Connected At The Hip: Love Tractor, Swimming Pool Q’s Recall The Athens-Atlanta Music Scene
Note From Pylon Reenactment Society vocalist and Eldredge ATL July Guest Editor Vanessa Briscoe Hay: Memory is an interesting thing. Spaces are compressed while time can be compressed or expanded. You find yourself moving through a city and down a highway that doesn’t exist in the same way anymore, but you can still see what was once there. People who share experiences sometimes remember things in different ways or become convinced that they were there through the repetition of stories being told.
All this month, we’ve turned an eye toward the memories and experiences of the Athens and Atlanta music scene. Maybe you were there. If it happened 10 minutes ago and you thought about it, it is still a memory.
For some of us who were here at different points on the timeline, we remember the days when Atlanta and Athens were more connected at the hip. We remember when being a vegetarian or an artist was a bit more out there than that is now and remember how the culture of those places was woven into the music scene.
We remember the recent past and some of the bands and places that have influenced us. Memory is not a perfect mirror. It’s more like looking through different windows from the same house in which we have all lived in at different times and sharing a few stories. One way to be remembered, a friend once told me, is to write and another way is to be written about. I hope you’re enjoying the stories I’ve had the pleasure of bringing you throughout July. Please feel free to share a memory or photo in the comments section below.
From Love Tractor bassist, guitarist and vocalist Mark Cline:
We Love Tractor, Wheel ‘O Cheese and the fan favorite, F#ck Truck are all alternate monikers for the Athens band Love Tractor. The lineup of the band determines the name. Love Tractor is the recording band that released six albums from 1981 to 2001 — yeah, the band took a vacation in the ’90’s, coming back with 2001’s swan song “The Sky at Night.”
Love Tractor is comprised of Armistead Wellford, Mike Richmond, Mark Cline, Doug Stanley and a host of drummers: Kit Swartz, Bill Berry, Andrew Carter, Tom King and Joe Rowe.
Founded in the spring of 1980, Love Tractor played their first gig at a party held on the grounds of Pylon Park (265 Barber St.) in Athens— a party where David Gamble of The Method Actors drank homemade beer from Vanessa Hay’s shoe. Delicious!
Mike Richmond and Mark Cline met at one of Curtis Crowe’s early 40 Watt loft parties in the late ‘70’s, while Mark and Army, both art students at UGA, were introduced by fellow art student and classmate Michael Stipe. Boredom was the catalyst for forming the band and a shared practice space with the Side Effects and R.E.M., facilitated the song writing process (a practice space filled with other people’s equipment). Thanks, guys!
Mark lived at Pylon Park along with Sam Seawright, Kit Swartz (Side Effects singer/guitarist), Michael Lachowski and Curtis Crowe from (of course) Pylon — Pylon Park was one of the musical hubs on Barber Street, the “street of stars.”
Pylon was always a big brother (and sister) to Love Tractor — they set the standard, we followed.
Love Tractor toured and released albums though out the 80’s and collected many anecdotes, a favorite was when, in the midst of doing an in-store — an event where a band signs autographs at a record store —the store manager told the members that the band Journey had been in the week prior and when queried as to their favorite band, Journey proudly announced Love Tractor. Horror ensued! Now we think it’s pretty cool — Cuz Everything is, Everything is…Cool!
Get ready, Love Tractor will be re-releasing their catalog on vinyl on the Athens indie label HHBTM Records — look for the first two albums this Fall.
From The Swimming Pool Q’s Jeff Calder:
The Swimming Pool Q’s were among the first generation of Georgia’s New Wave bands that included the B-52’s, the Brains, Pylon, Love Tractor and R.E.M. Their first major shows were with the B-52’s and Devo in 1978, and they toured Southeast with the Police in 1979. Their 1981 debut, “The Deep End” appeared on the pioneering Atlanta indie label DB Recs, for which Pylon and Love Tractor also made their first albums.
In the Seventies, I’d been a rock journalist living in Florida. I wrote occasionally for Atlanta’s alternative papers, so I had strong ties to the city when I moved here to start the Swimming Pool Q’s with Bob Elsey. Bob was only 19, but he was already a highly accomplished lead guitar player. Anne Boston was a graphic designer—she did all of our early single and album packages—and she was terrific singer, very charismatic.
Our first drummer was Robert Schmid, who has been our bass player since 2011. He was in Cruis-O-Matic when they opened the big Sex Pistols show in Atlanta—a huge media event in 1978—so naturally Bob and I had to audition for Robert. We played him our demo tape of “Rat Bait” over the air on WRAS-FM. He refused to play the song at first but joined the band anyway.
Bill Burton has been the Q’s drummer since 1982. He immediately focused everything we had been trying to do, so he was a major force behind the broader interest we started to receive, like from record labels. Sometimes I have to forget how good Billy is, because it freaks me out too much. His playing has great feeling, and he has an instant recall of the most obscure things we’ve ever done.
In 1984, The Q’s signed with A & M Records, delivering two acclaimed albums, “The Swimming Pool Q’s” and “Blue Tomorrow” and supporting Lou Reed on his “New Sensations” comeback tour. (The deluxe re-release of their A&M catalog received “Top Ten Best of 2013 Reissue” in Rolling Stone.)
“World War Two Point Five” followed in 1989, then, in 2003, the Q’s produced their magnum opus, “Royal Academy of Reality,” over 10 years in the making.
We’ll celebrate our 40th Anniversary in 2018. We’ve been talking about a full-length concert performance of the “Royal Academy,” with additional musicians, though it’s a daunting prospect. I’ve also begun sorting through our archive of shows, dating back to the beginning of the band, for a live box set—at least I finally got my labeler working, which is a step in the right direction. We have a bunch of new material recorded, though not quite enough for a proper album yet. It’s a giant rigmarole, but we’ll figure something out. We rehearse often, still love playing, and get along pretty well. Everyone in the band is really funny. What more can you ask for?
F#ck Truck, The Swimming Pool Q’s and Pylon Reenactment Society will gather together to play fan favorites from their catalogs and help celebrate the long-awaited release of the double LP “Pylon Live” Friday night at The Earl in Atlanta and Saturday night at The 40 Watt in Athens. Get there early for a screening of the rare but wonderful “Pylon Live At The Mad Hatter” shot in 1983. Grab your tickets for Atlanta here and your Athens tickets here.
Richard L. Eldredge is the founder and editor in chief of Eldredge ATL. As a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Atlanta magazine, he has covered Atlanta since 1990.
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