Begin the Begin: R.E.M.’s Early Years

Verse Chorus. May 2019. 288p. photos. notes. ISBN 9781891241680. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9781891241697. MUSIC
Described by some as the South’s Greenwich Village, the tree-lined college town of Athens, GA, has produced influential alternative rock bands including the B-52s, Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, and, most famously, R.E.M. Lurie (No Certainty Attached) has written the definitive biography of R.E.M.’s early years, from its formation in a converted church in 1980 to its last independent label release, 1987’s Document. Although Lurie didn’t interview group members for the book (quotes are taken from past interviews), he presents a valuable record of the band’s Athens tenure by seeking local sources untapped by most biographers, such as historian William Orten Carlton and scenesters Paul Butchart and Keith Joyner.
VERDICT Lurie’s investigation of R.E.M.’s beginnings challenges established myths about the group that will interest fans, and provides a valuable history of Athens’s arts scene in the early 1980s, when R.E.M shared the spotlight with bands such as Pylon, Side Effects, and Love Tractor.

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