How R.E.M. and the B-52s made a scene in a farm town called Athens, Georgia.

How R.E.M. and the B-52s Made a Scene in a Georgia College Town

How R.E.M. and the B-52s Made a Scene in a Georgia College Town

Half a century of pop-chart history.
June 29 2018 12:20 PM

Hit Parade: The Deadbeat Club Edition, Part 1

The story of how two very different bands came to define the boundaries of New Wave rock from the college town of Athens, Georgia.

The members of the new wave band the B-52s pose outdoors in front of a lake. From left to right: Fred Schneider (vocals), Kate Pierson (vocals and keyboards), Ricky Wilson (guitar), Keith Strickland (drums), and Cindy Wilson (vocals and guitar). (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images) 1980.

Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Listen to Episode 14 of Slate’s Hit Parade:

Listen to Hit Parade via Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or Google Play.


The B-52s and R.E.M. don’t sound all that much like each other. One group were avatars of kitsch, fusing punk, girl-group and garage rock—even Yoko Ono—into a retro-nuevo style all their own. The other group were mysterious, elliptical, often indecipherable, but they reinvented jangly guitar and classic-rock influences to make a new kind of New Wave. Together, this pair of distinctive bands helped make Athens, Georgia the epicenter of alternative cool in the ’80s and ’90s. In Part 1 of this two-part episode of Hit Parade, we present the story of how the B-52s and R.E.M. created a scene out of a college town—and became the most prominent queer-friendly, gender-fluid bands of their era.