The Side Effects gave their first public performance at an Athens party on April 5, 1980. Another band debuted at that same party – R.E.M. (although they didn’t have a name yet). But the real interesting Side Effects / R.E.M. coincidence occurred a few months earlier…
Earlier that year future R.E.M.ers Michael Stipe and Peter Buck met and decided to form a band. According to Buck, they invited Kit Schwartz and Paul Butchart (future Side Effects founders) to practice with them. A rehearsal date was set, but Schwartz and Butchart didn’t show up. Stipe and Buck moved on, found Mike Mills and Bill Berry, and R.E.M. was born. I wonder what would have happened to R.E.M. if Schwartz and Butchart had kept the appointment?
The Side Effects made a big splash on the Athens music scene. Proof of their prominence was that they were selected as the headline act when the 40 Watt Club opened in a new location (a very big deal on the Athens scene). But the band was short-lived, breaking up after only two years and releasing just one four-song EP. A year later bassist Jimmy Ellison was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
Paul Butchart still lives in Athens, guiding the Athens Music History Tour: