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BRoad-Trip of the Week
Small Georgia town gave world
B52s, R.E.M., isn't finished yet
By Steve Gertz
Daily Arts Writer
ATHENS, Ga. - "There must be
something in the water."
This phrase is often used to explain any
sort of profound cultural phenomenon
that restricts itself to a specific geograph-
ic region. Rather than seeking the deeper
truth, the hidden creative stimuli and
political mechanisms that motivate artistic
expression, people often shrug their
shoulders and conclude that "there must
be something in the water."
Surely this has been said about every-
thing from the Italian Renaissance to the
championed literary movements of 19th
Century Russia. In the past 25 years, a fre-
quent recipient of this sort of speculation
has been Athens, Georgia.
On the surface, Athens hardly seems
like the kind of place that could have been
responsible for the conception of such a
voluminous and inventive rock culture.
After all, it is only a small, seemingly
inconspicuous Southern town that eats its
meals at the local diner and dries its pies
on the windowsill. Perilously hot and
humid and set against the framework of
surrounding farm towns and rural land-
scapes, Athens looks more like the setting
of a William Faulkner novel than a thriv-
ing hotbed of musical activity.
But when wandering closer to the
University of Georgia campus, the magic
makes itself a little more visible. Much
like Ann Arbor, campus streets are lined
with coffeeshops, record stores and
nightspots, providing an apt showcase for
the active youth culture. Still, these are
characteristics shared by pretty much
every other college town on the map. So
what is it that makes Athens so different?
Pop sensation the B52s got the ball
rolling back in the mid-'70s. Fueled by
the potent cocktail of boredom and a will-
ingness to experiment, the B52s' uncom-
promising synthesis of bouffant hairstyles
and kitschy, '60s pop made them a staple
in the local party circuit and an anomaly
to the frat-boy\ ideology of college life.
Existing outside of the normal social con-
straints of Athens, they would play at
friends' houses because there were no real
venues that would cater to their outer-
space brand of eccentricity.
Word spread quickly, however, and
within the span of a couple years the band
had relocated to New York and landed a
top 40 single with their signature "Rock
Lobster." Integrating themselves into the
same art-punk bracket that boasted acts
such as The Talking Heads and The
Ramones, the B52s opened the floodgates
for fellow Athenians to follow suit.
And open is exactly what those flood-
gates did, wide. It seemed that every col-
lege student within an arm's reach of an
electric guitar or drum kit scrambled to
form their own band. Just as the philoso-
phy of the B52s was founded on a disdain
for convention, the new crop of Athens
bands were bent on creating original
sounds, music that was not derivative of
some other genre, but that consisted of its
own unique stylistic blend.
" Acts as varied as Love Tractor, The
Method Actors, Pylon and Oh OK were
among those to first establish a firm
See ATHENS, Page 7B
Wuxtry Records, located in the heart of downtown Athens, Is rich in rock 'n'
roll history. Kate Pierson of the B52s worked there at one time, as did
R.E.M.'s Peter Buck.
"Grace Lee Boggs has made a fundamental difference in keeping alive the
traditions of the struggles forfreedom and democracy."
-Cornel West, Harvard University
Continued from Page lOB
Dexter, and each in his own manner
prepared to give the runner a sound
dressing down for his shocking con-
Yet before either brother could get a
reproving word out, the runner gasped,
"There's a visitor come to Asu City and
she's ..." But the strain of the journey
had been so great that the added stress
of delivering the message killed him on
the spot. With the incomplete sentence
still tumbling from his lips, the runner
fell dead in the dust at the feet of the
Well! this was cause for concern.
After rolling the corpse out of the way,
the Extremes looked at one another and
said, "A visitor? We must see this visi-
tor at once, so that she may pay us the
respect we deserve!" When they real-
ized they had just agreed on a point,
each became very suspicious of the
other, for such mutual agreement could
only mean some new form of legislative
plot; but such was their interest in the
visitor newly come to Asu that they did
not return to their fighting. And so,
Dexter watching Sinister, Sinister
watching Dexter, the two set off for Asu
City to meet the stranger.
They arrived at the capital city after a
long day's journey, and immediately set
about finding this mysterious stranger.
The Extremes did not have to look
very long or hard, for they had
begun to hear tales of the wonderful
woman speaker come to the city
even before they had drawn within
sight of the city itself; and once they
entered they city proper, they merely
had to follow the cheering crowds to
the city square.
And there she was, sitting at her ease
on a hastily erected dais, speaking easi-
ly and pleasantly to the crowds, telling
them of wonders she had seen in her
She was not particularly beautiful. In
fact, she was rather homely, but this
thought never entered the heads of the
Extremes: They were far too busy
seething with rage because not one of
the usually supple-spined citizens were
paying them homage, as was the cus-
tom when the rulers came to the capital
city. They pushed their way brutally
through the crowd, Sinister watching
Dexter, Dexter watching Sinister, until
they stood in front of the stranger. But
instead of demanding that she swear
fealty to one Extreme or the other, the
brothers found themselves inviting the
woman back to their manor, which invi-
tation she readily accepted.
During the return journey, it had
become apparent that the woman was
a sower of discord. She agreed with
some but certainly not all opinions of
Sinister, and with some but not all
opinions of Dexter. When pressed
she refused to alter her beliefs and
align herself entirely with one and
only one of the Extremes. The
Extremes, who prided themselves on
being good hosts, remained cordial
to their guest, making agreeable con-
versation despite the anxiety her
presence caused them.
When she had gone to bed, they
called a summit meeting of themselves,
during which they discussed the
unpleasant events of the day. Imagine
someone having views in common with
two Extremes! The idea fairly drove
them into a panic, and they determined
that a Vote would have to be taken to
decide the fate of the woman so recent-
ly come to Asu.
Yet their were no Voters readily
available; and besides, it was nearly
four in the morning: no one was
awake to make the Vote. But a Vote
had to be taken before sunrise. The
Extremes rushed to the Voting Booth
and appointed themselves Voters.
And just as the sun was creeping
over the horizon, they cast their
Votes, careening down opposite hills
toward each other, smashing heads
together, dying instantly.
And the sun rose in his slow arch
above the scene, and he looked down on
the free land of Asu and he smiled.
- Andrew Mortensen forgets the
moral. Reach him via e-mail at
"BEST OF ANN
COMING TO NE)
WEEKEND, ETC. 1O' I
A Public Lecture & Discussion with
Grace Lee Boggs
Civil Rights Leader, Community
Organizer, and Scholar
THURSDAY, April 1
,I b 4 pm, Hale Auditorium
(at the U of M Business School, Corner of Hill and Tappan)
- Co-founder of Detroit Summer, a multi-
cultural, intergenerational youth program
to rebuild, redefine and re-spirit Detroit
from the ground up.
- 46 years (and counting) of activism for
democracy and freedom.
" Author of Living for Change: An
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