How R.E.M. and the B-52’s became legit hit-makers by the 1990s.

How Did Alternative Bands R.E.M. and the B-52’s Become Top 40 Hit-makers?

How Did Alternative Bands R.E.M. and the B-52’s Become Top 40 Hit-makers?

Half a century of pop-chart history.
July 13 2018 12:50 PM

Hit Parade: The Deadbeat Club Edition, Part 2

How the two leading bands from Athens, Georgia, transformed themselves from college-rockers in the ’80s to hit-makers by the ’90s.

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R.E.M. in 1987.

Chris Carroll/Corbis via Getty Images

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In the second part of our two-part episode about the B-52’s and R.E.M.—the bands that put Athens, Georgia, on the map and helped define new wave rock in the early ’80s—we trace how they transformed themselves from hipsters to hit-makers. One band waited years to graduate from an indie label to the majors. The other almost quit after an AIDS-related tragedy before their pop breakthrough. By the end of the ’80s, their hits—from “Orange Crush” to “Stand,” “Channel Z” to “Love Shack”—brought them squarely into the mainstream, just as “alternative rock” was coming to define a new sound for the ’90s.

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