Milestones — April 5, 2010 at 6:10 am

Milestones: R.E.M. turns 30 today; band made live debut April 5, 1980, at St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Athens, Ga.Milestones is a periodic feature marking important album releases, concerts and figures in the history of ’80s college rock.


CONCERT: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Athens, Ga.; April 5, 1980

PERSONNEL: Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar), Mike Mills (bass), Bill Berry (drums)

BACKSTORY: The members of R.E.M. played their first public concert 30 years ago today at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Athens, Ga., as part of a birthday party for Kathleen O’Brien, Berry’s then-girlfriend who had introduced the drummer to Buck. According to “It Crawled From the South,” the band couldn’t settle on a name, so they called themselves Twisted Kites for their debut performance before several hundred friends and Athens townfolk. “It was really fun,” Stipe told author Marcus Gray. “I don’t remember the last half of it.” The band played for about two hours (see possible setlist below), and about one-third of the set was made up of covers (Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen,” Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner,” among others). In “It Crawled From the South,” Berry offered a slightly different take: “We were scared shitless!”

LEGACY: The concert, held at the church where Stipe lived at the time, has become a central part of R.E.M. lore, and remains a landmark in Athens, even if all that’s left of the 139-year-old structure is the steeple (see video below). And since that fabled night, R.E.M. grew first into one of the driving forces of ’80s college rock, then led the full-scale crossover of once-independent acts going mainstream by becoming one of the biggest bands in the world in the 1990s.

See the possible setlist from R.E.M.’s April 5, 1980, concert after the jump…

Possible setlist: R.E.M., St. Mary’s Church, Athens, GA, 4/5/80

1. “I Can’t Control Myself”
2. “God Save The Queen”
3. “Narrator”
4. “Just A Touch”
5. “Baby I”
6. “Action”
7. “Needles And Pins”
8. “Hippy Hippy Shake”
9. “There She Goes Again”
10. “All The Right Friends”
11. “Shakin’ All Over”
12. “Secret Agent Man”
13. “A Girl Like You”
14. “Permanent Vacation”
15. “I Can Only Give You Everything”
16. “Dangerous Times”
17. “Different Girl”
18. “Mystery To Me”
19. “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
20. “Lisa Says”
21. “Nervous Breakdown”
22. “Schéhérazade”

1. “Honky Tonk Women”
2. “One Nation Under A Groove”
3. “Roadrunner”
4. “California Sun”
5. “Gloria”

*Possible setlist assembled by the R.E.M. Timeline




  1. Cool to recall. I got there late because I was next door at the Print Shop finishing some posters for The Last Resort (or was it Tyrone’s?). Everyone was trashed by midnight and the band was sloppy. Later when I was among the first DJs to play the new REM EP on WUOG, we still had no idea how big and great this band was destined to become. BTW, the old church was removed for condos (except the steeple) but The Print Shop never sold out. Go see it at 376 Oconee St. It’s where we printed the first jacket for the B-52s Rock Lobster record… and lots of club posters that now memoralize the greatest period in Athens history.

    • Purple Hayes

      Man, those were some great days’ weren’t they? I remmber Rick the printer very well. He made some photo transparencies for my screen printing business. I had never seem such a HUGE camera before.

      I need to head up to Athens soon to visit the Print shop.


    I love REM for so many reasons! Just another reason why I love the band is their dedication and love for their fans.
    Right now they are allowing the fans to create their own remix of the bands latest single “It Happened Today!”
    check it out on the bands homepage or on the artistdirect website!

  3. I lived in “The Church” during 1978-79 and had a T-Shirt screen printing shop in the Sanctuary part of the church. The first floor bedroom had a sliding panel in the closet that allowed you to go into the sanctuary. There were 4 bedrooms upstairs. Mine was L shaped and was above the stairwell and above the bathroom on the steeple side of the church. Basically, they made a 5 bedroom box styled house INSIDE of the church. Campus girls and city girls would come by just to check the place out. I lived there with Bert, Jay, Rob, and a quiet guy who’s name slips my mind at the moment. Rick the printer lived next door and ran the print shop. We had great neighbors and some terrific times at the church. I wish I had taken more photos. We had people over all of the time as we were in walking distance from campus. I drove a light blue VW bug and on weekends delivered pizza for Dominoes. As I spent 6 years working my way through college, this was one passage that will stick with me forever. I remember Beth, Carole, Little Carol, Carol, Leslie, Lesley, Marsha, Debbie, Donna, Rhonda, MaryAnn, Aiden, and all the beautiful people that made this a terrific place to stay. Glad that REM was able to provide some history to keep this place on the map.

    • Purple Hayes

      Keep having fond memories of my stay at “The Church”. We buried my dog “O.Z” in th eback yeard.
      The “quiet” guy’s name was David. My roomie Rob was a DJ and later station manager at WUOG. I remember we did a “Purple Hayes” promo.
      Doesn’t seem like like 34 years ago at all.

      Now where did I put those photos…..

  4. Purple Hayes, I believe I an the Leslie in your list! Howdy!!!
    Where are those photos???

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