A Heckler Stirs Up R.E.M. During Fabled 1985 Gig

R.E.M. / The Go! Team / Jlin (with Robert Dean Lurie)

There's much to learn about R.E.M.'s early years. Though there have been many books about them in the past, there has never been a biography like this. It takes you back to their roots in Athens, Georgia, in the 1980s and shines a light on the local bands who boosted them in the early days. Surrounded by a thriving music scene and pioneering groups like Pylon, the B-52s, and Love Tractor, R.E.M. were seen as a pretty average band at first. From Michael Stipe's first performance at a high school battle of the bands, to Bill Berry always wanting to be a farmer, there's stuff in this book that even the biggest fans won't have heard about. Outside of R.E.M., Stipe was always interested in experimental music and Begin the Begin also delves into his many side projects. In 1981, he played solo under the name 1066 Gaggle O' Sound, with looped dub sounds. A very well written and detailed account of one of America's biggest college rock bands.  - Alfie Taylor

R.E.M. were always a more interesting proposition than their later career chart success might suggest, and for many fans, the Athens, Georgia band were a portal into everything from post-punk and psychedelia to surrealism and folk art. Robert Dean Lurie's Begin the Begin is a timely contribution to the literature on R.E.M., tracing their rise from student party band to the cusp of major label stardom.  - Stewart Smith (read the complete review in the print edition)

R.E.M. in the USA

Listen to "Robert Dean Lurie Releases Begin The Begin REM's Early Years" on Spreaker.

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.

Reviewed by Amanda Westfall, Emmet O’Neal P.L., Mountain Brook, AL , Jun 06, 2019

Collapse Into R.E.M.

Begin the Begin: R.E.M.'s Early Years Book Review

Begin the Begin: R.E.M.'s Early Years

Begin the Begin: R.E.M.'s Early Years


Robert Dean Lurie's books on Goodreads