Robert Dean Lurie’s new book, Begin the Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years, is a wonderful look back at the band’s early career pre-1987, as well as a reminder of just how vibrant the Athens, GA, music scene was during the same period.
This isn’t the first book written about R.E.M.’s early career and selfishly speaking, I’m ready for an in-depth look at their career post I.R.S. Records that spends more time on their years with Warner Bros and eventual break up.
Until that book arrives, I enjoyed reading Begin the Begin as Lurie does an excellent job recalling all of the great bands that existed during that period of time that I’ve forgotten about. Bands like Pylon and the B-52’s are often in my musical playlists so those come as no surprise. What I enjoyed the most was rediscovering the great music by artists that co-existed in the Georgia and North Carolina scenes, bands like Love Tractor, Oh-OK, Sneakers, Chris Stamey, etc.
Below are some of the bands whose records I’ve purchased after reading Lurie’s book:
Oh-OK – featuring vocals by Linda Stipe (Micheal’s sister), these fun pop songs remind me of an early Le Tigre. The band was later joined by a young Matthew Sweet, new to the Athens scene at that time.
Love Tractor’s debut release is a wonderful instrumental album full of jangly pop songs that, at times, makes you want to get up and dance. Subsequent albums would begin to include vocals by the band.
Lurie’s book introduces us to Mitch Easter, R.E.M.’s producer for Chronic Town and more, all produced at his Drive-In studio in North Carolina. He and his friend, Chris Stamey, released this fun 7 inch below as The Sneakers:
Mitch also started a band called Let’s Active, and recorded this pop gem below:
And while I’m thinking of Mitch’s projects, I try to not forget about Chris Stamey’s solo releases following the disbanding of the DB’s:
The above songs are a just sample of the rabbit hole Lurie’s book led me down. I imagine it will differ for others who may choose to focus more solely on the Athens scene. But it’s hard to image either scene existing without the other.
Be sure to pick up Begin the Begin if you’re an R.E.M. fan. I’m going to follow it up by reading Party Out of Bounds next!