It turns out that I write about rock music a lot on this blog, yet I’ve never written anything about my favorite band, R.E.M. Now’s a good occasion, since MetaFilter has just posted a version of “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” mixed together from tracks submitted by 16 different users scattered around the world: listen to the surprisingly coherent result here. Everybody’s got a song whose lyrics they transcribed again and again while bored in class in high school, and this was mine. In theory I’m in the mix, contributing occasional backup vocals and electric bass (the one that Craig was kind enough to lend me while he was abroad for the semester.) But I can’t hear it.
Other people writing about R.E.M: Joygantic offers reminiscence of a high-school kid meeting his idol, Michael Stipe in 1985. Matthew Perpetua is blogging every R.E.M. song on Pop Song 07. He’s done about 100 so far. Stereogum offers a 15th-anniversary tribute album to Automatic For The People (all tracks freely streamed.) I started reading the 33 1/3 book about R.E.M.’s great first album, but it was terrible. (Great first album not named here because I am troubled by thoughts of the author of this book googling for references to his book, and finding out I thought it was terrible.)
Some R.E.M. songs that don’t get their due: “Romance,” a great early track which only appears on the best-of comp Eponymous; unjustly dumped-on “Shiny Happy People,” which recalls the band’s early days as a big-time Athens party band. The only proper way to deal with Bill Berry leaving the band would have been replacing him with Kate Pierson.
I just learned that the first verse of “Let Her Cry,” by Hootie and the Blowfish, has the lyrics:
She says Dad’s the one I love the most
But Stipe’s not far behind
Does it say something about Hootie, or something about R.E.M., that the shorthand indicating the girlfriend is emotionally damaged, too complicated for a straight-ahead guy like Hootie, and just plain edgy, is that she likes R.E.M.? (If it helps, remember that this song comes out in 1994, when R.E.M. was coming off two platinum albums, and was temporarily about as alternative as Sheryl Crow.)
Here’s “Romance” (youtube link, but no actual video)
And more video-less youtube: someone has posted, in 8 parts, some of the legendary bootlegs of R.E.M. playing at Tyrone’s in Athens, about the time of the band’s first single. Here’s a typical chunk, featuring a Velvet Underground cover (“There She Goes Again”), a very different version of what would become a much later REM album track (“Pretty Persuasion”), and an early song, never released on a record (“Body Count,” one of the best of the abandoned tracks from this period.) Enjoy — there’s plenty more!