Pylon Guitarist Randy Bewley, R.I.P.


He died yesterday, it was reported, after having a heart attack.  He was, I believe, 53.

I’m not sure how well known the band Pylon was outside of the Southeast in the 80s, but I remember having to order a cassette (!) of their record, Gyrate, from the local “Record Bar” after seeing the documentary Athens, GA Inside-Out at the local midnight movie.  Even then, I think I was drawn to them because they really did sound unlike anything I’d ever heard before. (Of course, at the time, I was a clueless teenager who listened mainly to Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker records and I’d never been exposed to stuff like Gang of Four or Wire–whose sound is at least in the same general neighborhood as Pylon’s.)  As Michael Stipe, of the infinitely less-interesting Athens band, R.E.M., put it in the liner notes to the recent reissue of Pylon’s Gyrate though, “Pylon defined a sound by simply being the only band to ever sound like that.”

Unlike a lot of music I was into in high school, I’ve often revisited my love of Pylon.  During college, while trying to learn to play bass, I revisited their music for its simple yet driving danceable bass lines.  And later, just a scant few months ago, I was fortunate enough to witness what I imagine was the very last Pylon show, here in Winston-Salem at the Wherehouse.  It was a  stunning show.  The band sounded like they’d been frozen since 1983 and had just defrosted, musical chops in-tact, for this one (and what would turn out to be final) show.  The band was firing on all cylinders that night, not the least of which was the beautiful, mechanical,  jigsaw-ish playing of the too-soon-deceased Randy Bewley.

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