finest live Minnesota rock bands of the past 35 years.
Allen not only defined those rhythmic dance grooves that made the 'Burbs such a sensation in clubs and on college campuses in the 1970s and '80s, but he designed the band's iconic logo -- five generic men in a circle. Allen, 54, died Monday night after enduring triple bypass surgery last year and numerous other complications, including symptoms of hemophilia.
Allen had been admitted to Hennepin County Medical Center last week with internal bleeding and organ failure. He was taken off life support around 7:30 p.m. Monday and passed around 9 p.m., his close friend Chris Osgood said.
"Family and friends had time to gather around his bedside," said Osgood, guitarist with the Suicide Commandos and the X-Boys, a side project featuring Allen for the past 20 years.
The Suburbs came together in 1977, five guys from Wayzata, Deephaven, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and New Hope. They became regulars at the Longhorn, Minneapolis' landmark downtown punk club of the 1970s, and recorded "In Combo" and "Credit in Heaven" for Twin/Tone, the pioneering Twin Cities indie label.
The 'Burbs' brainy and bouncy blend of new wave, funk and disco sounded like a blueprint for the modern-rock dance music of the '90s and '00s. The quintet graduated to Mercury Records for 1984's "Love Is the Law" (the title track became a Twin Cities classic) and then shifted to A&M for 1986's "The Suburbs," produced by Prince's drummer Bobby Z.
A wild live band fueled by guitarist/singer Beej Chaney's crazy antics, the Burbs reigned as Minnesota's go-to party band until 1987. They reformed from 1993 to '95 and have since done periodic reunions, last performing in 2006 (without Chaney, who lives in California) at a one-day outdoor festival in St. Paul. -------------------------------------------------------
I am saddened by this. I got the opportunity to meet these guys once, in the most unexpected place possible: my dorm room! Fall of '86, young JBS is starting his freshman year at Moorhead State straight off a life on a dairy farm. My roommate was the pseudo rocker, Cure/Siouxsie & The Banshees/etc. 6 ft 4" complete with Cure hairstyle guy from northern Minneapolis Suburbs whohad been on the band scene for a couple of years in the Twin Cities. The Suburbs were playing on campus sometime that winter. I came back from some friend's party that evening about 1 am and walk into my room, and there was Michael (my roommate) and The Suburbs! HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!! He had known the all for a while and invited them up for a beer (don't tell our RRA) after the show, and they stuck around for another half hour.
Don't forget about Ronnie Keel, who may have been the first to front a hair metal and country band. But Keel was more speed metal than glam I guess. Nonetheless, the example might work. Hey, people's taste in music can grow and mature.