Begin the Begin: R.E.M.’S Early Years by Robert Dean Lurie:
It’s a toss-up as to which of the following factors was more transformative in the lives of Mike Mills and Bill Berry: their newfound friendship with the well-connected Ian Copeland or the record collection he had brought with him. It’s probably not true that Ian single-handedly introduced the city of Macon to punk rock, but he does seem to have been the first person to turn Bill and Mike on to the new sound, exposing them to such bands as the Damned, the Ramones, the Dead Boys, Chelsea, and the Sex Pistols. Mills credits this adrenaline shot of raw rock ‘n’ roll with inspiring in him a renewed interest in playing. “We would play along to the Ramones’ first record,” he recalled later. “And the first Police single, which was ‘Fall Out’ and ‘Nothing Achieving’: That was huge. That was the sort of stuff that got us playing again.”
Bill and Mike were essentially hearing this stuff in a vacuum. Outside of Ian’s apartment, there was no punk subculture in Macon. There were no clubs where the music could be heard live. And any fashion aesthetic had to be gleaned solely from the album covers. Thus they missed out on much of UK punk’s Cultural Revolution-style emphasis on demolishing the past and rebuilding from scratch. They either missed or disregarded the Clash’s declaration of “No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones in 1977!” For these two, the lean, hard-charging sound of this first wave of punk was simply an exciting new chapter in the ongoing narrative of popular music. Mike still loved Harry Nilsson and Bill still loved Motown. Punk for them functioned as a renewal rather than any kind of ground zero.
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