Ambitious Summer Reading List: Petal Pusher By Laurie Lindeen

Much like Don’t Mind If I Do, George Hamilton’s autobiography which I read as part of this summer’s Ambitious Summer Reading List, Laurie Lindeen’s book Petal Pusher: A Rock And Roll Cinderella Story was purchased on a whim at Building 19. I had never heard of Lindeen or her early 90s band Zuzu’s Petals, but I’m a sucker for cheap books about things I like like rock and roll.

This turned out to be a very interesting experience because I really had no idea where the story was going. Was Zuzu’s Petals a band that had a huge hit in the grunge-y 90s when I wasn’t really paying attention to music yet? At least with Hamilton, I knew that he was currently famous and had been for quite a while, with Lindeen, I really had no idea. I made sure not to look her up at all either so the whole experience was an unknown ride. As it turns out neither Lindeen or her band have Wiki pages, which doesn’t seem right when there’s a whole book’s worth of material out there.

Lindeen was a music loving party girl floating through college when she discovered she had MS. The affliction didn’t define her, but it did focus her love of music into something she desperately wanted to do in a very public way. It helped that she was in the growing Minneapolis club scene the spawned bands like The Replacements, The Jayhawks and Soul Asylum.

The book consists of her struggles to get the band together, tame her instruments (guitar and vocals), write songs and tour like motherfuggin’ champions. I’ve never read a book like this about a lesser known band, but it is amazing how much crap these women went through just to be a touring band. I’ve heard these things are fairly common, including getting royally screwed on tours (their first one to England sounds particularly depressing) and dealing with everyone from super fans to stalkers on the road. These stories make up a good chunk of the book interspersed with childhood ones that relate back to what she’s feeling in the “present” of the 90s band days.

I really enjoyed this book. Lindeen has one helluva knack for words and I can relate to her insecurities when it comes to chasing after a dream that seems ridiculous to most. I also appreciate how honest (sometimes tear-jerkingly so) she can be when talking about her life, how she viewed the world then and presenting all that in a way that makes you realize she maybe wasn’t thinking right to begin with.

I did have a problem, though and that’s with the ending. After all these tales of success and failure and the emotional problems that came from them, it just ends. She’s at her younger sister’s wedding and casually mentions that she dissolved the band four months prior. Really? That’s it? That’s all you’re going to give us? I know you’re supposed to leave your audience wanting more, but as I put the book down I was left wide-eyed, like the last few minutes of the movie got cut off because of a scratched DVD or lack of a final reel. I also hoped for a little bit more about what she’s up to today (or at least what she was up to in 2007 when the book was published), but all we get are one sentence explanations of where she and her bandmates are now. We know their cycles matched up and the details of their arrest, but we don’t know how the band broke up or how they took it? That just doesn’t seem right.

Even so, Petal Pushers was a fascinating look at a world I’m not even sure exists anymore or at least not in the same way as it did in the early 90s. I appreciate both Lindeen’s drive to create as well as her decision to refocus herself to other outlets. The whole art-making for a living thing can be tough because you’re putting yourself out there and allowing other people to critique it, meaning they’re critiquing you. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone, but there are certainly rewards for trying, including this wonderful artifact.

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