The Georgia Satellites: A Southern Rock Band Lost To The MTV Era

Jan 23, 2020
Originally published on January 23, 2020 6:01 am

Morning Edition's series called One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs focuses on musicians or bands whose careers in the United States are defined by a single monster hit, and explains why their catalogs have much more to offer.

In this installment, Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis talks about living in Atlanta in the early 1980s, when the band The Georgia Satellites hit No. 2 on the pop charts with its debut single. Read DeCurtis in his own words below, and hear the radio version at the audio link.


The Satellites were like the city's house band. It was a time when all of these hip and arty bands were rising up in Athens, Ga. — and that was a great scene — but there was a rock and roll element that was missing, and The Satellites filled it.

"Keep Your Hands to Yourself" is just a perfect song. You know, if you want to tell some Martian or something "Hey, this is what rock and roll is!" you could do far worse than play "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" for them. I think there are "one-hit wonders" — which has a kind of dismissive tone to it — and then there were great bands that had one hit. And I would put The Satellites in that [latter] category. So if you spin "Battleship Chains," you'll recognize it as the band that made "Keep Your Hands to Yourself."

"Battleship Chains" captures the feel of what it is that that band could do. It's a little hard not to move around when you're listening to that music. That kind of rock and roll was so much not what was happening at that point; MTV was in its heyday, and there was this element of, you know, whatever looked good in a clever outfit [was popular]. So this music that The Satellites made was so great, but you never really had that much hope that they were going to do much — it was tough to get that kind of rock and roll on the radio, it's not "of the moment." But on the other hand, it has a timeless quality.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

The Georgia Satellites hit No. 2 on the pop charts with their debut single in 1987.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF")

THE GEORGIA SATELLITES: (Singing) But each time we talk, I get the same old thing. Always no hugee (ph), no kissee (ph) until I get a wedding ring. My honey, my baby, don't put my love upon no shelf. She said don't hand me no lines and keep your hands to yourself.

KING: "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" was all over rock radio and MTV back then, but the band was never able to match that level of success. Why not? That is the question we're trying to answer in our series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs. Rolling Stone editor Anthony DeCurtis was living in Atlanta in the early '80s.

ANTHONY DECURTIS: And The Satellites were like the city's house band. You know, it was a time when, you know, like, all of these kind of hip and arty (ph) bands were rising up in Athens. And, you know, that was a great scene. But, you know, the South, man, I mean, there was a sort of rock 'n' roll element that was missing, and The Satellites filled it. Going to see The Satellites at Hedgens, which was this kind of really rundown bar, they would just tear that place up.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE GEORGIA SATELLITES' "KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF")

DECURTIS: "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" is just a perfect song, you know. If you wanted to - I don't know - tell some Martian or something, you know, hey, this is what rock 'n' roll is, you could do far worse than play, you know, "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" for them. I think there are one-hit wonders, which has a kind of dismissive tone to it, and then there were great bands that had one hit. And I would put The Satellites in that category.

So if you, you know, spin "Battleship Chains," you know, you'll recognize it as the band that made "Keep Your Hands To Yourself."

(SOUNDBITE OF THE GEORGIA SATELLITES' "BATTLESHIP CHAINS")

DECURTIS: "Battleship Chains" captures the feel of what it is that that band could do. You know, you'll relive Monday night at Hedgens, man. It's, like, a little hard to move around when you're listening to that music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATTLESHIP CHAINS")

THE GEORGIA SATELLITES: (Singing) You got me tied down with battleship chains, 50 foot long and a 2 ton anchor, tied down with battleship chains, 50 foot long with a 2 ton anchor. I can't move my arms to hold nobody, hold nobody but you.

DECURTIS: That kind of rock 'n' roll was so much not what was happening, you know, at that point. You know, MTV was in its heyday. And, you know, there was this element of, you know, whoever looked good in a kind of clever outfit, like, that's what was happening. So, you know, this music that The Satellites made was so great, but you never really had that much hope that they were going to do much. You know, it's not of the moment. But on the other hand, it has a timeless quality. And, you know, "Battleship Chains" gets that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BATTLESHIP CHAINS")

THE GEORGIA SATELLITES: (Singing) I can't move my tongue to taste nobody, to lick nobody but you.

KING: That's Rolling Stone magazine's Anthony DeCurtis talking about the song "Battleship Chains" by The Georgia Satellites. It's his pick for our series One-Hit Wonders / Second-Best Songs. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.