Guitarist for the
band unexpectedly passes away on Wednesday.
By Fred Mills
The Amerindie world is in shock and the Athens, GA,
musical community is in mourning today as word gets out about the passing of
Pylon guitarist Randy Bewley. Apparently he was driving his van on Monday when
he suffered a heart attach and his van went off the road and flipped.
Yesterday, he died at the Athens
Center. He was 53. As of
this writing the funeral arrangements have not been announced.
It’s a given, however, that said Athens community will be out in full force
for Bewley’s funeral or memorial. When Bewley and bassist Michael Lachowski assembled
Pylon in early ’79 with drummer Curtis Crowe and singer Vanessa Briscoe, they
quickly vaulted to the forefront of the Athens music scene, peers with the
B-52s as well as up-and-comers like Love Tractor, the Method Actors and a
little ol’ band called R.E.M. Pylon’s edgy brand of thumping post-punk,
dubbed-out funk and wildly danceable pop was one of the era’s signature sounds,
Bewley’s angular, minimalist fretboard squall in particular helping carve an
utterly unique identify for the band. To say that Pylon was an inspiration to
both fans and fellow musicians would be a gross understatement.
Speaking to me in December 2007 for Harp magazine, around the time of the DFA label’s expanded reissue
of Pylon’s 1980 debut Gyrate, Vanessa
Briscoe reflected on her group’s initial tenure and legacy along with their
subsequent reunions, first in 1988 and then again in 2004. “Pylon is the four
of us; it is not one guitarist who used to be in Pylon along with three people
he auditioned and brought in,” she said, affirming the personal and artistic
bond the members shared. “It is these particular four people, so if one of us
didn’t want to do it, it wasn’t going to be Pylon anymore. So… [laughs] we broke up! And we all went on
to our separate lives there for awhile.
“We’ve always been really good friends, we really have. Like any friends, if
you think about it, you’ll ebb and flow like the tide; sometimes you get to see
each other a lot and sometimes not at all. That’s what it’s like, and we’ve all
known each other since we were about 20 years old. That’s a long time! We don’t
reap the financial rewards, but you know, money’s not everything; and we’ve
seen the worst and the best of each other and we’re all still friends.
“These guys are like my brothers.”
This past Monday
evening, Randy Bewley had a heart attack while driving his van on Barber Street in Athens, GA.
He was taken to Athens
Center. Today, our
bandmate and brother passed away at a little before 5 p.m. with his family and
friends at his side. He will be missed, even as we celebrate his life and
creativity. His guitar sound was as special as he was and always will be.
Randy’s guitar work defined not only a generation of sound but Randy himself.
His visual art, painting and photos, combined with his signature sound formed a
loose set of boundaries that helps understand him. His quiet devotion to family
and friends will become a benchmark for those he leaves behind.
R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe is a longtime friend of the Pylon
gang (early on, R.E.M. opened for Pylon, and later, when R.E.M. became stars,
they returned the favor by having Pylon open for them) gave a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying,
“We are so very saddened to hear the news of Randy’s passing. Pylon have always
been an inspired catalyst to R.E.M. and the Athens music and art scene, and beyond.”
And on a personal note, I’ll just add that those times I saw
Pylon perform in the early ‘80s were among some of the most fun shows lodged in
my memory. That’s something anyone who attended a Pylon concert will tell you –
they were so much fun, even the geekiest person in the room couldn’t help but
get up and dance. Plus, the group had an undeniable chemistry, and they exuded
a sleek, sexy charisma impossible to fake. Listening to their records now, I
can say without a doubt that they are stone classics that have stood the test
of time – go listen, now, to some of their signature songs, like the pulsing,
throbbing “Cool” or the droning, yet impossibly poppy, “Crazy.” You’ll see
(hear) what I mean.
BLURT extends out deepest condolences to Bewley’s family, to
his friends, and of course to Pylon.