Chronic Town: REM and the Mariners

Cod Almighty | Article

by Rich Mills

1 June 2021

With titles like Chronic Town and Everybody Hurts, REM could only be Town fans. Rich Mills explores the Athens' rockers Grimbarian roots

REM - chronic town coverHere at Cod Almighty Towers we often wonder why so little has been said about the links between Grimsby Town and alternative rock band REM, but there is much to discuss.

Like football teams, the fortunes of rock bands also wax and wane, and maybe changing musical tastes, like today's youth's preference for the Premier League explains why the Athens, Georgia band has slipped from the collective DN35 consciousness.

The indie cognoscenti of Grimsby and Cleethorpes first had their interests piqued in late 1982 with the release of the band's Chronic Town EP, the title a reference to the previous season's poor form and sacking of manager George Kerr. Opening track Wolves, lower a cheeky nod to Town's rival and provider of Blundell Park's mighty floodlights.

But why would a band so geographically distant to Humberside be fans of Town? Athens was hardly a football (or Soccer as the young rockers would likely have called it) hotbed; the 1996 Olympics for which the city hosted some matches and the relaunch of professional game in the States, were still over a decade away.

Perhaps we need to look into the family trees of the band's members to explain it.

Guitarist Peter Buck was born in California but his grandad Edward had been born in the north east of England, and known to all as Teddy, had enjoyed a successful football career, notably playing over 350 times for the Mariners.

Teddy Buck's grandsonMills and Buck gravitated to each other, drawn by their sporting heritages and love of jangly guitars. A band was probably inevitable, regardless of footballing forbears. Bassist Mike Mills couldn't claim any such link to Grimsby but his older cousin Mick had of course been hugely successful for England and Ipswich Town, playing with Town favourite Trevor Whymark and (much to Buck's amusement) Paul Mariner.

These would seem to be the only football links in the band. But dig a little further and we find that while drummer Bill Berry left the band to become a farmer in 1997, the real reason had been ribbing from Buck and Mills over Berry's discovery of a long-lost cousin, George.

George's name would have been well known to many English football fans of course, especially those in the Black Country, and Berry developed a keen interest in his career and clubs. However, that seemingly innocent opening track on that first EP began to take on a more sinister significance and, unable to take it any longer, Berry left the group.

Frontman Michael Stipe, despite a passing resemblance to journeyman boozer Barry Conlon could claim no links to any player or club but was happy to indulge his bandmates with their football-related songs.

Stipe Conlon

The multi-platinum album Green referenced Buck’s discovery of his grandad's club's superstition surrounding green shirts, while hit single Orange Crush successfully juxtaposed anti-war sentiments with the joy felt when dealing out a sound thrashing to Hull City.

What's the frequency Burnsy?Low off the Out of time album coincided with Town spending another period in the fourth division, while What's the frequency, Kenneth? related confusion around Radio Humberside's broadcast of multiple games concurrently during a visit to the area in the 1990s.

Sources close to the band note that Buck struggled to regain his focus when his beloved Town dropped out of the League in 2010 and despite the efforts of his bandmates, lost interest in his guitar and music in general, leading to the band calling it quits in 2011, unable to cope with the pressures of touring coupled with following Town for a second season in the conference.

More anyone?