A Really Strange and Wonderful Time

The Chapel Hill Music Scene: 1989-1999


By Tom Maxwell

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$39.00 CAD

The first biography of the thriving and influential rock scene in Chapel Hill, which gave the world artists like Ben Folds Five, Superchunk, and Squirrel Nut Zippers

North Carolina has always produced extraordinary music.

From Charlie Poole standardizing the bluegrass form in the 1920s, to the creation of an entire diaspora of Black musicians which included Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Nina Simone, to the gentle early-70s sounds of James Taylor, the state has many distinguished sons and daughters. But it was the indie rock boom of the late 1980s and ‘90s that brought North Carolina most fully into the public consciousness. In addition to creating legacy label Merge Records and a raft of excellent indie bands like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, this was the time when North Carolina bands broke Billboard’s top 200 and sold millions of records—several million of which were issued by an ambitious indie label based in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s smaller, sleepier, next door neighbor. It’s time to take a closer look at exactly what happened.
A Really Strange and Wonderful Time chronicles the extraordinary decade between 1989 and 1999, letting those who were there—band members, culture mavens, producers, visual artists, DJs, club owners—speak for themselves, while musician and writer Tom Maxwell provides context, color, and his own perspective as a participant. Deftly researched and intimately written, this is a book that takes readers directly into the scenes as Maxwell experienced them: to the sweaty basement gig, the sold-out Cradle show, the makeshift recording studio, the 15-passenger van. Through interviews and insightful commentary, Maxwell conveys the wondrous flowering of activity, followed by its inevitable decay, proving that success is not necessarily defined by fame—and that genius is communal.


On Sale
Apr 9, 2024
Page Count
320 pages
Hachette Books

Tom Maxwell

About the Author

Tom Maxwell is a writer and musician. A product of the fertile Chapel Hill music scene, he was a member of the Squirrel Nut Zippers from 1994-1999. Tom’s song “Hell” peaked at Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, propelling the band to multi-platinum status. His songs have appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, a Super Bowl commercial, an Academy Award-nominated documentary, and the Tony Award-winning soundtrack. He has also scored for movies, television, and commercials. Maxwell’s writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, Longreads, The Bitter Southerner, Our State Magazine, College Music Journal, Southern Cultures, The Oxford American, and The Library of Congress, among other places. He is a member of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.

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