What follows here is a conjured history of the Athens, Georgia, music scene. It’s a tale of a small southern college town and the run of kids and not-kids through its streets, through space and time. It’s a story of a couple dozen rock-and-rollers and their struggles for fame, some of whom made it, some of whom didn’t. It’s a book-length folktale that I have spun up out of the slush and muck of many gathered half-remembered and misbegotten memories. It’s equal parts cultural anthropology, cosmetic surgery, elegiac memoir, and conspiracy theory: hence its characterization as a conjuration.
The story spans nearly a decade, during which time, by my quick and unofficial calculation, about fifty thousand new students passed through town to attend, haunt, or subvert the University of Georgia. Only a very few of them ever participated in the “scene,” but even those few equal quite a number. Through the years many people showed their faces, sounded their voices, and involved their bodies in the many plots and subplots that roam in the flux of gossip. All of those stories are very interesting but, due to a number of constraints, I have had to neglect them for the more “historically relevant” tales of the few.
Apologies to the disappeared.
To gather the material for this book I interviewed dozens of Athens’ current and erstwhile citizens. The result of that effort was hundreds of hours of oral history. Much of it was useful and insightful; most of it was glorified myth, or vague and confused renditions of overheard stories passed off as eyewitness accounts, the legends repeated so often that the storytellers finally convinced themselves that they were really there. I have taken that stuff and spiked it with my own remembrances of living there from 1977 to 1987. What I ended up with is an overview history of the new music bands that started in Athens, beginning with The B-52’s. In the course of telling that history, I have also tried to recreate the feeling of living in a small hick Georgia college town in those fast and frantic first years after punk.
The result of all this tale-telling is folklore, documented gossip. It’s a yarn like what you’d hear if you sat up late in some Athens kitchen talking with old friends about the past. Some folks might tell the story differently, but this is how I’ve heard it.