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R.E.M.: Actually, We Were Never Called Twisted Kites

Photo Credit: Jason Thrasher

Nuci’s Space has begun construction on the St. Mary’s steeple, a project Flagpole reported on last November, and which was partially funded via an IndieGoGo campaign. As you might expect, media attention has once again been focused on the structure, which famously marks the site of R.E.M.’s first-ever public performance in April 1980. 

An Athens Banner-Herald story on the renovation Sunday included a tidbit that has been often repeated by various media outlets (including Flagpole) in accounts of the fateful 1980 gig: At the time of its debut, R.E.M. was not yet known as R.E.M., and instead performed under the name Twisted Kites.

But, hold up: That’s not entirely true, says the band. Apparently, they never actually settled on a name prior to the house-party gig at the former St. Mary’s church, where they played sans moniker.

This afternoon, R.E.M. took to Facebook to clear the air once and for all:

It’s great to hear that construction has begun to renovate the historic St Mary’s Church steeple on Oconee Street–all that’s left of where where Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Michael Stipe played their first show together on April 5, 1980, for their friend Kathleen O’Brien’s birthday. And yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been thirty-five years.

Yesterday the local Athens paper repeated some common misinformation–that the guys played under the name Twisted Kites. But let us take this chance to try yet again to dispel that myth once and for all.

As Bill Berry told HQ earlier today, “We were thinking about Twisted Kites right up until show time, but just bagged it and went up and played without any introduction.” Mike Mills remembers, “We were definitely not Twisted Kites at any point.” As Bertis Downs recalls, “At their first show they did not have a name although Twisted Kites was a contender (along with some other putative monikers that do not bear repeating on a family social network). By the time they played their second show, on April 19th at the Koffee Klub, they had picked a name (out of the dictionary and beer was involved): R.E.M.”

There you have it. Next up on “Mythbusters: R.E.M“: Was Michael Stipe’s wacky nude Tumblr video actually the cause of the band’s 2011 breakup? Stay tuned.