If you trace the lineage of rock ‘n’ roll through its various sub-genres, you’ll come across some interesting characters and bands that, unless you were living in those respective scenes at the time, you might not know existed.
Take college rock (see also: jangle-pop), for instance. Not the stuff you hear today on a station like WUTK-FM, great though that might be. We’re talking music from the early 1980s, when the guys in R.E.M. were working on an EP called “Chronic Town,” a sound that fell outside of punk and New Wave and everything else going on at the time. It wasn’t the most popular, and the bands wouldn’t conquer the world (R.E.M. being the exception, of course.) But bands like Let’s Active, Rain Parade, The Windbreakers and more helped set the stage for the ’90s alt-rock revolution, even if they get little credit for it today.
Thanks to Camilla Ann Aikin, a University of Mississippi graduate student, some of those musicians are getting a little credit these days. To complete her master’s thesis in Southern Studies, Aikin put together a short documentary titled “We Didn’t Get Famous,” a fantastic piece of Southern college rock history that features local rocker Tim Lee. Tim and his wife, Susan, front local power trio the Tim Lee 3, but back in those days, Lee was part of The Windbreakers. And as the resident expert on those times and that sound, he gives Aikin’s film two thumbs up.
“I thought she did an excellent job,” Lee said. “When I met her, I was really impressed by her knowledge. She’s young — in her 20s — but she knows her music inside and out. She knew stuff about music from that era that even I didn’t know about — just some very obscure stuff. It was very impressive.”
Aikin has plans to expand on the film, Lee said, and there are tentative plans to screen the documentary at a Fourth of July part at Lost and Found Records in Knoxville.