Premiere: R.E.M. at Atlanta’s 688 Club, February 1981 — watch rare 40-minute set

In February 1981, a full 18 months before releasing their debut Chronic Town EP, R.E.M. played three known concerts, including a pair in Atlanta opening for Joe “King” Carrasco at the 688 Club. Little of this period has been seen on video all these years later, but Slicing Up Eyeballs is thrilled to be able to premiere — courtesy of Wuxtry Records in Athens, Ga. — this 40-minute set filmed at one of those Atlanta dates.

The management of Wuxtry — where Peter Buck famously worked and met Michael Stipe — is putting some of the store’s long-held and uncirculated early-’80s video of R.E.M. and other classic Athens bands such as Pylon onto YouTube, beginning with this 13-song set that was recorded on videotape either on Feb. 20 or 21, 1981 (it’s difficult to tell which because, without bootlegs circulating, those shows’ setlists hadn’t been preserved).

As you can see, this footage — some of which was screened by Wuxtry’s owners at an Athens Historical Society event five years ago — shows the nascent band tearing through future classics (“Radio Free Europe,” “Gardening at Night”), covers (“Rave On”) and songs that ultimately would fall by the wayside (“Narrator,” “Dangerous Times”). It’s a thrilling snapshot of the band’s earliest era, and Stipe, in particular, is a dervish onstage.

Check out the full 40-minute set above; the 13-song setlist is reproduced below.

 

Setlist: R.E.M., 688 Club, Atlanta, GA; Feb. 20 or 21, 1981 *

1. “Rave On” (Partial)
2. “Burning Down”
3. “Dangerous Times”
4. “I Don’t Want You Anymore”
5. “Get on Their Way”
6. “Different Girl”
7. “Permanent Vacation”
8. “White Tornado”
9. “Narrator”
10. “Wind Out”
11. “Gardening at Night”
12. “Mystery to Me”
13. “Radio Free Europe”

* Opening for Joe “King” Carrasco

 

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26 Comments

  • I’ll eventually deconstruct this like the Zapruder film, but am already incredibly fascinated less than 20 minutes in. From “Different Girl” turning into “Different Crowd” to the fascination by the band of Peter’s wireless setup, it’s awesome to see these early days.

     
  • Vince

    FYI, song 4 is actually “All the Right Friends”. The set list labels it as “I Don’t Want You Anymore”.

     
  • Mark I.

    Audio quality is a bit low but quite clear when turned up; probably a direct soundboard mix.

     
  • kevin

    nice piece of the mythology.

     
  • Sounds like “Get on Their Way” became “What If We Give It Away?” with better lyrics.

     
    • Eric Scharer

      Totally!! Crazy how they could dig that up and do such a thing 5 years later.

       
  • Exidor

    I love ‘Mystery To Me’ so much.

     
  • lotus

    all the pieces were clearly in place, performance wise. the only thing left was to develop their songwriting chops –- and history tells us where that went too. America’s Best Band, ever.

     
  • Love how Bill Berry was always dissing himself as a drummer. Watch Permanent Vacation!! And almost every other song between ’81 – ’86. After that, the drumming got a little less creative.

     
  • Keith

    A great piece of history. Loved Get on their way and I dont want you anymore. Gardening at Night is flawless – a brilliant version of the song. RFE is cool too

     
  • AtTheRiv

    Wasn’t this footage briefly sampled in one of the early videos? I want to say maybe it was the unreleased cut of “Radio Free Europe.” But maybe it was “Gardening.”

     
  • russell

    What an excellent video…

     
  • Fantastic!

     
  • bibulb

    [goggle] R.E.M., opening for JOE KING? DAMN. That’d have been something to see.

     
  • D.Loring

    Living in Athens during those early magical years of the infamous music scene was a gift. I was probably at this show. Love seeing Michael dance like he used to – so much fun.

     
    • kevin

      Yes i lived in Athens too then. Just a magical time. The Tyrone’s shows were incredible.

       
  • Chris

    I’ve been waiting since `84 or so to see this.

    Thanks!!

     
  • Marty Huntoon

    I remember stopping by 688 Club and saw a band called REM. Not sure if this video is of that that evening. A few years later I found myself on the road with these guys. Some of the best folks I’ve had the privilege to work with. Thanks for posting this amazing, electrifying set. Brings back great memories!!!!

     
  • kevin

    wow!!!!! I was at this show. This is just amazing!!

     
  • Kevin McG

    Thanks to Wuxtry and Slicing Up Eyeballs. I’m glad the lighting in the club favored Bill so that he got more screen time than one might expect.

     
  • Debbie Gilbert

    Wow! This footage is priceless. I have lots of audio bootlegs from those early shows, but I never thought I’d have the chance to watch a gig — and not just a snippet, but the entire set. You can already see the chemistry between the band members. And Michael, who had just turned 21, has such stage presence. Thanks for this!

     
  • dennis

    This is the one of the greatest concerts I have ever witnessed.

     
  • Alison Beeson-Harris

    I was 23 in ’81, I was there that night at 688. Someone spilled their drink on my vintage fuscia satin ‘Eve Saint Laurant’ double breasted coat, nothing under it but thigh-hi stockings, and a pair of hi-heeled ankle boots, I was heart broken! { Wah wah I hear you!) King Carrusco I had seen around town, fun party band. “REM” however was another up & coming from Athens. Little did anyone know, turned out to be this mecca for new and original artists that inspired and rocked a whole new generation.
    Michael had a little sexy thing going on there @ 21, you know, he had presence. I remember liking a great deal of their music over the years. I think I was pretty fortunate to have experienced that big night of theirs @ the infamous “688″ Club.

     
    • Michael Pruett

      ALICE!!!! Where in the HELL are you. Why wont you call me? I don’t understand?!?!?!
      I just happened to find this link with your name in it.
      Will you PLEASE call me? WTF is going on?
      727-398-2004

       
  • Joe Nathan

    Anyone have any idea why this footage has since been removed from YouTube? From what I understand, it appeared to be completely authorized, at least from Dan Wall’s perspective. There also seemed to be the promise of more footage from his archives, including the rarely seen Wuxtry footage. Baffling.

     
 

 

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