Five 1980s bands who broke up too soon

Bands who left us far too early.
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THE BRAINS, 1980-1982 (2.5 albums)

Tom Gray’s The Brains came from Atlanta, and fans like to point out that they once headlined a show that featured a brand-new band from up the road in Athens. It was the legit first gig REM played. There are plenty of fans still in Georgia who lament that Tom Gray never achieved REM-level success.

Gray wrote shimmering pop songs that had a strong rock backbone. Gray’s keyboards would take on a bigger role after the debut album, which may have made them feel a little bit like a new wave fad than a serious rock & roll outfit. But the songs remained first-rate, whether with words, like “Tanya,” or in progressive rock instrumentals like “Ambush.”

They were dropped by their label as their final EP Dancing Under Streetlights was being released and the band broke up. Gray tells a funny story about how he went back home and began mowing lawns to try and pay all the bills he had run up traveling with his band. He had to do that until Cyndi Lauper released a version of The Brains “Money Changes Everything.” The song was a hit and the title was prophetic, allowing Gray to pay off those bills and return to making music. Gray died a few years back, still a legend in Atlanta.