Pylon's Randy Bewley: R.I.P.

"Randy who?" I can't blame you for asking. Randy Bewley was the guitarist for the legendary Georgia band Pylon. In the photo above, that's Randy to the left, playing at Hurrah's in 1979.

Pylon? "Legendary"? Yes, to wit:

"To me, Pylon was the best band to ever come out of Athens. It still is." That's a comment yesterday from Fred Schneider of the B-52's.

"Pylon have always been an inspired catalyst to R.E.M. and the Athens music-and-art scene, and beyond. Randy's guitar playing and attitude were intensely unique, and his influence integral and profound. We are so very saddened to hear the news of Randy's passing. He will be greatly missed." That's a statement yesterday from Michael Stipe.

And as Schneider added: "I'm in complete shock."

As are all of us Pylon fans, after hearing the news that Randy died on Wednesday at the age of 53. Two days earlier, he had suffered a heart attack while driving in Athens; his van went off the road and tipped over. It's unclear at this time whether the sole cause of death was heart-related, or whether the van accident contributed to it. But according to a Wikipedia entry, he was taken to Athens Regional Medical Center on Monday, where he lapsed into a coma. Then, yesterday, he was taken off life support at the hospital's cardiac intensive-care unit. One of his bandmates, singer Vanessa Hay, is a nurse at the hospital.

Why should we care?

Pylon-Memorial-Hall-4002 Pylon-1 We should care because Randy's guitar playing - a marvelous combination of clucking and coloring - was truly extraordinary. With bassist Michael Lachowski and drummer Curtis Crowe pile-driving the inescapably danceable rhythms underneath, and with Vanessa crooning and whooping above, Randy's job was to lay down basic melodies and hooks with either stuttering single-string lines or breezy full-chord collages. As I have written before, Pylon was a cross between the B-52's and Gang of Four - yet as such, there really was no other band like it in the New Wave heyday of the late 1970s and early '80s.

I remember seeing Pylon back then for the first time at the old Emerald City (formerly the Latin Casino) in Cherry Hill, New Jersey - in the middle of a bill between Gang of Four (at the top) and R.E.M. (at the bottom). Yes, there was a time when R.E.M. opened for Pylon. Of course, Go4, the B-52's, and R.E.M. all went on to great fame, whereas Pylon remained a cult band. A hugely influential cult band nonetheless.

Gyrate In 2007, DFA reissued Pylon's 1980 debut, Gyrate (Pylon-MeltingPoint-Athens441