When the Walk of Fame was announced a few years back, my immediate reaction was NOPE. Any “of Fame” is inherently exclusive and often does nothing more than to act as a place for people to pat themselves on the back for being so good at picking talented people to feature in the “of Fame.” It is inevitable that someone will get left out, shunned, be underappreciated yadda yadda… How can you accurately measure the impact of a band or artist or organization on a town? Especially some strange creature like Athens where our indie darlings often didn’t last too long outside of Georgia. They’re still important but “of Fame” worthy? Hmmm.
The first class consists of The B-52s, Danger Mouse, Drive-By Truckers, The Elephant 6 Recording Company, Hall Johnson, Neal Pattman, Pylon, R.E.M., Vic Chesnutt and Widespread Panic. Most of these are a surprise to no one at all. These are our big dogs (or Dawgs) that we trot out on every pamphlet, website, and book. And it’s for good reason! Naturally, the suggestions started pouring in under every announcement. Where’s the Glands?! Neutral Milk Hotel! Love Tractor! People who never bothered to read the whole story apparently missed the “first” part of all this. I’ve got my picks for who and what should be next, obviously, but I’m not on the committee so I’ll just have to provide them to y’all when asked.
It took me finally getting to Seattle and New York to understand why in the world we would want something like this. From one point of view, it’s a little cheap and cheesy. Athens has always been a bit too cool for that kind of thing, ya know? Are we gonna have a Michael Stipe street (and can it please be mine)? Danger Mouse Drive? We’ve always been waaaaay to indie and a tiny bit arrogant to do that sort of thing.
But I saw the little Pylon marker on my walk downtown today and felt a little tug in my heart. My favorite band, now gone, lives on in its music, its remaining members, a kickass boxset, but also a little tangible marker in the ground. People will see it. Maybe they’ll look up the band and hear Randy’s guitar ringing in their ears, Vanessa’s voice yelping and screaming, Michael’s bass and Curtis’ beat driving you to dance. Maybe they’ll just walk on by and not notice a thing. But that’s the point of having a Walk of Fame, right?
We lost the Georgia Music Hall of Fame nine years ago. Since then, its contents have mostly gone back to their owners, with some pieces still residing in the deep caverns of the UGA Special Collections building vault. I’ve been fortunate to see all this stuff multiple times since 2011, but it for the most part sits in storage until demand is high enough to display it in the limited floor space available at SCL. Not quite out of sight, out of mind, but close enough. My hopes for a GMHoF building ever coming back into existence have been dashed repeatedly but for the meantime, I can live with a small guitar pick in the cement.
I wrote some years ago about how Athens has a tendency to glorify its past while allowing its future to wither on the vine. I think these days I’d also add that we had been doing a poor job at keeping the past up to date as well. There’s movement happening, thankfully, to digitize and re-release the recordings of old. More photos, more books, more bootleg videos appearing… I’m trying to keep track of it all to hopefully give everything ONE home instead of it being spread all across creation. If we’re to keep the “scene” alive we’ve got a lot of investing in the future to do. But that’s another blog post.
I can live with a little piece of cement. A little piece of loved ones in the ground outside of the Watt. A little piece of music in the air. A little piece of Fame.