Soul Asylum

Soul Asylum posterSoul Asylum emerged from the punk scene that filled Minneapolis popular music in the 1980s. The band incorporated folk, funk, and country influences into their sound. Minneapolis friends Dan Murphy and Karl Mueller decided in the summer of 1981 to start a rock band, with Murphy playing lead guitar and Mueller playing bass guitar, and Dave Pirner on drums. They formed a three-piece group under the name Loud Fast Rules, playing in garages, at parties, and eventually in local clubs and bars such as First Avenue. Two years later Grant Young joined the group and took over the drums and Pirner switched to rhythm guitar. The group became known as a top live band not only locally but eventually throughout the country.

Soul Asylum first signed with Minneapolis's Twin Tone Records in 1984. With some small hits under their belt they then set their creative sights higher, and the band signed with major label A&M in 1987. That partnership was more frustrating than fruitful for the band and they left the label and their contract, costing them $200,000, to move on. Soul Asylum reached a worldwide audience through their recording contract with Columbia Records.

After ten years together as a band, relentlessly touring and struggling for financial success, their critically-acclaimed album Grave Dancers Union finally launched Soul Asylum into superstardom. The album went triple platinum. The gripping song "Runaway Train" won lead singer Dave Pirner a Grammy as "Best Rock Song of the Year" in 1994 and the groundbreaking video, with its intense messages, became one of the most successful music videos of its time. In 1993 the band played at the President Bill Clinton's first inaugural ball and at various social movement benefits. Soul Asylum also contributed music to many films, including Clerks.

Bassist Karl Mueller succumbed to throat cancer and died on June 17, 2005.


  • Soul Asylum, by Danny Alexander; produced by Dave Marsh.
    Discography included on page 128.
    New York: Boulevard Books, 1996.
    MHS call number: ML 421 .S68 A8 1996.
  • "Soul Survivors," by Tom Beaujour; photography by Silvia Otte.
    In Guitar World, vol. 15, no. 8 (Aug. 1995): pp. 42-3, 45-6, 54, 56, 58, 60.
    MHS call number: ML 421 .S68 B42 1995.
  • "Soul Asylum," by Chris Mundy; [photographs by Mark Seliger].
    Title on cover: "Soul Asylum: Platinum Punks."
    In Rolling Stone, issue 662 (Aug. 5, 1993): pp. 38-43, 79.
    MHS call number: FOLIO ML 421 .S68 M86 1993.
  • "Sonic Reducer: Soul Asylum Guitarist Dan Murphy Assesses His Band's Rocky Recording Career with Disarming Candor," by Tom Beaujour.
    In Guitar World vol. 15, no. 8 (Aug. 1995): pp. 49, 52.
    MHS call number: ML 421 .S68 B42 1995.


  • Soul Asylum Sound Recording Collection.
    This collection documents the musical output of the Minneapolis-based rock group "Soul Asylum." It includes sound recordings produced for general distribution, promotional and demo releases, samplers, and foreign releases.
    MHS call number: III.46 (An inventory is available that includes recording title, format, record company and date; filed in the blue Collections Container List Notebooks in the Library). The collection includes the band's more recent recordings, including:
    • Soul Asylum and the Horse They Rode In On (1990)
    • Grave Dancers Union (1992)
    • Black Gold (1993)
    • Runaway Train (1993)
    • Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995)
    • Candy From a Stranger (1998)
  • Barefoot & Pregnant: A Compilation.
    Music of Minneapolis bands from 1981-82, including Loud Fast Rules/AKA Soul Asylum. Originally released in 1982 by Reflex Records.
    Minneapolis: Garage D'or Records, [1998].
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #319-B.
  • Grave Dancers Union.
    "All songs written by David Pirner."
    New York: Columbia, 1992.
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #258-B.
  • Kitten: A Compilation.
    Music from alternative rock and punk bands of Minneapolis, including Proud Crass Fools/AKA Loud Fast Rules/AKA Soul Asylum. Recorded at Goofy's Upper Deck in Minneapolis, Oct. 8-9, 1982. Originally released in 1982 by Reflex Records.
    Minneapolis: Garage D'or Records, [1999].
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #320-B.
  • Long Way Home; Tied to the Tracks.
    Minneapolis: Twin Tone Records, 1985.
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #21-B.
  • Made to be Broken.
    Minneapolis: Garage Twin Tone Records, 1986.
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #224-B.
  • Minnesota Modern Rock: The Pachyderm Sessions.
    Music includes "Misery," by Dave Pirner, recorded live in St. Paul on August 17, 1995.
    [Cannon Falls, Minn.]: Pachyderm Records, 1995.
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #451-B.
  • Say What You Will.
    Minneapolis: Twin Tone Records, [1984?].
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #223-B.
  • Shuffle This.
    Music includes "Painkiller," by Soul Asylum.
    [Minnesota?]: Mohog Records, [1997?].
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #334-B.
  • Time's Incinerator.
    Minneapolis: Twin Tone Records, 1986.
    MHS call number: Audiotape #85.
  • While You Were Out.
    Minneapolis: Twin Tone Records, 1986.
    MHS call number: Sound Disc #225-B.


  • Soul Asylum Band Records.
    This manuscript collection, 1981-1999, includes contracts, correspondence, financial records, newspaper and magazine clippings, posters, handbills, promotional materials, memorabilia, photographs, and ephemera generated by the Minneapolis-based rock group Soul Asylum and its tour company, Volume Transport. The collection includes correspondence and contracts from record labels Twin/Tone Records, A&M Records, Columbia Records, Inc., and Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.
    MHS call number: See the green "Alpha" Manuscripts Notebooks for more details and locator numbers (there 6 boxes plus 1 oversize folder), or use an electronic version of the inventory.
  • Newspapers that may be useful for this topic:
    • Minneapolis Star-Tribune
    • St. Paul Pioneer Press
  • Visual Resources Database subjects that may be useful for this topic:
  • Soul Asylum .
    Ephemera from the Minnesota Historical Society's objects collection.
  • Check the library catalog for other materials.