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.

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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:

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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.