Sunday, April 20, 2008

Those Jangly 80s, Vol 8: Southeast Edition

The Southeastern United States was the epicenter of jangly 80s music, in particular Georgia and North Carolina. Here are some of my favorites from the great Southeast.


The grandfathers of jangly 80's rock, R.E.M. got their start on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens. Their first single was released on the independent Hib-Tone label in 1981. It included two songs that were re-recorded for release two years later on their Murmur LP. Here are the original Hib-Tone versions:

Side A
R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe (1981 Hib-Tone version)
Side B
R.E.M. – Sitting Still (1981 Hib-Tone version)
(buy album)

One of my favorite R.E.M. releases was their first EP called Chronic Town from 1982. R.E.M. really hasn't done much for me over the last twenty years, but their early stuff was some of the most original sounding pop music ever, inspiring countless imitators and giving a major boost to the 1980's jangle rock era. This song really captures their early sound:

R.E.M. – Carnival Of Sorts (Box Cars) (buy album).

Here's a live version of a song off R.E.M.'s first LP Murmur (1983) that starts off with one of the better jangle-rock riffs:

R.E.M. – Talk About The Passion (Live) (Get the whole show here).

Here's a live version of one R.E.M.'s twangiest songs. The studio version comes from my no. 1 favorite R.E.M. ablum, 1984's Reckoning.

R.E.M. – (Don't Go Back To) Rockville (Live).

I didn't get around to seeing R.E.M. live until the Fables of the Reconstruction tour in 1985. My high school buddy Eric Toennies slept through most of the show at Detroit's Fox Theatre, but I thought it was pretty good. The opening band was The Replacements, who were very drunk. In this next song, which features another great jangle-rock riff, Michael Stipe explains that the power lines have floaters so the airplanes won't get snagged:

R.E.M. – Driver 8 (buy album).

Another of the many great Athens bands was Pylon. They were a big inspiration to R.E.M. and they had a killer bass sound. Their first album, Gyrate, plus some extra songs, has just been re-released and comes highly recommended:

Pylon – Feast On My Heart (buy album).

Finally, my personal favorite jangly 80s band, Guadalcanal Diary, hailed from a suburb of Atlanta. They've already been featured in this space.


The other great Southern alternative rock scene during the 1980's was located in North Carolina. The first North Carolina band that comes to mind are The dB's, who I've already blogged about.

Winston-Salem's Mitch Easter was the producer of R.E.M.'s first Hib-Tone single and the Chronic Town EP and Murmur. He also produced Chris Stamey, The Windbreakers, and Game Theory. Most importantly, Mitch Easter was the front man for the great jangle-rock band Let's Active. Here are a couple of my favorite Let's Active songs:

Let's Active – Every Word Means No (buy album).
Let's Active – Fell (buy album).

Don Dixon was Mitch Easter's co-producer on a number of projects. As a performer he recorded one of my alltime favorite off-beat eighties "hits" (and one of the greatest pop songs with an insect theme):

Don Dixon – Praying Mantis (buy album).

Marti Jones released a few nice adult-alternative jangly albums in the 1980s. My favorite was 1985's Unsophisticated Time, produced by husband Don Dixon:

Marti Jones – Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)
Marti Jones – Follow You All Over The World
(out of print).

One of the more interesting 1980's bands was Fetchin' Bones, whose funky rock style kind of anticipated the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (without the mega success).

Fetchin' Bones – Things Are Happening (out of print).
Fetchin' Bones – I Dig You (out of print).


Let's finish off this post with the Mississippi-based power pop band The Windbreakers. This has always been one of my favoite jangly 80s songs. It comes from their Easter/Dixon produced 1985 album called Terminal:

The Windbreakers – All That Stuff (buy album).

I know I've left a lot of great Southeastern jangly rock bands out of this post, but this isn't supposed to be my full time job. So if you have any other favorites, list them in the comment section. Or better yet, send along an mp3 for all to hear.


Abby said...

Oh, I love it! I have an alert set for people sharing anything to do with Fetchin' Bones, but I love this whole post. You've just shared my adolescence with me. Thanks. Good on ya, etc!

Jim said...

Great post! I'm a huge Don Dixon, Let's Active and Windbreakers fan. Thanks for linking to the Time Machine compilation!

Don Dixon has a new album coming out soon with the JumpRabbits as well as one with Marti Jones.

Cristophe said...

I'm french and i'm triying to write english...
I was in college when I discovered the first R.E.M., and I have forgotten Let's active ! Thanks !

Anonymous said...

Always been a big fan of praying mantis and its motown sound regardless of where he is from!

Matt said...

Holy wow! did you just send me back in time.
Thanks for the Marti Jones songs... I haven't heard her, or even really thought of her since about '92, when I was dating this girl... About all she listened to was MJ.
Memories. Flooding. Back.

fantom said...

Some rare Let's Active for your perusal...,