A Really Strange and Wonderful Time

The Chapel Hill Music Scene: 1989-1999

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By Tom Maxwell

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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 of every description. But the indie rock boom of the late 1980s and early ’90s brought the state most fully into the public consciousness, while the subsequent post-grunge free-for-all bestowed its greatest commercial successes. In addition to the creation of legacy label Merge Records and a slate of excellent indie bands like Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, and Polvo, this was the decade when other North Carolina artists broke Billboard ’s Top 200 and sold millions of records—several million of which were issued by another indie label based in Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s smaller next-door neighbor. It’s time to take a closer look at exactly what happened.

A Really Strange and Wonderful Time features a representative cross section of what was being created in and around Chapel Hill between 1989 and 1999. In addition to the aforementioned indie bands, it documents—through firsthand accounts—other local notables like Ben Folds Five, Dillon Fence, Flat Duo Jets, Small, Southern Culture on the Skids, The Veldt, and Whiskeytown. At the same time, it describes the nurturing infrastructure which engendered and encouraged this marvelous diversity. In essence, A Really Strange and Wonderful Time is proof of the genius of community.

Genre:

  • “Here is a vibrant tribute to the kind of offbeat scene that made this era's music so vital. Tom Maxwell brings readers into the Cat's Cradle, into living room band practices, and into the local kitchens that employed so many young and excitable creative minds. A Really Strange and Wonderful Time is a snapshot of utopia, populated with can-do artists who, as one participant says, ‘are willing to toil in relative obscurity with the simple goal of producing something cool.’ We're lucky Tom Maxwell was one of them."
    John Lingan, author of A Song for Everyone: The Story of Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • “In prose that is erudite, moving, and at times both hilarious and heart-breaking, Tom Maxwell has written the definitive history of the Chapel Hill music scene. Arduously researched and built around extensive interviews with almost all the major figures of the time, Maxwell reveals in granular detail how one small group of people in a tiny southern town could come together to create a community of artistic exploration that, for a while at least, made a whole bunch of noise that inspired the world. It was a time of magic, and these pages are filled with it.”
    Nic Brown, author of Bang Bang Crash
  • “A fun treat for fans of 1990s indie rock.”
    Kirkus

On Sale
Apr 9, 2024
Page Count
320 pages
Publisher
Hachette Books
ISBN-13
9780306830600

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 to 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 a Tony Award–winning soundtrack. He has also scored for movies, television, and commercials. Maxwell’s writing has appeared in SlateSalon, Longreads, The Bitter Southerner, Our State Magazine, College Music Journal, Southern CulturesThe 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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