Archive for the ‘R.E.M.’ Category

The dreaded best albums list starting at #60

June 18th, 2013 No comments

It seemed fairly obvious that after the government was caught snooping in my private life that I could no longer keep this list a secret. As we count through the days of summer, what better time than to spend moments careening over my 60 best albums of all time. Unlike a Greatest Hits listing this is a Best Of which means it’s going to be better quality than a greatest hits. For example, if you were to ask someone how you did on a task, and you got “You did great!” that is not as good as “You were the best”.

Secondly, this is better than a top 100 listing in that there are 40 less spots so this makes it just that much tougher.

I made this argument fairly recently that best of lists are more than just showing off my record collection but rather provides a gauge in terms of how I felt about music in 2013. Now of course I have been working on this list on and off for over a year and I realized that at some point I needed to stop fucking around and actually post something.

I decided to spend time and do something fairly substantial because at the time I had started this list, I was only a “Father-to-be” and wanted to share something with my son that I enjoyed and that was music. That and I am in my 40th year and I wanted to come back to something years from now to see how right or wrong I was. I wanted to see what albums pushed up the ranks and which ones fell down.

There has not been any typical rules per se, other than being albums that I listened to. There might be situations where the actual tracks were different on import releases or the disc changed on later versions so my rule was that I stuck with what I listened to.

No soundtracks are included although I have to give kudos to “Until the End of the World” which was the only soundtrack that could even be close to consideration.

Every day or so I will try to post my next album on the list counting down from 60. And drumroll please…….

Number 60: R.E.M. – Out Of Time

Part of me wanted to lead off with this album just to fuck with people. I guess if you live in the R.E.M. world as I do, there is part of me that finds moody Michael dancing around with Kate Pierson pretty hilarious. While Stipe at this time was not Morrissey and writing songs about unhappy birthdays I surely would not call him Mr. Congeniality either. That being said ‘Shiny Happy People’ has a certain dated quality on this album and might work better as a hilarious B-Side. Another B-Side would be Radio Song which leads off with KRS-1 intermixing a bit of rap. There is a song somewhere buried here but the song feels too much like 1991. For every Radio Song there is a song like “Country Feedback” for which Neil Young wished he wrote himself and arguably their best song ever written.

I would make the case that people that think that “Shiny Happy People” sucks also think that “Losing My Religion” has anything to do with the literal translation in the title.

For me it was not the singles but the subtle moments on this album with album tracks like “Low”, “Belong” and “Me in Honey” that really begin the delve into an album on relationships, something that Stipe had not attempted much before this.

Lastly, the reason that the album made the list is that it was the album that pushed my fandom onto a different level. The album came out just before I went to college which meant access to better record stores and well we know the end of this story.

Oh yeah, this one too..

Categories: R.E.M., Uncategorized Tags:

R.E.M. – Document – Looking Back at the Album 25 years Later

September 27th, 2012 No comments

In the midst of a presidential campaign season, R.E.M.’s politically motivated ‘Document’, turns a quarter century old. From the fiery pulpit of Michael Stipe and guitar work of Peter Buck, R.E.M. masterfully craft these 11 songs into an iconic work. I always felt that Stipe laments the dangers of ‘isms’ but while the band has always sought a more progressive point of view and while it truthfully ridicules some of the Reagan cheerleading of the 80’s, it also clearly points fingers at some dangers of institutions in general.

‘Finest Worksong’ opens the album as an almost “Pseudo Workers Party Theme song”, straight from the “Barack Obama Socialist” handbook some might say. There is a certain hokeyness to the lyrics, as if I need to sit there and be inspired to psych myself up for the workday. It drives home an opening statement and an idea. The album follows some of the themes of prior albums in a different manner. ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’ opens thoughts up to the idea of “Let’s begin again”, “Lets start a new country up”. For Document, it’s let’s organize with a different purpose than the America that we currently live in. Let’s not just talk about beginning again but actually starting over. The first side of the album becomes a bit of a propaganda piece, a PSA, if you may.

Realize that R.E.M. becomes more than just singing these mantras without actually believing in the concepts behind them. As they tour, their shows always have a local politically minded groups with worthy causes having tables set up near the entrance ways for fans to gain knowledge. Realize that this is before the internet where the power of information was much more expensive than it is now.

‘Welcome to the Occupation’ and ‘Exhuming McCarthy’, both make their points known with one suggesting the hypocrisy of how America values it’s own freedoms but not those of other countries, in this case a country in Central America and another, a reference in the title to Senator Joseph McCarthy who went on his dirge regarding communist spies in the United States. They kick start this album in such a manner in that we are not speaking about ‘Hope and Change’ but challenging the very fabric of America and the party on the right. As some have claimed that Ronald Reagan has grown to become an icon among the right wing, there needs to be a realization that the progressive left did not have the power during this time challenging the listener to understand the ideas of what it means to be an American.

‘Disturbance at the Heron House,’ grapples at the heart of the album. The song contains all the necessary ingredients for a classic R.E.M. track. There are lyrics like the following: “The followers of chaos out of control” and the “Gathering of Grunts and Greens” which will leave even the most studied R.E.M. fan questioning what is being derived by the song unless they read the “Stipe Notes” and see that the song is Stipe’s version of Orwell’s classic novel “Animal Farm”.

For me, the song’s strength was not realized for me initially, on the album itself but live and in this case the acoustic version.

R.E.M.’s songs invoke a level of flexibility that show both their delicate nature in tracks like the one above or their more “Stomp and Stammering” nature like the version on the album. Bill Berry’s percussion has this very shocking and persistent beginning, a sense of prevailing order where the fable being shared is quite the opposite. Stipe’s mechanism of enunciating during various elements of the acoustic track pulls in the listener in the sad spectacle.

‘Strange’ is the second time that the band has covered a song from another band on a regular album. In this case, its Wire’s with the lyrics slightly altered to Michael’s own nervousness rather than Joey’s. It offers a nice segway into ‘It’s the End of the World As We Know It’, a song that would be considered more popular now, especially with all the various “Doomsday” items that will hit the news, the song often becomes part of that news cycles soundtrack.

If we were old school, we would then flip sides and run into the song “The One I Love”. It’s the first time that Michael Stipe uses the word “Love” in any song and one listen to the caustic lyrics and one you realize that the reminiscent moment holds very little meaning. The simple message is Stipe doing Morrisey, “A simple prop to occupy my time”. However, on the live version on the Deluxe Edition that was released, we see a much more vulnerable side. The acoustic version here shows an even darker side.

Per the liner notes, it would appear that there were plenty of different versions of the song available and each one would seem to be reinvented but each would have a different story. For a song that repeats itself, it is one of the few that often feels so complex and yet at the same time, you can take a word like “Love” that Stipe had refused to use in a lyric before this and somehow made sure that it would be utterly complex, confusing and their first legitimate hit single.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Document contains not the complete but most of the show from Utrecht, Holland from September 1987. The diehard fans out there will whine and scream that the second disc was not the complete show, choosing to leave off some cover tracks like the Clique’s ‘Superman’, which appeared, on ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’.

Others will complain that they would have preferred a demo concept, like the previous 2 reissues that contained early versions of songs worked on during that period of time. What I have found with Demo’s in the past is that while there will be a handful of the songs that will feel unique, there will be some that just do not feel all that different than the version that ended up on the album itself and will thus get 4 songs that feel partially interesting.

While this might satisfy the anal retentive R.E.M. fan wondering if it is true if a song was originally written with a mandolin in mind, the truth of the matter was that R.E.M. is a live band. For the fan that is introduced to R.E.M. with this album, the show that is attached is a worthy piece of history with one minor exception being the editing down of So. Central Rain to remove both Time After Time, and the Capella snippet of “Red Rain”, from the album. That part is a bit of a travesty because the medley is one of the most beautiful renditions of So. Central Rain that I had heard and for me there is a bit of sentimentality in that it was this B-side that had pushed me deeper into the R.E.M. discography looking for anything and everything R.E.M.

By the time of Document, Michael Stipe had been getting much more comfortable in the live setting taking on the role of the lead singer more prominently than before. While the band had grown by leaps and bounds, Stipe had exhibited a level of growing pains in front of the audience. Interviews were rough, as he would get tired of the same questions being asked and often make up answers while the other band mates would roll their eyes. If you read old interviews you will note that it is often Mike and Peter doing interviews for this reason.

When he got around to touring for Fables, he would often tell stories onstage about Old Man Kensey before the band would sing or discuss Brevis Mekis, i.e. the man behind the song ‘Life and How to Live It’ who split his house in half and would live in one side for awhile and would move and live on the other half. While the live show does contain a mention of Mekis during Life and How To Live It, it’s the ability of the songs to be injected full of energy that might be missing on the album versions. This is not to say that their music is boring on the albums but rather, unlike todays bands, the live sound often features less meddling and more emotion. While their earlier albums can be characterized with less studio work than their later years, they were never trying to be Pink Floyd either, expanding songs past the 10 minute mark

‘Oddfellows Local 151’, a song that is actually referencing a liquor store (The Firehouse is a liquor store in Athens) rather than the suggested thought that it might actually be a firehouse and Peewee was union member. Its duplicative meaning is often tricky and when realized, maybe even a little hilarious. As I am reminded from doing an Athens tour with Paul Butchart that we did pass by that Liquor store but did not see Peewee hanging around anywhere. The live track emanates more of the eeriness of the moment that you don’t feel as much on the regular album a song that in my opinion feels much more sanitized than on the live version.

Document is the last of the truly strong politically motivated albums the band released. I have always felt that “Green” has been a little flawed and considering some of the carefully worded lyrics for “Document”, “Green” always felt a bit more dumbed down, ‘Document’ is often complex , especially musically but I am always mindful of the lack of music and lyrics that can match the power of what Stipe penned to paper 25 years ago. A work of art.

Categories: Music, R.E.M. Tags:

Yes, Even Michael Stipe would be able to take out Steve Doocy (R.E.M./Fox News Saga)

September 8th, 2012 1 comment

“Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song “Polly.” I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience. Sorry to be so anally P.C. but that’s the way I feel.” – Kurt Cobain from the liner notes of Incesticide

I have to admit before I start this, that one of the aspects that I have always appreciated about R.E.M. is their support for causes, whether they were local issues, global politics or their ability to build awareness among their fanbase. In their heyday, the reason that the music meant so much was not just limited to the fact that they were good songs, but that it meant something. They were more than just a pop song on a piece of plastic but carried an inherent meaning much greater than many people realize. They grew in prominence from grassroots beginnings, keeping their small town charm while providing audiences with thoughtful rock and roll that didn’t dumb down their audience but rather challenged them.

Throughout their career, they had been very careful about having their songs used in advertisements for products, clearly understanding that they did not want to go down that path of selling out their music. There was even some misconception of course when I believe it was Microsoft used the song “Superman” from Lifes Rich Pageant on an advertisement. Of course, while the song received acclaim from the band, it was actually written by a little known band “The Clique” in 1969. But for the most part, you can say over their 30 years they were pretty clean in that respect.

That all boiled over when I would imagine, Michael Stipe was on his second espresso of the morning, flipped to Fox News and found Fox and Friends playing the song that he made a hit.

Ok, maybe I am slightly exaggerating my point here aka pulling a Ryan. He was probably on his first expresso. The simple point is that Fox News had used a clip of Losing My Religion on the air. Oh the horror!

Of course, the response from the reviled Fox:

“Fox News Channel’s use of an R.E.M. song was in full accordance with its license agreements with all appropriate parties. Nevertheless, we’re always flattered to have this much attention for a song selection and we hope R.E.M. was able to satisfy their publicity fix.”

Since, I have misplaced my online correspondence law degree from Dr. Nick Riviera’s School of Law, so I am really not going to discuss the legalese of the case but if I were to make a guess, I would imagine that R.E.M. doesn’t have much of one but that really wasn’t the point.

My knowledge of Fox News of course is that it is about as relevant as professional wrestling. In fact, in many ways professional wrestling and Fox have a lot in common in that they are both fake, a display that is purely entertainment with no educational value whatsoever. The only difference of course is that the hosts of Fox are not lathering themselves up with body oils (at least when they are on the air).

To their credit they have a strong fan base of nimrods, and I would imagine that nimrods have to go somewhere to be entertained and they have built a healthy franchise in instilling hatred and fear.

My knowledge of Losing My Religion of course can be summed up by looking at my iTunes collection which features a hefty 66 mp3s, most of them live performances, not to mention countless others on disc. I had often joked that I wanted to come out with a boxed set of 20+ discs just playing all the different versions of ‘Losing My Religion’ with the dream that there would also be a full 200 page booklet written by Peter Buck describing each of these versions. Of course, knowing Peter Buck he would fucking pull it off and people would buy it just to read that shit.

(Peter Buck of course is the guitarist of R.E.M. who is coming out with his own solo album out November 20th, which just so happens to be my 40th birthday. Of course Peter Buck is such in dire need of PR that he is releasing his album only on vinyl and limiting it to 2000 copies.)

The true meaning of the song has nothing to do with becoming atheist as the nimrod might understand. It would be about completely obsessive or infatuated with someone else. The song has nothing to do with organized or disorganized religions/cults/sects whether they are Christian, Muslim, Judiaism.

The song is about being 18 and totally infatuated with someone and doing everything fuck shit wrong and getting totally depressed about that and listening to the song about 50 times in a row. It has nothing to do with choosing not to take communion anymore.

If you are like me, sitting with your Che Guevara shirt on, and staring at naked photos of Oak Trees in a luscious manner, or bronzing children’s lunchboxes, I would imagine that if you ever had written a song or put together a piece of art and that piece was represented on a station like Fox, of course you are going to be upset. You are a liberal and your creation is now being broadcast on the anti-Christ channel. Congratulations, someone is taking a shit on your lawn and now you have to pick it up!

I was clearly impressed by quote by Michael Stipe: ‘We have little or no respect for their puff adder brand of reportage. Our music does not belong there.’ the emphasis on Puff Adder of course.

If R.E.M. were in the business of keeping its fans they would have kept their mouths shut during their career. They would not have supported candidates, protested wars, got booed on stage for their comments ,.etc. The point was that they just didn’t put shit on a record and sell units but rather were the band that mattered. So I am not sure how this is a PR move. Their comments in this case could have clearly alienated fans who might not be aware of their status of being very progressive in their politics.

From someone like myself who feels very passionate about politics, I have to admit that I do have problems listening to “Republican” bands. You will not see me play any, Ted Nugent, Hank Williams Jr. or Megadeth anytime soon.

Yes, you rile up the fanbase by being political but alienate some fans that might not share the bands opinions.

At the end of the day, it is their song, they are playing on and they are fucking playing a Mandolin. Does Steve Doocy even know what a fucking mandolin is? There are times when a nice “Fuck You” is warranted.

In the meantime, I think I will have to devise my own “Puff Adder” playlist to dedicate to Fox. Stay tuned.

Categories: R.E.M. Tags:

Lil Z’s Music Choices – 34 Week Mark

January 28th, 2012 No comments

Since the point that my wife started feeling movement, we began tracking the songs and music that the baby (‘Lil Z) was rockin’ and rolling to. Often times, scribbled notes and memos on iPhones would be loaded to the playlist that stored the music that was making a difference. Currently, we are at the 34 week point in the pregnancy and over this time definite trends have started. We’ve seen a preference to certain classic rock bands and artists like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix whereas at the same time has found time for more modern bands like Animal Collective and Radiohead.

Of course, ‘Lil Z gets a bit more time with my wife as could be expected. Thus, the music selection is often limited to her iPod which contains more of her music. While there are definite areas where our music tastes cross, this setlist has in some ways become a sense of pride for both of us and maybe in certain cases brought our tastes a little closer together.

At any rate, this is the current list with a few comments below. . .


Artist Song

Ahmad Jamal – Poinciana (The Song Of The Tree)

Animal Collective – Did You See the Words
Animal Collective – The Purple Bottle
Animal Collective – In the Flowers
Animal Collective – My Girls
Animal Collective – Bluish
Animal Collective – Tantrum Barb

Throwing together several songs from Merriweather Post Pavilion as well as a couple other favorites shows this baby’s tastes for the psychadelic. It is true that the baby’s first official show was an Animal Collective show (technically the first night of P4K) although was not much smaller than a tadpole at that point.

Atlas Sound – Flagstaff

The Beatles – A Day In The Life

Big Star – You Get What You Deserve

Caribou – Hannibal

Deerhunter – Desire Lines
Deerhunter – Calvary Scars Ll / Aux. Out

I remember playing the entire album ‘Weird Era Cont.’ for the singular hope that Lil Z would find stir on the final track Calvary Scars, etc., an epic 10 minute track. Whenever there are primary motives such as this I make sure not to mention this to my wife as it’s not the intent to try to subjugate my wife to any type of peer pressure, (the only exception of course to this rule is that of Iggy Pop’s – ‘The Passenger’ which is what my iPhone plays when my alarm goes off in the morning.) There willl be an active campaign of getting ‘Lil Z to appreciate this song. Of the 85 songs on the list, 11 of them are over 7 minutes, and 42 (half) are over 5 minutes. While I have always been a fan of the quick and dirty pop song or even a fine punk ditty that might tally a minute or two, this baby likes the epics. And while I would expect a slew of jam band tracks due to my wife’s propensity to enjoy the Grateful Dead/Phish genre, very little has been exhibited here on this list.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Home

Fleetwood Mac – Dreams
Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop

Two Fleetwood Mac songs from my only Fleetwood Mac album? Is this baby a Clintonite?

Friends – I’m His Girl

Furthur – Alligator >

Grateful Dead – Dire Wolf

Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Jane’s Addiction – Classic Girl

We have often thought that songs such as this might reveal the gender of the child. While my wife and I both differ at this moment in terms of the gender our hopes are a healthy child

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – May This Be Love
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – I Don’t Live Today
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Machine Gun
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Changes
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along The Watchtower
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Angel

It’s become fairly obvious that this baby is a huge Jimi fan. While my wife and I are fans, the baby will respond whenever a Hendrix song is being played on the stereo. You would think that this is totally random but will completely stop after the song ends and the ensuing song begins from a different artist/band.

Le Butcherettes – Tonight

Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
Led Zeppelin – Tangerine
Led Zeppelin – Kashmir

At first we thought that maybe it was Jimmy Page or John Bonham that was causing the surge in Led Zeppelin but we feel that maybe it’s John Paul Jones’ on bass that is making the difference.

Lotus Plaza – A threaded needle

M83 – Reunion

Madonna – Holiday

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)

Michael Jackson – Man In the Mirror

Midlake – In This Camp

The Minus 5 – Got You

Nena – 99 Red Balloon

Pearl Jam – No Way

Phish – Fluffhead

Pink Floyd – Fat Old Sun
Pink Floyd – Speak To Me / Breathe
Pink Floyd – Time
Pink Floyd – One of These Days
Pink Floyd – Fearless
Pink Floyd – Echoes
Pink Floyd – Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)

Another band that has made an huge impact on ‘Lil Z. There is no rhyme or reason as the baby has found it’s way all across the Pink Floyd catalog hitting albums as diverse as Atom Heart Mother all the way to Dark Side of the Moon. Yes, even the 20+ minute ‘Echoes’.

The Pixies – I Bleed

The Police – Synchronicity II

Ponytail – Easy Peasy

Pylon – Yo-Yo

R.E.M. – Man On The Moon
R.E.M. – Talk About the Passion
R.E.M. – Moral Kiosk

As much as I can say about the lack of Grateful Dead/Further songs there is also a lack of R.E.M. tracks compared to the iPod/iTunes library containing a plethora. In some ways, I see this as setting their own independence; while we either consciously or subconsciously mold our children after ourselves, they often need to take their own journey.

Radiohead – Knives Out
Radiohead – 2+2=5 (The Lukewarm)
Radiohead – 15 Step
Radiohead – Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
Radiohead – National Anthem
Radiohead – Bloom
Radiohead – Separator
Radiohead – Permanent Daylight
Radiohead – Lucky

Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was the first album that we listened to together when it came out and has been a constant in both of our music lists so there is no doubt the baby is exposed to quite a bit of Radiohead. For me, their catalog begins at ‘Ok Computer’ and moves forward and you will notice that is relatively true from the songs above.

Rihanna – Only Girl (In the World)

The Rolling Stones – Gimmie shelter

Smashing Pumpkins – Rhinoceros
Smashing Pumpkins – Rocket

We’ve had a small amount of local bands/music as well as music from our grunge past. The Pumpkins lead the list with two songs total.

The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?

Sonic Youth – Teen Age Riot
Sonic Youth – Total Trash
Sonic Youth – Bull In The Heather

Stereolab – Lo Boob Oscillator

Sun City Girls – Dukun Degeneration

Suzanne Vega – 99.9f

Tame Impala – It’s Not Meant To Be
Tame Impala – Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?

Toto – Africa

U2 – A Sort Of Homecoming

The Velvet Underground – What Goes On

Wilco – Shot in the Arm
Wilco – Cars Can’t Escape

Yo La Tengo – Everyday

R.E.M.: They Set the Pace

September 23rd, 2011 2 comments

Part of the passion of music is that it doesn’t die, and often in our most vulnerable moments is when it pops its ugly head. You know you are afflicted if you can play a song over and over again in an endless loop and the song to speaks to you. Then sometimes it becomes more than just one song but several.

The madness started with Seven Chinese Bros. The opening guitar intro was the hook and well the lyrics kept me coming for more. From there it just went downhill.

For me, the last quarter century has been situated around a band by the name of R.E.M.  and for me they became the band that mattered. I have questioned whether or not I would be the music fan that I am if there was never that moment of discovery. Would another band have taken its place? Before this point, I heard music but it never resonated with me. R.E.M. provided the colors.  Their songs became a personal experience. There was never a moment of loneliness with an R.E.M. album in hand. It would fill the void and talk to you in a manner that a person could never share. There was a reason that fans of the band were sometimes referred to as destiples.

I think that every fan has his or her own story to say regarding R.E.M. Our murals are all a bit different but they have been on our collective conscience for some time that their mentioning of breaking up feels slightly like abandonment. We could still count on a release. Speaking to a friend a couple months ago he remarked that a new R.E.M. album is still a new R.E.M. album. Well outside of what we can expect to see various retrospectives of their careers over the next several years, there will not be any new albums to speak of. No tours, singles, promos. That time has moved on.

R.E.M. wove a tapestry of Kudzu in our brains exploring the nuances of what defined us. They were a thinking mans band that required the upmost attention. Fans have created numerous conspiracy theories about their music, the albums and their packaging.

It was never about being the biggest band. They did not flaunt like U2 did but rather launched one of the quietest revolutions in the history of Rock and Roll.

In their early days, they were not an overly talented bunch. Peter Buck could barely play guitar, Michael Stipe was always off key, Bill Berry didn’t always keep a constant beat but they knew what they wanted, they had a bit of luck coming their way and they reached heights nobody expected them to reach.

Ego? This is a band that would go into a studio and try to make their parts quieter than their band mates. Their songs are co-written by all band members sharing equally. They handled their music and their careers democratically.  They broke rules. Their videos were odd and unlike anything you saw on MTV at the time.

They not only helped put Athens, Georgia on the map but also kept America as being relevant during a time when British Music was invading the airwaves.   They carried the torch for bands like the Replacements, Husker Du and the Minutemen helping to promote rock’s image in the states and create a grassroots groudwork for other bands to follow. R.E.M.’s success was a major turning point for the industry realizing that smart rock and roll sold.

They became godfathers to their successors, bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Radiohead coming to the aid of these bands when stardom waved their ugly finger at them. Although unsuccessful, Stipe tried to save Kurt Cobain and was directly responsible for Thom Yorke writing “How To Disappear Completely”.

They cared about their predecessors listing the likes of Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, New York Dolls, Television, The Feelies, just to start. Peter Buck was a rock and roll encyclopedia that if he was not in a rock band would have been selling records and making snide remarks about them.

They stood up for causes they believed in, treating the rock and roll concert as an event not just of entertainment but education. It was commonplace to see R.E.M. on a benefit release or having them announce during a show to visit a local charity organization that had a table set up at the venue.  They continue to support causes publicly and privately both globally and locally.

Every indie rock performer can thank R.E.M. for creating the blueprint for their careers.  There was talent and some luck but plenty of hard work. They toured incessantly in the early years playing at pizza joints and wherever else would have them with every audience member converted into a fan before they left.  They

They relied more on their fans to campaign on their behalf.  Even in the 80s it was common to see fans traveling up and down the east coast to check out multiple shows. They treated their fans with respect and admiration at times letting them travel with them in their early days. Their fanclub has always been receptive and I believe in existence for close to 27 years if I am not mistaken.  Over that time they have never changed their membership price (being 10 dollars a year).

There have been many remarks that R.E.M. should have broken up {Insert Number of Years} ago, and to that response I would offer some thoughts. Yes, it is true that R.E.M. is not the same band that it was but how many bands can you name that have shown the highese level of quality over 31 years? I do not think there is a band on the planet that can make that same claim.  Personally, their string of albums from Chronic Town to Up is unmatched. While their last 4 albums (Reveal, Around the Sun, Accelerate and Collapse into Now) have not matched their predecessors, part of their problem is they were going up against a legacy that was unattainable.

The IRS years (Chronic Town through Document) is a starting point for anyone wanting to discover the college rock scene back then. The first half of their Warner’s Contract showed a band that was in the mainstream still making music that made you think. They came out with two acoustic-driven albums in Out of Time and Automatic for the People and then created a Monster that was more Iggy Pop, T-Rex and Bowie than grunge.  New Adventures is still a solid effort and for the record I play Up just as much as any of their prior works.

But for 2 decades they were as strong as any band out there and I am not sure how their legacy should be tarnished. They have bowed out the way that they should have and while I am shocked and slightly saddened to see them go, I am also happy for them to be able to reflect on their careers and start the next part of their life.

My personal opinion has been that this has been in the works for some time. I believe that Collapse into Now was intended to be the last album and that the band had fully intended to break up unless something drastically changed. There was never a need for a farewell tour; they are not the Eagles.

The band’s last album, however, ‘Collapse Into Now” does deserve another listen. I think there is no doubt this was written as a final group of swan songs and taken in that context it creates a nice conclusion to the story of R.E.M.

For me, this has been one of the more bittersweet posts to write. I do not think you can encapsulate a eulogy in a couple paragraphs for something that has been so important in my life for 31 years.  I have to be honest there have been moments where I was afraid I was going to lose it. Thinking of a certain lyric or listening to a song and yes, the eyes begin to water up.

One of the first songs that R.E.M. wrote was a little ditty called ‘Just a Touch’. While the song never made it onto a proper release until their 4th album, the song is about the day that Elvis died.

I remember heading down to Athens several years back to check out an early video of R.E.M. that surfaced from 1980. We sat in the auditorium and watched as a very young R.E.M. was performing Just a Touch.  I remember someone in the audience had thought that Stipe’s performance was very “Elvis-like” which shocked me because this was an event of the Athens Historical Society and not hardcore rock fans. Part of the gift of being a band for 31 years is that there are plenty of songs for fans to choose from. I figure that this song is that moment for me.

You set the pace of what was to come
I have to carry on now that you’re gone
A day in the life well nobody laughed
Look to the days how long can this last

In closing, I want to thank R.E.M. for the last 31 years.  For most of that time I have been thinking of your music trying to figure it all out and your decision to call it quits will not stop that. It’s easy to say that you have been the most influential band over this period of time and you will be missed.

Categories: Music, R.E.M. Tags: