Sweetness follows
September 21, 2011 10:57 AM   Subscribe

R.E.M. call it a day. "... as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band."
posted by danwalker (340 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's the end of the band as we know it...
posted by Blake at 10:58 AM on September 21, 2011 [21 favorites]


That's great.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:59 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


If I wasnt hungover, I would have written a battleship-class FPP about this.
This band quite literally changed my life when I was a kid.

But they have probably taken it as far as it could go and it is time.

R.I.P.R.E.M.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:59 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.
posted by unSane at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2011 [29 favorites]


Not like the FPP needs that much explanation, but the link doesn't work.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:00 AM on September 21, 2011


It's a sad day, but at least we got eleven more years than planned.
posted by Bag Man at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


It works, give it a couple tries. Probably being bombarded by traffic now. But who really cares anyway?
posted by ReeMonster at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2011


I'm considerably more bummed out about this than I thought I would be. It's hard to imagine what the last 3 decades of rock would have been like without them.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.


Your sentence as written makes no sense.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Farewell to the fourth best band to come out of Athens.
posted by Eideteker at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.

I agree, they could have left the game before monster was released, and alot of fans would have been happy.
posted by TheBones at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bittersweet. I loved the band for most of my life. But in all honesty I'm not going to miss the awkward, struggling band that they became in the wake of Berry's departure.
posted by anazgnos at 11:02 AM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now.

MIKE

"During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."

MICHAEL

"A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."

PETER

"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:03 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whoever had R.E.M. in your band breakup death pool, congratulations. Please see Tammy, who is the office manager on the fifth floor, sometime today to collect your winnings.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:03 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Farewell to the fourth best band to come out of Athens.

Oh please.
They can hear my eyes rolling at your bullshit post three towns over.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2011 [20 favorites]


Why breakup? Why not just not produce anything new?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:04 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, now they have more time for nightswimming. I'm sure all you people understand.
posted by punkfloyd at 11:05 AM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]




So you can tell the difference.
posted by biffa at 11:06 AM on September 21, 2011


Farewell to the fourth best band to come out of Athens.

I believe you mean fifth best band, as you have not listed Bar-b-q Killers.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck. No other band ever meant as much to me as they did. This is really bumming me out.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know that everyone must think the first band they really loved was of a unique breed and special importance, but in my case, I know it's true. Thanks guys.
posted by Adam_S at 11:09 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Grrr... I mean Bar-b-q Killers
posted by R. Mutt at 11:09 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Onion's (brilliant) AV Club give us the write up that this FPP should have been
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I guess they decided they were out of time.
posted by ashbury at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2011


BUT I NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO SEE THEM LIVE *sob*
posted by Windigo at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


.
posted by Lynsey at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, on the same day Michael Stipe posted nude photos on his tumblr!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:10 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


For them and the fans, life's rich pageant is over.
posted by ashbury at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wrote this definition of art in my bio for a solo show many years ago:

"1. Bring them with you. 2. Let it be theirs."

I loved REM and especially Stipe for creating things to listen to that met those two conditions. And classy, to boot. Thanks guys.
posted by yoga at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I once saw R.E.M. live and Radiohead was the opening act.

That was fucking awesome.
posted by GavinR at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's sad but unsurprising, given the tepid work they've been doing for the past few years.

Snark all you want, but all your little darling Pitchfork fans WISH they'd done Lifes Rich Pageant.
posted by Legomancer at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm actually genuinely sad about this. Automatic for the People is one of my favourite albums of all time and R.E.M. are a band that mean a hell of a lot to me.

Plus, I'm not particularly fond of their last few albums and I was hoping for another real gem before they called it quits.

Still. I'm grateful for what they gave us. Now I'm gonna go and put Try not to Breathe on repeat. The lyrics seem somewhat fitting tonight.
posted by badmoonrising at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure all you people understand.
...
I guess they decided they were out of time.

Eponymousterical!
posted by AugieAugustus at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, it is true that they ain't what they used to be. But I'm still gonna miss 'em.

I hope they have the good sense to hire Bill Berry for the inevitable reunion tour.
posted by spilon at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.

Let's put it this way. Their deserved berth in the Hall of Fame isn't for any music they released through Warner Bros.

Thanks for the music, gents.
posted by Trurl at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saw them at the Capitol Theater in Passaic in 1984, sharing a stage with Roger McGuinn, Richie Havens, Jon Sebastian and The Band. Back when all my friends were saying things like "R.E.M.? U2?"

Best. Show. Evar.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:11 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by TurkishGolds at 11:12 AM on September 21, 2011


I really didn't expect that. R.E.M. have sort of always been there and I loved the fact that they were. I felt a pang of sadness. I'm glad I managed to see them play before they quit, even though it was in the twilight of their career. As to those who say that everything after Bill Berry left sucks, I will only say that Up is in my top three of favorite R.E.M. albums (with Automatic for the People and Murmur).
posted by Kattullus at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Farewell to the fourth best band to come out of Athens.

The B-52s and "you probably haven't heard of them" x2.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw them twice, once at Dingwalls in 1983 on the Murmur tour, second time a freebie in Toronto for Monster. They were two different bands.
posted by unSane at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a reckoning and they came up short. Pretty persuasive, no second guessing.
posted by ashbury at 11:13 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's put it this way. Their deserved berth in the Hall of Fame isn't for any music they released through Warner Bros.


Alot of fans consider Automatic and New Adventures to be amongst their 5 best records.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.

I agree, they could have left the game before monster was released, and alot of fans would have been happy.


YMMV, but I'd hate to have missed out on New Adventures in Hi-Fi and Accelerate.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Weirdly, I woke up this morning knowing that i was going to come into work and quit my job. Went downstairs to my drawing table to work on comics for a while before heading to work, and hit "shuffle songs." "It's the End of the World As We Know It" came on, and I thought it was a pretty funny piece of synchronicity, since this was Big Job-Quitting Day.

Now I guess it's two funny pieces of synchronicity.


I do think the R.E.M. I really loved ended when Bill Berry left, though.

posted by COBRA! at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


They leave behind a monster document that shows up how good they were until their collapse into now.

Okay, I'm done.
posted by ashbury at 11:15 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They sorta became the Ford Ranger of bands.
posted by punkfloyd at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


GavinR: I once saw R.E.M. live and Radiohead was the opening act.

The one time I saw R.E.M. Modest Mouse opened and Johnny Marr played with R.E.M. during the encore.

BOOM! Top that!
posted by Kattullus at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


They leave behind a monster document that shows up how good they were until their collapse into now.

Clearly, it was all part of life's rich pageant.
posted by COBRA! at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


COBRA! is Mike Mills.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:16 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.

What does this mean? I don't follow REM, but Wikipedia says they put out studio albums in 2011, 2008, 2004, and 2001, which is about as frequently as Radiohead has been coming out with albums in the past 10 years. Their last 2 albums got mostly positive reviews and peaked in the top 10 albums in the US (if that matters). I assume REM still played live shows too.
posted by John Cohen at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2011


COBRA! is Mike Mills.
posted by Senor Cardgage


In 1990ish, i actually looked so much like Mike Mills that my friends joked about it all the time and called me "Mills." The weirdness continues.
posted by COBRA! at 11:19 AM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


~em>Alot of fans consider Automatic and New Adventures to be amongst their 5 best records.

I suspect most such became fans after the band left I.R.S.
posted by Trurl at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw The Motels at Club Foot in what -- '82? and this weird band opened up for them that only had an EP out. The singer mumbled, and I didn't know what to make of it.

I had no idea they'd last another 30 years -- hat's off to 'em. By any measure, they did what they set out to do.

Also, I like Monster. Band & Blame and I Don't Sleep, I Dream are both great songs.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:21 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


GavinR: I once saw R.E.M. live and Radiohead was the opening act.

Kattullus: The one time I saw R.E.M. Modest Mouse opened and Johnny Marr played with R.E.M. during the encore. BOOM! Top that!



Yeahhhhh...GavinR wins. Nice, but no cigar. You ain't gonna top that.
posted by Windigo at 11:22 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Snark aside, the band kind of ended a decade ago at least.

What does this mean?


As far as I can tell, it just means unSane doesn't understand what "snark aside" means.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:22 AM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


GavinR: I once saw R.E.M. live and Radiohead was the opening act.

The one time I saw R.E.M. Modest Mouse opened and Johnny Marr played with R.E.M. during the encore.

BOOM! Top that!


Not sure if it tops it, but when R.E.M. played here in Vancouver, Radiohead was in attendance (they were playing the next day) and Thom came out and sang Patti Smith's part in E-bow the Letter. Also, later was called up to sing "It's the End of the World..." Thom danced around like a kid who'd just been given the biggest lollipop ever. He even grabbed Peter Buck's guitar from him and started wailing on it. Pretty awesome.
posted by troubles at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


So long and thanks for all the Murmur-ies.
posted by humannaire at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The one time I saw R.E.M. Modest Mouse opened and Johnny Marr played with R.E.M. during the encore. BOOM! Top that!

I once saw the video for "We Built This City" on VH1. Consider yourself... topped.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


Stipe's audition reel for Lemon Party is a bit more interesting than what REM has been doing since New Adventures.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know this sounds super cheesy, but this is probably the most emotional piece of music news I've received since 1994.

When I was in middle school, I used to listen to their early records on my headphones in bed at night and find so much solace in their music. I was stressed and anxious and awkward and there was always comfort in their writing. I'd also go for long walks in the woods behind my house letting their whining ease my own.
posted by TurkishGolds at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not everyone can carry the weight of the world.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


.
posted by swift at 11:25 AM on September 21, 2011


From the Glass Half Full Department: Peter Buck now has more time to do awesome things like Tuatara and Tired Pony.
posted by jbickers at 11:26 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel fine.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


BOOM! Top that!

Michael Stipe is my first cousin, once removed.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


....Thom came out and sang Patti Smith's part in E-bow the Letter....

Not the exact same performance, but a good one (for all involved)...
posted by Windigo at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011


After 90210 used Losing My Religion as their go-to song for every single dramatic/emotional moment ever for an entire fucking season, I started pretending REM didn't even exist. So this is a surprise to me because I assumed they broke up ages ago.
posted by elizardbits at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I suspect most such became fans after the band left I.R.S.

Yeah, I grew up with their early 90s records. "Stand" was probably the first R.E.M. song I was aware of. I understand why the IRS years represent the big delineating mark, and there's no argument that those are the records will always be the foundation of their legacy, but I feel like everything they did was valid up through New Adventures. And Monster I'll go to the mat for any day - I love that record. It's a great, weird, squirmingly uncomfortable art-rock record masqerading as a big arena-rock bow.
posted by anazgnos at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


not really
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:28 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


From the Glass Half Full Department: Peter Buck now has more time to do awesome things like Tuatara and Tired Pony.

Cheers to that. I saw both Peter and Mike, separately, as part of the Baseball Project, playing a small dingy club on a weeknight. They both chatted amiably with fans and sold CDs from behind the counter. For two multi-millionaire members of the rock and roll hall of fame, their sincerity struck me.

Also, regardless of what you may think, Peter Buck likes music more than you do.
posted by Adam_S at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


What does this mean? I don't follow REM, but Wikipedia says they put out studio albums in 2011, 2008, 2004, and 2001, which is about as frequently as Radiohead has been coming out with albums in the past 10 years. Their last 2 albums got mostly positive reviews and peaked in the top 10 albums in the US (if that matters). I assume REM still played live shows too.

I don't think anyone disputes this. However, a great many fans of REM at their peak - which I'd argue was late '80s, the Pageant/Document/Green phase - started to lose interest around the time Bill Berry left, after the release of New Adventures in Hi-Fi. (Which I'd further argue pretty much sucked.) Some fans (myself included) couldn't even name a song off any of their post-millenium releases. Thus, from a sort of long-term cultural importance POV, it wouldn't have made any difference if they'd just broken up when Berry jumped ship.

I will now join the monkeys and the monkeys in drifting off to sleep with my teeth in my mouth, contemplating how once upon a time even Michael Stipe's weirdest and most dashed-off stabs at surrealist lyric-writing seemed charming.
posted by gompa at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


My favorite band in HS. Had no less than four R.E.M. t-shirts. Plus, the show in Murfreesboro TN on the Green tour was my very first concert.

.
posted by josher71 at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2011


"Oh please.
They can hear my eyes rolling at your bullshit post three towns over."


Ha ha, fair enough if we're going by "best." I should have said "my fourth favorite..."
posted by Eideteker at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Standing too soon
Shoulders high in the room
Heaven assumed
Shoulders high in the room
posted by epj at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does this have anything to do with Michael Stipe whipping out his pecker online (nsfw)?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2011


On the same night as Live Aid, way back in the summer of '85, I saw R.E.M. at a nightclub here in Vancouver. They were amazing, and were touring for Fables of the Reconstruction. They played a more punked out version of everything and for the encore they thrashed their way through a bunch of '60s proto punk classics like Wild Thing, You Really Got Me, etc. Both Stipe and Buck staged dived into the audience to end the show.

That's my version of the band with those great early albums so thank you very much for those and for one of the truly great gigs I saw in my youth.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They had a good run, and deserve a break.

Thanks, guys.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


BOOM! Top that!

I saw R.E.M. play at the Uptown Lounge in Athens, under the name "Hornets Attack Victor Mature".

Also, Michael Stipe once threw a checker at my head.
posted by steambadger at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


.
posted by caddis at 11:32 AM on September 21, 2011


BOOM! Top that!

Partied with band (cept Stipe) at Center Stage, Atlanta. During Fleshtones show got roaring drunk at our table with Bill Berry and Michael Mills. Had to fight literally fight Bill Berry off my girlfriend. We all wound up dancing to Right Side of A Good Thing. Bill Berry completely face-planted on the dance floor and it was the Funniest Thing In The World.

At least, that's what I heard happened. I don't remember anything after the fight with Bill Berry.
posted by Mike Mongo at 11:32 AM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


Another way to look at it:

...and now there's one more band Cheap Trick has outlived. They are the Rasputins of rock.
posted by COBRA! at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Considering how much I loved - and I do mean *loved* - this band at an early, formative point in my life, I would've thought this news would have a greater effect on me. They lost me with Monster, though, and I never looked back.

I'm glad they were there, though, and grateful for all the enjoyment they brought me.
posted by item at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chronic Town was the first independent record I ever bought. I remember the first time I heard Boxcars on WTUL in New Orleans before the record was even in the stores and it was,

Like Wow Man!

Wikpedia says it was '82 but I am sure it was before that.
posted by bukvich at 11:33 AM on September 21, 2011


All hail Bun E. Carlos.
posted by josher71 at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hate on later R.E.M. all you want, but if you're early R.E.M., you deserve, at the very least, in my world, the right to announce when you are ending and release albums others might not like along the way.

I suppose people who don't like R.E.M. at all, this consideration doesn't matter at all. But if that's the case, then do I have a tagline for you!

Also, a great reason for them to announce their dissolution -- I can think about and/or listen to their songs that I listened to and/or loved once upon a time in a way that is melancholy but not quite as depressing as what would have happened if it had been inspired by the death of one of them.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, I had a song from one of R.E.M.'s post-millennial releases on my last MeFiSwap mix. Good stuff.

In other news, my husband doesn't want to look at this pre-R.E.M. video of Michael Stipe hanging out at the Varsity Theatre in St. Louis for Rocky Horror at the moment, so I'm going to show it to you guys again.

From the Glass Half Empty Department: Now there's no one to stop Michael Stipe from getting all verklempt on his next solo project.
posted by limeonaire at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


All hail Bun E. Carlos.

He's retired from touring so the legitimacy of the entity still calling themselves "Cheap Trick" is at least somewhat in question.
posted by anazgnos at 11:35 AM on September 21, 2011


Thank You R.E.M.
posted by Adam_S at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:37 AM on September 21, 2011


Well, they can hardly have a reunion tour without breaking up first, can they?
posted by iotic at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had been working on a FPP of my own for this.

I suspect a number of us were creating FPPs with more than the one link in them, though I suppose many people will be posting link to videos of their favorites and other related miscellany. One link that probably won't show up unless I make it is the now-long-outdated FAQ for rec.music.rem, which I maintained for many years back in the dimly-recalled Usenet era of olde.
posted by aught at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, Michael Stipe once threw a checker at my head.

The game piece or the car?

Also, under "top that:" R.E.M. performing "8 Miles High" with Roger McGuinn sitting-in.

Furthermore: "Up" is one of my all-time faves, particularly the track "Hope."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crap, I forgot about not linking videos I like on MeFi. So help me, if someone flags that Dreams So Real video and gets it taken down, I will come down upon you with the fire of a thousand supernovae.

Or I'll just have to rip it from the documentary.
posted by Eideteker at 11:44 AM on September 21, 2011


Oh, man, hopefully U2 will pack it in, too.
posted by liketitanic at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


Guess Michael Stipe will have to fall back on what he's best at: looking like he's been dying for the past 20 years.
posted by inturnaround at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Another memory floating up: there was a period where, for me, the internet was just an all-text place you went to get REM chords and lyrics.
posted by COBRA! at 11:46 AM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


One link that probably won't show up unless I make it is the now-long-outdated FAQ for rec.music.rem, which I maintained for many years back in the dimly-recalled Usenet era of olde.

I think this FAQ, circa 1994, is literally one of the first things I ever read on the Internet. Thanks!
posted by Adam_S at 11:46 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


REM was great, but they should have done this a long time ago. So, uh, kudos, I guess?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:47 AM on September 21, 2011


I once saw R.E.M. live and Radiohead was the opening act.

Similarly, I saw Throwing Muses open for R.E.M. Amazing night.
posted by aught at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I will always have a special place in my heart for REM, but after all they've done for independent music, if they've decided to quit, they've earned the right to do it without catching any crap for it from me. Still, feels like the end of an era, sort of.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2011


My favorite band in HS. Had no less than four R.E.M. t-shirts. Plus, the show in Murfreesboro TN on the Green tour was my very first concert.


Saw them in Omaha on that tour (had the poster too, which is where I learned there was a city named Murfreesboro) and my whole world changed in one night. Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians opened the show which is the reason you just felt a tinge of jealousy.

So much of my development sprung out of that one night. I was blown away. I had to start watching Post-Modern MTV and 120 Minutes just to be able to see R.E.M. videos, so that of course opened up my world to XTC, The Replacements, Husker Du, The Smiths, and literally a world of other music apart from the safe edge of slightly modern pop I'd been a fan of before (stuff like INXS and late-era OMD)

The very next day, I took my $11 to the record store at the mall and bought two cassettes: the Chronic Town EP and They Might Be Giants' Lincoln and my transformation had begun.

Everything about R.E.M. at the time excited me.
I had never seen a band with their kind of dressed-down image, their arty stage show, their arch sensibility, their catalogue of wide-ranging songs (in 1989, a rock show with a mandolin was a pretty rare thing), their political awareness - which I suspect was a gateway into grasping politics and environmentalism for a whole lot of kids of our generation.

Hell, R.E.M.'s (at the time) incredibly sharp design and aesthetic sensibilities are almost certainly a driving factor in my getting into graphic design (my lifelong career) and DEFINITELY a factor in my making gigposters these past 7 years, a hobby that has allowed me to meet and sometimes even work for/with my musical heroes. Though sadly I never got to do a piece for R.E.M.

I used to sit with my copy of Remarks and look at the pages of beautifully designed 7" sleeves from their IRS years and those tiny thumbnails sparked my imagination like crazy. I would spend hours drawing and trying to recreate the designs, the logos from their different eras. It was through their design that I first began understanding typography, since Stipe would usually direct a strict set of type styles for each album/tour cycle. This being the late 80s and me being broke, I would redraw all the type by hand, or photocopy and manipulate type samples from Mecca Norma and Letraset catalogs. I redrew entire alphabets from R.E.M. sleeves. From Document's heavy use of classic Futura and Franklin Gothic families to Lifes Rich Pageant's Cooperplate Americana. I would try to decode how and why the sleeves looked the way they did and getting into that headspace taught me a lot about unified dsign concepts.

You can snark all you want about bands aspiring to "change the world" but changing the world isnt always about one grand sweeping gesture. Sometimes its just about encouraging a whole bunch of people to be a little bit better than they had been previously. And sometimes that is exactly what happens.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2011 [56 favorites]


When my friends and I heard they planned to break up in 2000. We made plans to travel to Athens for their final show. Joke was on us!
Eponymous was the first exposure I had to current music.
This is a sad story.
posted by hot_monster at 11:50 AM on September 21, 2011


I haven't paid much attention to REM in the past ten years, if not more, but I'm glad I will remember them as a great band with good songs that never became a laughing stock, like so many other bands do when they keep playing past their prime.
posted by bondcliff at 11:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another memory floating up: there was a period where, for me, the internet was just an all-text place you went to get REM chords and lyrics.

Yes! I remember doing this. I was rather bemused to find a site that insisted the line in 'Everybody Hurts' wasn't 'don't throw your hand' but instead 'stop growing ham'. Ah, Michael Stipe and your beloved indecipherable murmuring...
posted by badmoonrising at 11:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have no snark for R.E.M. I can find something to enjoy (if not love) on each of their records, and several of them will forever be cornerstones of my life. Thanks, boys.
posted by mykescipark at 11:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In 1985 or '86 we road-tripped from Way NorCal to Berkeley to catch them at the outdoor amphitheater on campus there. It was raining. Not a lot, but steady. We stood in line all afternoon and when they finally opened the gate, we rushed in to find good seats. We had arrived early enough, so the seats we found were pretty good. It was still raining. Not a lot, but steady.

The crew were busy on the stage with squeegees, everything under plastic sheets. The rain slackened some, then came on, then slackened. From time to time one of the band would peer out from the shadows. Eventually they all came out and Stipe took the mic and announced that they would not be performing in the rain. It was too dangerous. He apologized and thanked us for coming out in the rain.

Then the boos came. Not a lot, but steady. Pete Buck took the mic and apologized some more and the boos came on. He told us they would be back in a week and our tickets would be good. Down came the boos, loud and heavy so Pete Buck's voice was almost washed out, and finally he said, "We're not risking our lives for you," and he dropped the mic and the four of them returned back behind stage.

The boos came down harder, then slackened. We all waited for a while hoping, but it was fruitless. We began to trickle up the aisle and out of the amphitheater. We found our way to the van and drove all the way back home. The rain continued to fall. Not heavy, but steady.

We road-tripped down a week later and caught them at the Oakland Coliseum Arena. Our seats weren't as good as the ones we'd nabbed at Berkeley and the searchlight behind the band on stage was blinding, but we thought it was more than worth it, both trips down south, but especially the first trip when it rained and Pete Buck got pissed.
posted by notyou at 11:51 AM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Oh, man, hopefully U2 will pack it in, too."

We can always hope!
posted by Eideteker at 11:52 AM on September 21, 2011


Also, REM is to indie pop what Sam Adams is to indie beer.

I hope Sam Adams isn't calling it quits anytime soon.
posted by notyou at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the very least, I hope that Michael Stipe goes on to have an interesting solo career (if only because I've really enjoyed Thom Yorke's non-Radiohead stuff a bit more than most recent RH releases)
posted by schmod at 11:53 AM on September 21, 2011


Though they may not have been totally on their game for the past 10 years or so they still kick the shit out of most of what comes out today. Grazie R.E.M - we will share memories.
posted by incandissonance at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2011


I saw the Green tour and took room service to Michael Stipe once.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There were few records that shaped my sensibilities more than Murmur and Reckoning. I saw them in Passaic, NJ on the Fables of the Reconstruction tour and Michael Stipe still had long hair and gripped the mikestand like he would drown without it and their version of the Beach Boys' "Sloop John B" entered my heart and never left. I played the opening riff of "Driver 8" on my shitty acoustic guitar so many times that I still know it from muscle memory. Then I saw them at Madison Square Garden on the Life's Rich Pageant tour and it was like they were a totally different band and I was wasted and don't remember much of the show. It was loud and bright. That much I know.

Then later Green came out and I fucking hated it because by then I was too cool to love REM in the ardent, unironic, unabashed way I had in high school and I was almost ashamed of how much of myself I had given to them and how betrayed I felt by their surge in popularity and how silly it was to feel like a jilted lover because America wanted to share MY band.

Years and years and years roll by and I lose interest in them, moving on, like you do, checking in now and then. Monster is good. I discover it years after its release. I buy Accelerate from Amazon as an MP3. It's OK.

I go to a Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 show at a tiny grotty little rock club. I drag a friend along. He's an REM freak, makes my love look like a dalliance, and he refuses to believe Peter Buck, who could be anywhere, doing anything, is actually going to be playing this tiny little club.

We walk in the door and the first person we see is... Peter Buck. He's having a beer and talking to the bartender. There's no crowd around him. No throng of adoring fans. I say to him "Hi, thanks for coming to our town. Murmur changed my life." He laughed and said, "Mine too, man. Mine too."

Thanks, REM.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:59 AM on September 21, 2011 [60 favorites]


Have to nominate "Life's Rich Pageant" as my favorite REM album, wall-to-wall awesome, but anything up to "Automatic" could be considered. And that's what was so cool about REM, every-single-record up to that point was packed with great stuff.

I even liked "Dead Letter Office" and pulled their version of "Femme Fatale" out of my ass at a jam night a few months back.

Haven't paid attention since Monster, it was at that point that age and family responsibilities overtook my need to keep up with music. And now this just makes me feel even older
posted by kgasmart at 12:00 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, that's a bummer. They used to be one of my favorite bands but I hadn't kept up with them. Automatic For The People and Up are probably my favorite of their albums, which I'm sure brands me as a heathen to the orthodoxy.

Now I really regret never seeing them live. *sigh*

Anyway, I'll just leave this here, my favorite song played by half of my favorite band and half of one of my favorite bands: "One" by Automatic Baby (aka Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, Larry Mullen Jr, and Adam Clayton).
posted by kmz at 12:02 PM on September 21, 2011


i can understand the arguments for hating the major label stuff or dropping out after bill berry left, but i'm with a few other commenters here - Up is a fantastic album. it is an incredible piece of work. i will probably listen to it in its entirety today.

i've never bought into the authenticity wars. i only like the first 4 tori amos albums but i don't judge people who like the later stuff and i don't feel like less of a fan because i don't still buy her music. there were a set of records that meant a lot to me and i'm not threatened because another set of records might mean something to someone else.

and just to destroy all my credibility - i liked monster. it came out right before i turned 13. it's a fantastic young teen rock record. i still listen to it sometimes because it remains fun.
posted by nadawi at 12:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:02 PM on September 21, 2011


Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 have been terrific the past few times I've caught them, I hope they keep touring. There was a documentary about them a few years ago - Sex, Food, Death, and Insects - and in it Buck was incredibly frank and blunt about his attitude towards R.E.M. Basically saying that all the baggage of the major-label, multi-million dollar band had turned it very much into a job and a grind for him, even though the personal and working relationships were still good.
posted by anazgnos at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was never a huge REM fan, but they had their moments and they're definitely one of the bands that soundtracked my time at university. In 1992 Automatic For The People was pretty much the only CD they ever played at the student-run copy shop.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


R.E.M. were the most important cultural force of my youth in the 1980s, though I lost the plot when Bill Berry left the band. But a couple "interviews" with Michael Stipe in 1985 greatly impressed upon me a sense of possibility and a mandate not to be an asshole, the subject of this extended reflection I wrote in 2007 A Precocious Young Man Schemes with His (long lost) Platonic Soulmate, Meets His Idol, and Reflects on It All Twenty Years Later.
posted by donovan at 12:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's my REM story...

I went to England with my brother in the late 80s (I was like 16 or so) and was really excited to buy some 'import' cds straight from the source. I bought GBH's City Baby Attacked by Rats and City Baby's Revenge packaged on one cd and since the car we rented had a tape deck I bought an REM cassette... sincerely thinking they were an English band.

I don't like their music much, but I'd still class them as a great band based on what I've seen and heard from and about them. Just not my cup of tea.
posted by Huck500 at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Michael Stipe once threw a checker at my head.

The game piece or the car?


Which reminds me (again, a Usenet-era anecdote) of Kibo's campaign against the band, which included rmgrouping rec.music.rem, and which seemed to have something to do with a claim that Stipe had tried to run him down once with a car in an Athens parking lot. The mind boggles. (Part of the chain of associations here is that one car Stipe reportedly drove for a while in college was an ancient Checker.)
posted by aught at 12:07 PM on September 21, 2011


When I was young and full of grace, I checked out Murmur on vinyl and Dead Letter Office on CD from the local library. Never made it to see them live, but I'm thankful for bootlegs. Okay, we won't say goodbye, so long.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:08 PM on September 21, 2011


One link that probably won't show up unless I make it is the now-long-outdated FAQ for rec.music.rem, which I maintained for many years back in the dimly-recalled Usenet era of olde.

Heh. One of my first real exposures to the Internet was MURMUR-L and the later debate over whether to retire MURMUR-L for rec.music.rem.

R.E.M. finally breaking up is one of those closing of an era things for me. I remember my friend Chris bringing home Dead Letter Office from summer camp and just being fascinated by it. Up to that point I was going through a reject-all-rock-music phase (seriously -- I refused to listen to rock music in junior high because I believed classical to be better. I was a stupid teenager.)

But then came R.E.M., and after that U2, and then the Pixies, and then Nirvana and Pearl Jam... and pretty soon I was dropping half my college student part time job on CDs. And I had just about everything R.E.M. put out on CD up to that point, including all the European singles.

I'd say my attention to R.E.M. faded after Bill Berry hung it up, but Hi-Fi was a great, albeit dark album, and anyone who says they started sucking the moment they signed with Warner is just another snarky hipster who cried in their bedroom listening to "Everyone Hurts" when their parents broke up.

There are a whole lot of us who wouldn't be listening to Superchunk or Fugazi or the Pixies or Radiohead if R.E.M. hadn't been the gateway to a world without Peter Cetera warbling another sugary ballad. And for that, thank you, gentlemen.
posted by dw at 12:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was born the year Chronic Town came out. When my parents bought their first CD player, the first CD they bought was Automatic For The People. I was ten years old at the time and didn't care about music, but since it was the only CD we owned I heard it quite a bit. I would make fun of it because I was ten and already in the grip of mocking what I didn't understand. But then one day I woke up to the melody for Sweetness Follows stuck in my head and HAD to listen to it, and really hearing the album for the first time was like a flower blossoming in my hand.

And being twelve years old when Monster came out, no one in my age group liked them (and it still kinda seems to be that way.) I took a lot of shit from all the kids listening to Metallica and Greenday but I weathered through and R.E.M. became like this safe, secret blanket only I knew about. They were mine and no one could touch that.

So I started buying the back catalog and checking out books from them from the library. I collected bootlegs and magazine clippings and made mixtapes to mow the lawn to. But no matter how much I listened or looked or read at what was available there was still something missing. There was still a layer of mystery that surrounded them.

Before you could find lyrics to any song on the internet, listening to early R.E.M. was completely magical! You could only guess what was being sung and you could interpret it in any way you wanted. I still get chills sometimes when I listen to certain songs. I wanted to write like that: I wanted to make something that made sense to me but could be useful to anyone who chose to interact with it.

All of this is old hat to most of you, I'm sure. Everyone experiences their favorite band with the same intensity, but I just needed to get this out. R.E.M. meant everything to me. I guess I figured they would always be around and I kind off feel like someone I loved very deeply died today. I still have to defend my love of them to people who think they're nothing but Losing My Religion and I still feel lonely when I want to geek-out about them and no one is around to share that enthusiasm.

And I still think that they wrote the most beautiful song I have ever heard in my life. But I going to say which song that is. That song is for me. No one else needs to know.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 12:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I go to a Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 show at a tiny grotty little rock club. I drag a friend along. He's an REM freak, makes my love look like a dalliance, and he refuses to believe Peter Buck, who could be anywhere, doing anything, is actually going to be playing this tiny little club.

We walk in the door and the first person we see is... Peter Buck. He's having a beer and talking to the bartender. There's no crowd around him. No throng of adoring fans. I say to him "Hi, thanks for coming to our town. Murmur changed my life." He laughed and said, "Mine too, man. Mine too."


BitterOldPunk wins the thread. I think we can close this up now. ;-)
posted by aught at 12:10 PM on September 21, 2011


I was listening to "Out of Time" this morning and thought "wow, they've been together for a REALLY long time, wonder if they'll ever break up."

So it was probably my fault; sorry.
posted by Lucinda at 12:10 PM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


New Adventures In Hi-Fi was the first REM album I ever bought, and is a sentimental favorite. It also doesn't have the song "Stand" on it, which means it cannot be their worst album.
posted by Grimgrin at 12:12 PM on September 21, 2011


Murmur and Reckoning changed my life, too -- they were on that fairly short list of bands that I heard at just the right moment in my life, and who opened door after door after door for me, in terms both of music and ideas. I saw them in Denver at the dearly departed Rainbow Music Club on the Reckoning tour -- it may have been only the second or third concert of my life -- and was really just gobsmacked. The music was both challenging and appealing to my 14-year-old ears in a way that I'd never quite heard before: murky and melodic, enticing and enigmatic. I seriously can't imagine how different my musical and cultural life would have been without them. Haven't listened to them regularly in ages, but was somehow always glad and gratified they were still around doing their thing.
posted by scody at 12:14 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've been a huge fan since I heard "Gardening at Night" on a Florida public radio station back in 1982. "Automatic for the People" is my favorite album of all time. Thanks for everything guys.

God, I hate the flippant "everything they've done since ____________, sucks" comments. If an album is a notch or two below the band's finest work, that doesn't mean it's worthless.
posted by davebush at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


They leave behind a monster document that shows up how good they were until their collapse into now.

I am sure the reconstruction will be fabulous.

If you are confused, check with the sun.

I have seen them live two or three times, but I have no personal connection with anyone in the band apart from that. The summer of 1991, I was selling audio equipment and there were only two albums that were acceptable to everyone in the store abd which consequently would get played repeatedly over the big booming speakers. Out Of Time joins Fishbone's Truth and Soul as the only two albums I can hear from start to finish in my head -- running order correct, exactly three seconds between each track -- despite not having listened to in literally decades.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:15 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Twenty years too late.
posted by koeselitz at 12:20 PM on September 21, 2011


children look up all they hear is sky blue bells ringing

R.I.P.
posted by tuesdayschild at 12:22 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, BitterOldPunk wasn't kidding, R.E.M.'s version of Sloop John B (here with Natalie Merchant) is joyous.
posted by Kattullus at 12:23 PM on September 21, 2011


My first CD was Reckoning. I got the cassette on the day it came out, but back then you had to wait for a while to get CD. I actually had to drive an hour to the nearest Tower Records to get it.

I saw REM at the County Bowl in Santa Barbara in 1986. I remember having really decent seats for the show and thinking that Mr. Stipe was quite odd singing some songs with his back turned to the crowd.

I remember when Everybody Hurts came out in 1993 the freeway looked a lot like San Antonio and sure, enough it was. I ended up owning most of their CDs through the mid 90s or so. They were my favorite band for a while but we sort of grew apart.

When one of their songs shows up in shuffle on my iPhone or the radio these days, it will take me back. Thanks, guys.
posted by birdherder at 12:25 PM on September 21, 2011


God, I hate the flippant "everything they've done since ____________, sucks" comments.

What's particularly funny in relation to R.E.M. is that the early Murmur-L flamewars often started when hipper-then-thou fans posted the band had totally lost it with Fables of the Reconstruction, the third album, from 1985 (which of course is now solidly embedded in the golden age that True Fans now speak so glowingly of).
posted by aught at 12:29 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


seriously -- I refused to listen to rock music in junior high because I believed classical to be better. I was a stupid teenager.

I totally did the same thing.
posted by drezdn at 12:30 PM on September 21, 2011


Michael Stipend.
posted by sourwookie at 12:32 PM on September 21, 2011


davebush: “God, I hate the flippant ‘everything they've done since ____________, sucks’ comments. If an album is a notch or two below the band's finest work, that doesn't mean it's worthless.”

I'm not trying to be flippant. I guess I should say that "Harborcoat" still makes me cry on occasion. Those first few albums mean the world to me, truly they do; they're some of the best things I've got in my little world. The fact that a lot of us see their slouch toward sappy pop in the 90s as a betrayal doesn't mean we're all sneering and pretentious.

Regardless of all of this, REM is embedded ineluctably in my life. There are echoes of things on Reckoning that I'll never escape, memories of driving back roads unsure of love and my place in the world.

“The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer, he knew restraint
And the bassman, he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint...”

posted by koeselitz at 12:32 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


hipper-then-thou fans posted the band had totally lost it with Fables of the Reconstruction, the third album, from 1985 (which of course is now solidly embedded in the golden age that True Fans now speak so glowingly of).

Oh, gawd, this is so true. I still can't help but think of Life's Rich Pageant as "REM's Bryan Adams record".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:33 PM on September 21, 2011


I guess I should say that "Harborcoat" still makes me cry on occasion.

Me too. In fact, just reading that sentence and realizing I'm not the only one made me almost choke up a little. So, um, yeah.
posted by The World Famous at 12:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have not listened to Losing My Religion in years. God what a fabulous song.
posted by bukvich at 12:37 PM on September 21, 2011


My first pop music memory is hearing REM's version of "Superman" playing from my brothers' room ad nauseum when I was five. Of course, when you're five you want to hear things over and over and over and I got just that. My brother Mike would convince my parents to play Green and Document during three-day road trips from Houston to Colorado, and those albums just feel like the mountains in winter to me now.

When Mike and then, a few years later, my sister went off to college in Dallas I go up to visit them a few times per year, and Out of Time and Automatic for the People would always be in the tape deck, with the cases rattling around in the back seat with me to study as I passively observed the college life.

But then, back at home, I was effectively an only child for the first time in my life, and thirteen and troubled, and then, boom, Monster comes on the radio, and shit changed.

It wasn't the album that saved my life or anything (that was Siamese Dream for me - oh the folly of youth) but it did something else. All my life, literally as far back as I could remember pop music, REM had been at the center of it, coming down to me filtered through my brothers' tastes, and now, for the first time, they made a record for me. Not a hand-me-down - this one was for me.

That was the moment my musical tastes became legitimate, independent. If REM was making records for me, then I didn't need to run things past my brothers in order to check if they were any good. Such a little, stupid thing, but I was 13 and music was not just my life, but my identity. And Monster gave me permission to do what I wanted with it.

I get why a lot of fans stopped caring with that album, but it's my favorite of theirs, and I'll defend it to the fucking grave.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:37 PM on September 21, 2011 [14 favorites]


Farewell to the fourth best band to come out of Athens.

Wow. Ridiculous times 3. The B-52s? Seriously?

I believe you mean fifth best band, as you have not listed Bar-b-q Killers.

Wow. Ridiculous times 4.
posted by Dead Man at 12:40 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


i find it interesting how many of us who love monster were 12-14 when it came out. i've been telling my (6 years my senior) husband that monster was a point in time record. i understand why the 18-25 year olds didn't like it, but it was straight up awesome for the 9th graders. i don't feel embarrassed at all for still loving it at (almost) 30.
posted by nadawi at 12:41 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Or The Skin Pops.
posted by sourwookie at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2011


Also, Michael Stipe once threw a checker at my head.

The game piece or the car?


No, the game piece. I'd forgotten about that cab; I'm glad he didn't throw that at my head.
posted by steambadger at 12:42 PM on September 21, 2011


"The singer, he had long hair
And the drummer, he knew restraint
And the bassman, he had all the right moves
And the guitar player was no saint..."


I guess it says something when a band as cool as Pavement records not one but two tributes to you (the quoted "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" and the somewhat loose cover of "Camera").
posted by aught at 12:45 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just as when Gary Gygax died, I find myself dealing with a depth of grief I totally did not expect. Like many others here, the band and their music hasn't played a big role in my life for a number of years, but geez they were a cornerstone of my formative years.

Years ago I was driving on an interstate in the country, with Fables in the deck. "Driver 8" was on, my favorite song for many, many years, but as with most of their songs, I had no idea what the lyrics were. Who could tell, even after so many listenings. So the song is on, and I'm passing by power transmission lines. I notice that the power lines have these odd orange balls on them, every so often. Something clicked – a subconciously-recognized lyric bubbled to the surface of my mind – and I yelled for all the cows to hear: "POWERLINES HAVE BLOATERS SO THE AIRPLANES WON'T GET SNAGGED!"

At least ... I think that's what the lyric is.
posted by BrotherFeldspar at 12:46 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


First time I heard them, appropriately enough, was on my college radio station.

Now excuse me while I stand in the place where I work.
posted by tommasz at 12:47 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Come on monsters. You don't have to cry. We can be happy!
posted by bicyclefish at 12:48 PM on September 21, 2011


hipper-then-thou fans posted the band had totally lost it with Fables of the Reconstruction, the third album, from 1985 (which of course is now solidly embedded in the golden age that True Fans now speak so glowingly of).


One of my roommates got really mad when I told her that R.E.M. was the new Tears for Fears.
posted by incster at 12:49 PM on September 21, 2011


LEONARD BERNSTEIN!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:49 PM on September 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


Plus, the show in Murfreesboro TN on the Green tour was my very first concert.

Holy crap. Where'd you go to high school? I was living in middle TN at that time too.
posted by grubi at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2011


As a big fan, I can still be objective. I honestly think they've only released one weak album, "Around the Sun". I also think "Up" and "Reveal" are beautiful, but misunderstood records. Yes, they're different (largely due to the band coming to grips with Berry leaving), but they both have a charming floating quality and would have been embraced warmly, had they been the band's first two releases.
posted by davebush at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the song is on, and I'm passing by power transmission lines. I notice that the power lines have these odd orange balls on them, every so often. Something clicked – a subconciously-recognized lyric bubbled to the surface of my mind – and I yelled for all the cows to hear: "POWERLINES HAVE BLOATERS SO THE AIRPLANES WON'T GET SNAGGED!"

Yep (though I always heard it as "floaters," like fishing floats). There's a valley in the western Catskills that has high transmission lines with these things on them as well, so the first time I heard "Driver 8" in college I knew exactly what Stipe was singing about there despite the overall mystery of most of the lyrics.
posted by aught at 12:50 PM on September 21, 2011


Although I haven't listened to them in years, I would have to say Circulatory System is my favorite Athens band. But really, I don't care one way or another.
posted by cloeburner at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought they were "floaters".

I always loved that I (and so many others) knew exactly what the lyrics were . . . and none of us agreed.

I lived in the Atlanta area and around the time of Green, the cool kids got their hands on a definitive lyric book and refused to share it with anyone not in their clique. I had always thought they were dicks. This solidified that in my head. Now I think they were deluded dicks who were photocopying yet another person's incorrect interpretation of mumbled lyrics.
posted by Seamus at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2011


I'd rather listen to every REM album since Monster and "Losing My Religion" and "Everybody Hurts" 100 times at gunpoint than see another comment about how they should have packed it in years ago and are just a trio of old noodling farts. Because Lord knows that no well-known/well-liked musician who's under 40 now is ever going to be an old noodling fart that your kids and grandkids are going to laugh and sneer at while you scream, without knowing exactly why, "Radio Free Europe! Get off my lawn!"
posted by blucevalo at 12:53 PM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]


R.E.M. probably did more to save me from delving any deeper into the industrial/post-grunge music scene than any band. I've seen how many superfans hate the albums from the early-mid 90s, but they're as much a part of the soundtrack of my life back then as any other band.

Honestly, this feels like yet another chapter of my life ending before I'm ready, dammit.

PS: I'm sorry I didn't buy your last 2 albums. I'm fixing that now.
posted by DigDoug at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2011


There are a whole lot of us who wouldn't be listening to Superchunk or Fugazi or the Pixies or Radiohead if R.E.M. hadn't been the gateway to a world without Peter Cetera warbling another sugary ballad. And for that, thank you, gentlemen.

Damn fucking straight.

When I was a freshman (1993), my mom used to drop me off an hour before school (the alternative was walking, which I liked even less than not sleeping) and I would go to the library. They had old back issues of Rolling Stone. I would look up articles & interviews with R.E.M. I learned so much about fucking music just from those interviews. I wouldn't hear Pere Ubu or Mission of Burma until much later, but it meant that, years later when I was in a record store and I would see those names a little bell would go off in my head and I'd take a chance.

They were THE gateway drug band for me and I couldn't have asked for a better one. Dead Letter Office alone introduced me to the Velvet Underground and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
posted by anazgnos at 12:55 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


.
posted by luckynerd at 12:56 PM on September 21, 2011


In retrospect, REM's pre-Green stuff from the blows anything by OTC or Circulatory System out of the water, I retract my prior statement.
posted by cloeburner at 12:57 PM on September 21, 2011


Green & Automatic were my favorite albums (a little late to the party, I know).

I missed them every time they came around, and the one I still kick myself for missing was this show, 4 days after the Loma Prieta 'quake in 1989 (I lived in Monterey Co. at the time). The Shoreline Amphitheatre is about 40-50 miles from the epicentre of that quake. Couple of my friends went and came back starry-eyed and move in love with the band than they were before, which couldn't've been imagined.
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its about time. They were great in the beginning, but I haven't found anything interesting about them after Green.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:58 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, Michael Stipe and your beloved indecipherable murmuring...

An old roommate used to tell the story about he and his friends spending a few boring high school study halls on a project: listening to "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" over and over and over and over in an attempt to figure out the words. After about three weeks, they were pretty confident about what they'd worked out, and someone had the bright idea to actually send their efforts to the band, asking "so how'd we do?"

Michael Stipe actually wrote them back to congratulate them for coming closer than most other people had.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


In August of 1991, I was 22 years old and coming (painfully) to the end of a relationship that if I'd any damned sense I would never have been in. I was spending too much time alone in my apartment, smoking too many cigarettes and drinking too much Bacardi. I didn't have a lot of money for CDs, so I was listening to WJFK in Washington, D.C., waiting for a song I liked to come on, so I could press record on the tape player. The song I was waiting for was Alive from Pearl Jam, and because it was hard sometimes to tell what the beginning of a song was with the DJ talking over it, I hit record when Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite came on. Too lazy to hit stop and rewind, I listened.

And fell in love. Thanks, guys, for creating the music my heart uses as a bookend to that relationship.
posted by Mooski at 1:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I also think "Up" and "Reveal" are beautiful, but misunderstood records. Yes, they're different (largely due to the band coming to grips with Berry leaving), but they both have a charming floating quality and would have been embraced warmly, had they been the band's first two releases.

To me those two bands just define "struggling middle-aged band unmoored from almost everything that defined them". Not that they're horrible, they're just the alternative rock equivalent of a Yes album from the late 80s, like Big Generator or something. A band aging in an ungraceful way. Anyway the thought of those records being anybody's "first releases" is weird and unthinkable to me.
posted by anazgnos at 1:06 PM on September 21, 2011


I still get goosebumps when I hear "Fall on Me". Living in Decatur, GA in the early 80's, there was no way to avoid REM. I remember not really understanding what all the fuss was about.

"Finest Worksong" is my favorite tune of theirs, I think I'll play it in their honor today.

Well done, fellas.
posted by black8 at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I never got REM, and believe me I tried - I could just never understand what was so special about them.

However, I think I'll go to my grave arguing that E-Bow The Letter is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard in my life, and really, if a band makes even one song that great they deserve to be remembered forever.

RIP
posted by Palindromedary at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


My favorites -- Murmurs, Life's Rich Pageant -- are early albums. I liked that anyone could find something to relate to in Michael Stipe's vocals because, well, no one could tell what he was saying (and the decipherable words were still kind of gibberish). I liked seeing him sing through a bullhorn at a show in St. Paul. I liked that the Work and Green tour t-shirts I dug up this summer hadn't turned yellow. Like Navelgazer, I got them from my big brothers -- who also gave me Hüsker Dü and the Replacements and other homegrown music. (Big Brothers, I owe you one for all those years of enjoyment!)

One of my favorite ever memories is of riding in my oldest brother's car with my sister, and one of the songs off Life's Rich Pageant -- I Believe, I believe -- came on his tape deck. We all started singing it at once, then stopped self-consciously, then started again happily. None of us knew all the words, and each of us knew some that the others didn't. We laughed when it was over, but never spoke of it again.

But no, this doesn't give me that pang I would have thought it would if you'd asked me ten years ago.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2011


birthday party cheesecake jellybean boom!

(RIP)
posted by papercake at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


there isn't a single ungraceful note or breath or sigh in Up.
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


anazgnos: “I wouldn't hear Pere Ubu or Mission of Burma until much later, but it meant that, years later when I was in a record store and I would see those names a little bell would go off in my head and I'd take a chance. They were THE gateway drug band for me and I couldn't have asked for a better one. Dead Letter Office alone introduced me to the Velvet Underground and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.”

Yes, absolutely. When I was a young jazz bug who knew nothing of independent rock, the simple practice of listening to REM's many b-side covers and connecting the dots was an entire education. Pere Ubu, Mission of Burma, Pylon, Velvet Underground - the list goes on and on. I learned so many good things from them.
posted by koeselitz at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2011


It's still fun now and then to see Automatic for the People on some noisy bar jukebox and put in a quarter for "Star Me Kitten" and go back to my table and stare wistfully into my drink.
posted by troubles at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


> BUT I NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO SEE THEM LIVE *sob*
> posted by Windigo at 2:10 PM on September 21 [2 favorites +] [!]

I confess I never saw them live as REM, and I live in Athens and have since they were actually big. But I did see them live twice playing backup for Roger Mcguinn (both occasions were while they were big, not before or after--Mcguinn is after all the Godfather of jangle) and I can tell you they know all those Byrds songs cold.
posted by jfuller at 1:11 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you think What's the Frequency Kenneth is one of the ten greatest songs written since Louie Louie you might want to do a couple of wikipedia clicks--there is a edit citation war going on there over some guy who claims to know the name of the guy who attacked Dan Rather in '86. It is a great mystery about human nature that we have a collective sense of comic fascination over a homeless schizophrenic assaulting a celebrity. I have always thought that I had been Dan I would not have ever mentioned it to anybody.
posted by bukvich at 1:19 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am 41 years old, but right now part of me is 16 because I have "Lifes Rich Pageant" on about 11 in my office. Thank God I work at home.
posted by uberchet at 1:24 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're years past their best, but they've still managed to call it a day with a measure of dignity - and precious few successful bands manage that. Let's hope they've got the good sense to avoid the standard reunion tour debaclce too.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:25 PM on September 21, 2011


there is a edit citation war going on there over some guy who claims to know the name of the guy who attacked Dan Rather in '86.

That...actually had been settled, I thought. I remember when William Tager was arrested for killing the cameraman outside the TODAY show, and then about halfway through the day the day that happened, CBS making a statement that was, in effect, "Dan Rather just told us that 'holy crap, this is the same guy that attacked me that time.'" The only disputes about Tager's involvement with the Rather attacks are coming from "wait, Dan Rather said TWO people attacked him, not one," and Rather saying, "no, I said two people were THERE, but only one attacked me, and Tager's the guy that attacked me."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on September 21, 2011


Oh, gawd, this is so true. I still can't help but think of Life's Rich Pageant as "REM's Bryan Adams record".

BitterOld, are you quoting somebody there? Because a college friend of mine made damn near the same joke WHEN LIFE'S RICH PAGEANT came out. Now I'm wondering if he hadn't read it somewhere. Or maybe you're him.
posted by Ipsifendus at 1:25 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a small handful of albums that were there when I needed someone, something, anything good in this world to hang on to. Automatic For the People is one of those. It was the only thing that made any sense.

REM seems to be a band that saved people on a regular basis, whether they wanted to or not. The world is poorer without them.
posted by swift at 1:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


One thing that hasn't been touched on in this thread, and maybe it's because it isn't as important to people as it is to me, is that REM was a Southern band.

To a kid in high school in Alabama in the 80s, cutting his teeth a few years too late on bands like The Clash and The Buzzcocks, hearing bands like Black Flag and The Minutemen and XTC was like tuning in to a radio frequency from a distant planet -- this is all great, but it's all so far away. Sure, we had our Ramones cover bands and our floppy-haired New Wavers and all that, but most of us were just aping things we saw elsewhere, things written about in photocopied 'zines passed around hand-to-hand.

Then here comes REM, and they don't sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd, and they're undeniably COOL, and the first LP is amazing and fantastic and IT'S GOT KUDZU ON THE COVER!

And they're from HERE! We could drive to Athens and GO SEE THEM RIGHT NOW (if we had fake IDs and a tank of gas and if I tell my mom I'm staying at your house and you tell your mom you're staying at mine).

We didn't have to wait for music from England or New York City or LA or any of those fabulously distant and obviously not-boring places. We could make it ourselves. REM made it a little bit more OK to have a drawl and still like punk rock. REM made it OK to be a Southern teenager. They were OURS, and if other people in those fabulously distant and obviously not-boring places liked them, then maybe they'd like US, too, and we don't have to apologize for who we are.

That was huge. Maybe just to me. But huge.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2011 [36 favorites]


Everyone saying "Oh, were they still going?" and "Meh, they've been past their best for a decade" has missed out on some great music. Go listen again.
posted by liquidindian at 1:28 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry.
posted by Gelatin at 1:29 PM on September 21, 2011


I had tickets to see R.E.M. in 1989 in Oklahoma City, but my parents wouldn't let their teenage son drive there and back by himself. (8 years later, Mom let my youngest brother drive to Dallas by himself. Eldest son blues, I guess.)

But in 2003 they played Bumbershoot and I finally got to see them, minus Berry. The crazy thing was I was way up front (thanks to having a Gold Pass and getting to bypass the long line into the stadium) and Michael Stipe spent the whole concert looking my direction and smiling at me. Given I was surrounded by a bunch of 20-something women, I'd like to think he was coming on to me. And as a very heterosexual man, that made me feel... happy.
posted by dw at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I quite enjoyed Automatic for the People and Monster, but had honestly lost track of REM as a band - I had no idea they were still around. So, I guess this breakup really doesn't have much effect on me, aside from the "Hey, damn, how about that" factor. But now that I know they HAVE been still producing music since those days, I will have to go back and give some stuff a listen. Does anybody have any recommendations on the best stuff to check out since the Monster days?
posted by antifuse at 1:30 PM on September 21, 2011


BTW you guys, its a potent testament to the greatness of this band that we are all able to argue about our favorite periods.

Not a lot of bands have several distinct eras and even fewer have GOOD distinct eras.

Also Around the Sun is actually a collection of a lot of great songs (and a few total duds) recorded and produced badly. I wish they would rerecord that one and put it up as free mp3s
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:36 PM on September 21, 2011


Antifuse you should check out Up.
Its a terrific collection of arty chamber pop.
Also the newest one Collapse Into Now is a really solid record with a variety of their different eras' sounds.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2011


I will never be able to thank them enough for Lifes Rich Pageant and Document.
posted by D_I at 1:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
posted by danielle the bee at 1:39 PM on September 21, 2011


No Bitter Old Punk, not just to you.
Dead on.
posted by Seamus at 1:40 PM on September 21, 2011


I had tickets to see R.E.M. in 1989 in Oklahoma City, but my parents wouldn't let their teenage son drive there and back by himself. (8 years later, Mom let my youngest brother drive to Dallas by himself. Eldest son blues, I guess.)

Ha, the time I came closest to seeing them live, I couldn't after all because my parents didn't want me driving from Round Rock to San Antonio by myself. (All of a two hour drive, at most.)

Less than half a year later (still under 18), I was interning in Houston, living on my own, and driving back and forth between Houston and Austin every month.
posted by kmz at 1:40 PM on September 21, 2011


Driver 8
posted by xod at 1:42 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


For a great, underrated gem from their catalog, check out "Sad Professor" from "Up".
posted by davebush at 1:43 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians

Yeah, we got Indigo Girls in Murfreesboro. Sigh.
posted by josher71 at 1:45 PM on September 21, 2011


Orange Crush
posted by xod at 1:45 PM on September 21, 2011


All right, since we're sharing R.E.M. concert stories: My first was in Lexington, Kentucky on the Fables of the Reconstruction tour, with 10,000 Maniacs opening. The second was on the Pageantry tour, when my friends and I cut classes to hang out all day in front of Louisville's Memorial Auditorium and thus were front row (almost) center.

A short time after both shows, Mills, Buck and Berry came out and chatted with any fans who'd hung around. Yes, of course I did.
posted by Gelatin at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, we got Indigo Girls in Murfreesboro. Sigh.

We were supposed to get Sonic Youth in Anaheim in '95 but because of the whole Aneurysm rescheduling thing we ended up with Luscious Jackson, who had no memorable qualities whatsoever.
posted by anazgnos at 1:47 PM on September 21, 2011


Furry Happy Monsters

Have a nice retirement, R.E.M.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:48 PM on September 21, 2011


D'oh, already linked.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2011


Holy crap. Where'd you go to high school? I was living in middle TN at that time too.

Oakland HS in Murfeesboro. Class of '92.
posted by josher71 at 1:49 PM on September 21, 2011


Oakland HS in Murfeesboro. Class of '92.

Moore County HS in Lynchburg. Also Class of '92. (We may have played you guys in football. Can't remember.)
posted by grubi at 1:51 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


April 14, 1983, Clark Gym. Buffalo, NY. I think they were openers for the English Beat or even third billed to a local band, Pauline and Perils, the stage was cramped and their set shortened, and it was not a perfect performance, bit it was for me. and 30 years later.... the time has come. I will be listening all afternoon.
posted by Duck_Lips at 1:52 PM on September 21, 2011


Rockville
posted by xod at 1:55 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anybody have any recommendations on the best stuff to check out since the Monster days?

New Adventures in Hi-Fi - Allmusic 3.5*
Up - Allmusic 2.5*
Reveal - Allmusic 3* - Metacritic 76/100
Around the Sun - Allmusic 2* - Metacritic 56/100
Accelerate - Allmusic 4* - Metacritic 79/100
Collapse into Now - Allmusic 3.5* - Metacritic 71/100

I've generally found Allmusic's ratings to be pretty fair across the board. Personally the only late phase R.E.M. album I avoid putting on is Around the Sun; I probably play Accelerate the most from this era.
posted by aught at 1:55 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pauline and Perils

Believe it or not, I saw this band play on Queen St. in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Maybe 1979?
posted by davebush at 1:57 PM on September 21, 2011


Leave
posted by The World Famous at 1:58 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


> no, I said two people were THERE, but only one attacked me, and Tager's the guy that attacked me.

EmpressCallipygos, has anybody ever figured out WTF Tager (if it was really he) thought he was doing? Did he mean to attack Dan Rather or mistake him for someone else? (or just think he was Napoleon attacking Moscow?) And what "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" was all about? Topic drift 'Я' us, sorry, but I do give props to Stipe, known for incomprehensible lyrics, picking a notoriously incomprehensible incident to write a whole songful of incomprehensible lyrics about.
posted by jfuller at 1:58 PM on September 21, 2011


High school. Rockville, MD. And REM were coming to play in DC. The Reckoning tour was the first show I ever went to without a parent or older sibling there. The dB's opened that night (the dB's!!!). For the encore, Michael Stipe came back on stage, solo, backlit, and at that time he was rocking the long hair so it totally had that halo effect, and he sang Moon River acapella...

A few years later, college, it was the Pageantry show up in Boston. The Feelies opened that one (The Feelies!!!). At some point, REM launched into "Sitting Still" and I started singing along. And then it dawned on me that everyone else was also singing along. Of course no one knew the fucking words, but we were all making the same goddamn sounds in unison. It was one of the most joyous moments I've ever had. So, thanks you guys.
posted by fikri at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


No artist is creatively vital forever. Even Shakespeare and Tolstoy went downhill at the end. There's no dishonor in it.

I'm glad the boys got rich and that some of their later music was meaningful to people. But neither is what they'll be remembered for - and that's just the way it is.
posted by Trurl at 2:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Turn you Inside Out
posted by xod at 2:04 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


What I appreciated most about REM was when they brought the Minutemen along to open for them.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hard to avoid REM living in America in the past 30 years. I don't think I ever completely got it though: The only REM album I ever owned was Monster, on cassette and I used to listen to it in my indestructable little Honda Civic Hatchback and think it was cool.
posted by PHINC at 2:08 PM on September 21, 2011


EmpressCallipygos, has anybody ever figured out WTF Tager (if it was really he) thought he was doing? Did he mean to attack Dan Rather or mistake him for someone else?

The thing about the Tager/Rather/Kenneth thing is that it's still pretty cloudy. Some aren't so sure that it's been wrapped up in a little bow.
posted by anazgnos at 2:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pretty Persuasion
posted by xod at 2:09 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


has anybody ever figured out WTF Tager (if it was really he) thought he was doing? Did he mean to attack Dan Rather or mistake him for someone else? (or just think he was Napoleon attacking Moscow?) And what "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" was all about?

He thought that the TV networks were beaming messages into his brain.

That is, it is a certainty that this is why he killed the cameraman outside the TODAY show. It's not QUITE as certain in Rather's case; but the fact that he attacked Rather, and the "what's the frequency" question, seems to pass the smell test. The theory is that his remarks to Dan Rather (which actually were "Kenneth, what's the frequency") was him asking Rather what the frequency was FOR those radio transmissions so he could block them (presumably with a tinfoil hat).

Exactly why he insisted on calling Dan Rather "Kenneth" is unclear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2011


A short time after both shows, Mills, Buck and Berry came out and chatted with any fans who'd hung around.

I went to see REM at 688 in Atlanta, when they were first starting to get some national exposure, and about half an hour before they were supposed to go up, I ran into Pete coming out of the bathroom. I didn't really know him -- we'd been to a few of the same parties, and knew some of the same people, but I don't think I'd ever had a conversation with him that lasted much longer than "What's up"? He broke a huge grin, clapped me on the shoulder, and said "Hey, man, really glad you could make it!"

Then the sound system went out, and nine million of us stood packed together in an un-air conditioned warehouse (in Georgia, in August) for two hours, pouring beer on our heads to keep cool and stomping our feet from time to time to motivate the sound crew, until finally R.E.M. came out and played one really great set before the blue laws kicked in. And then, in the parking lot, I said something I can't quite remember to a skinhead and got my first black eye since high school, and six of my friends and I piled into a Dodge Dart and drove back to Athens drinking beer and singing "We Walk" (we were supposed to take an oasis, apparently); and my girlfriend and I made out until sunrise on the steps of Reed Hall because her roommate was asleep, and then walked downtown for breakfast. Then I had to go to work shelving books at the library; so if you never found that copy of Anti-Oedipus you were supposed to read for Comp Lit, that's what happened to it.

Man, that was a great show.
posted by steambadger at 2:23 PM on September 21, 2011 [12 favorites]




High school. Rockville, MD.

Did you go back home after the concert?
posted by The World Famous at 2:25 PM on September 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


I don't know if this has been linked yet, but here it is. And for my money, no other video in the history of videos is as perfect a marriage of music and image as this one.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 2:26 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


High school. Rockville, MD.

Did you go back home after the concert?

HA! The World Famous, I was still too young at the time to heed REM's sage advice, but we definitely kept it in mind. Unofficial theme song for my high school's graduating class of '86.
posted by fikri at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2011


Let's hope they've got the good sense to avoid the standard reunion tour debacle too.

I think each of The Police were paid £50M before their reunion tour. It grossed over $340M. If anything, breaking up and reuniting 20 years later is good for a band's bottom line. It is rumored that The Police wouldn't have reunited if it hadn't been for one member in particular needing the money. Its probably pretty hard for the members of a band with solo careers to tell the ones without to forget it, especially when they've got their own payday coming.

Not that it wasn't a shallow shadow of them in their heyday, but money remains a pretty good motivator.
posted by pashdown at 2:35 PM on September 21, 2011


The World Famous: Leave is maybe one of my favourite REM songs. And New Adventures In Hi-Fi possibly my favourite album. Those squalling, air-raid-siren guitars, and the atmosphere they create always knocks me sideways. Yeah, people like to bang on about Fables, or Document (and I never really loved Document), but New Adventures is up there with Murmur and Reckoning. There's a grit and depth and breadth to that album that they never had done before, and certainly have not managed since, good though bits of Up and Reveal are. I suppose I just like the dirge-y aspect of New Adventures; it felt like they were grappling with songs which were on the tipping point between jangle and sludge, and it's a sound that suited them very well.
posted by Len at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


i used to rock in a record store and the manager was a guy named Pete. as it turns out, Pete Buck was his idol. he blushingly told the story of how, drunk and bar hopping one night, he happened to stumble into one to find none other than Pete Buck sitting at the bar.

naturally, he had to go up to this man who he'd idolized for so long and give thanks, to graciously express how important his guitar playing had been in his development as a musician and how permanently his tastes had been adjusted and his horizons expanded by this wonderful, talented man.

what actually transpired, however, with the level of inebriation being dealt with at that moment, was for my manager Pete to stumble up to Peter Buck and loudly slurr "i can play every song you ever wrote!".

Buck laughed out loud and said "i'll bet you can play some i didn't write, too!".
posted by radiosilents at 2:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I never got to see REM, because when they finally came to my town (Perth), my dad decided we needed a family vacation and I was too old for family vacations, too young to stay at home.

Peter Buck got married while he was in Perth, so there was nothing but REM all over the news and I was 200km away, in a caravan park, miserable.
posted by wingless_angel at 2:41 PM on September 21, 2011


While never a fan myself, REM's role in pioneering DIY indie touring cannot be underestimated. The circuit they and their cohorts created still exists. Likewise, as posted above, their role as a modern southern band, or a band of note from anywhere other than LA or NYC, was monumental.

My personal anecdote: our band was in Atlanta opening for a GA band that apparently was the weed supply for REM. There was quite a party going on in the dressing room before the show, Peter Buck was there, wow, etc. I push open the unlocked bathroom door only to find Bill Berry on the pot, pants around ankles. Oops, pardon me!
posted by bonefish at 2:50 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I kind of grew out of (or overplayed to death!) most of their stuff a long time ago, but Near Wild Heaven is still one of the best songs ever written about that particular losing-the-fight-against-losing-you feeling. It's sad but hopeful, strong but vulnerable, and I can still play it 800 times in a row.
posted by vorfeed at 2:53 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


William S. Burroughs reads/sings Star Me Kitten

gives you an idea of how lovely and strange the lyrics are. One thing that hasn't been noted enough here is how great a lyricist Michael Stipe is.
posted by troubles at 3:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Bartheleme trail (Kenneth Frequency &c) leads to jessamyn . com !
posted by bukvich at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2011


Oh man, the first concert of my teenage years was the Tampa, FL stop of the Monster tour on 9/9/95, a date I did not even have to look up. I was newly 15 and my mother had somehow scored front-row seats for my best friend and I, and we were thrilled. R.E.M. was our favorite band in the world back then, and the level of excitement I felt about that concert will probably never be replicated.

Radiohead opened, and Thom Yorke managed to shake a beer so hard it exploded all over him during "Creep."

R.E.M. eventually came out, and we spent the whole show mere feet from the nudie-suited splendor of Mike Mills, my main teenage celebrity crush. I've seen hundreds of concerts since then, but I'll always remember the mirror ball and Michael Stipe's backup dancer moves during "Tongue" and Mills taking his jacket off to play guitar on "Let Me In."

Thanks for being the soundtrack to a lot of teenage mental fuckery, angst, and happiness, R.E.M.
posted by ausdemfenster at 3:16 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I majored in math in college. I didn't (and don't) like English or history or any social science courses. But it was a requirement that all freshman take one year of English. I tested out of one semester but couldn't get out of the second.

As I was registering for spring semester, I browsed the listings for English 102 to determine the best time to take this awful class. There were maybe 100-150 sections of English 102 (a big state school). One listing had "ENG102 - REM" listed instead of the usual basic ENG102. Intrigued, and because the time was agreeable, I registered for the class and thought I might get some sleep in the class, or at least get to study sleep patterns, etc.

I showed up on the first day, and everyone was excitedly talked about REM, THE MUSIC GROUP. I had never listed to REM much, or even their genre, but I decided to give it a go. The teacher was a grad student who had lived in Athens and had occasional run-ins with the REM guys. We were assigned a text book, An REM Companion by Marcus Grey, and each were assigned an album to review (mine was "Monster").

Then we sat around all semester and listened to their albums and critiqued the music. The only written assignment was to make a web page about the album you had been assigned (this was about 1995 when the web was still new).

So out of this course, I gained a new favorite band and learned how to make a webpage. What a great English class.

(I even got to see REM in concert in Australia when I was traveling there a few years ago)
posted by bagels at 3:21 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah - starting in '89, my first real handle in the BBS world was Orange Crush and it wasn't in tribute to the soda. A cooler 12 year old I could not have been. Ok, so I could've been a shit ton cooler, but still.
posted by item at 3:21 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was a little surprised at this news. But only a little. Their muted approach to the promotion of Collapse Into Now was telling, I think.

To those who said nobody cared for the last 15 years: not true! I began listening to REM at a time when their moment in the limelight was quickly waning (and, happily, I never had to put up Shiny Happy People saturating the airwaves). This would have been in 1999, not long after the release of Up, which many people regard as a blemish on their discography. But not me! At the age of 12 or 13, I had never heard a such a strange and wonderful pop album! While it's far too long and has its share of boring songs, the material that works manages to couple Stipe's very best lyrics - which seem to be complex portraits of frayed individuals dealing with the rapidly changing world around them - to subtle musical backdrops which masterfully reflect the tone of the lyrics. And sweet jesus, was this a welcome change from the stuff that was popular with kids my age at the time -- the squeaky-clean horniness and unrealistic romance of boy-band pop for girls, and, most annoyingly for me, the moronic angst and poor musicianship of Korn and Limp Bizkit for boys. Yeech. So I'll always thank REM for that album.

I ravenously tore into their back catalog, and then tore into all sorts of other music as a result.

I'll agree that their material after Up was patchy, but not worthless. Now that REM has called it a day, I hope those of you who (understandably) found the final 10-15 years of their career disappointing will reassess the later stuff. You may discover some hidden gems.

They've ended things on a high note. For all their flaws, they were a damn fine band.
posted by Hyperbolus at 3:29 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't really listened to R.E.M. for years, but tonight I think I will. I was in high school when Life's Rich Pageant came out and we listened to it non stop. I still love that album.
posted by Sailormom at 3:34 PM on September 21, 2011


I can't believe it, but somehow I was so flabbergasted by actually getting to see them on the Monster tour in Houston in '95 that, until I read this thread, I had completely forgotten that Radiohead was the opening act.
posted by uberchet at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Funny, this song came on random during my morning commute:

Maybe I should take the mic
Stand up tall like Michael Stipe
And try to solve the problems of the world

posted by Eideteker at 3:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take a picture here, take a souvenir.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, I actually care a little about this, but I guess mostly for the sake of all y'all upthread to whom these guys managed to mean so much so far after what I figured was the peak... But hey, I was in w/ Chronic Town (well, actually maybe the first single, but I'm not 100% on the chronology ) . Had an REM poster - probably the last rock band poster I ever bought (maybe actually 2nd-and-last. after the bicentennial Kiss one) with a 2-color picture of the band, and just he words "Walked Swam Hunted Danced Sang" along the bottom of it, which I still think was pretty cool.

But- '86, Life's Rich Pageant tour, we drove from Madison down to Northwestern to see them in some ~2000-seat venue. Don't remember much about the show- although I *believe* they did Radio Free Europe, which still might be their best song- but I do remember this... at some point, Stipe is at the microphone, and he goes - possibly apropos of something but I'm damned if I know what - "We're rockstars, throw money at us!"

And people do, they loft handfuls of change towardds the stage. Not, like, winging quarters at the bands' heads or anything, just... throwing money. And what do you want- I'm 20, I'm full of pissed-off idealism and whatnot, so I'm like "Rock stars? Whatever! These guys are *dead* to me now!" And I never really cared about their music again, except to note how annoying it was that they played The One I Love about 30 times a day on the radio the next year.

My loss I guess! They were still a pretty cool band, even if they were rockstars that people threw money at.
posted by hap_hazard at 3:45 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


.
I can't pretend I have a profound connection to the band. I have Automatic, I cry at Nightswimming, and I loved seeing them live.
Still, this is a bad thing. Maybe, like with Alex Chilton's death, this will get me to rediscover them.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:47 PM on September 21, 2011


What a great band. They did so much so well, especially infused the world with something transcendent and sublime for a while.

They and a few other bands (Echo & The Bunnymen, JD, The Psych Furs, Sonic Youth), really opened up my mind to the wonder that was possible in the world.
posted by Skygazer at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2011


My dad was a huge fan of R.E.M. when I was a little kid but it tapered off probably around Monster, just when I was starting to get into music myself. So then my first girlfriend, several years later, gave me a copy of Up and I'm not ashamed to say it was an epochal moment in the development of my musical taste, not to be equaled until I went out on a limb and bought Kid A as my first Radiohead album maybe three years after that. Until Up my tastes in music were basically the Barenaked Ladies and some halfhearted enjoyment of the grunge and other "alternative" music of the day. Up was delightfully weird in a completely different way than I remembered R.E.M. being, and I think it was probably the pivot that sent my music taste in the direction that ended up taking me to where I am today.

Of course from there I had to go back through the back catalog, and it turned out that I pretty much knew every song on Murmur and Reckoning by heart (except the words, of course. I've read that even Stipe doesn't know them), just having osmosed them while growing up.

I never really got into Accelerate, and I can't bring myself to listen to Around the Sun. But every other R.E.M. album has a special slot in my brain, and I'll happily cite Automatic as probably my favorite, I.R.S. era notwithstanding.

I've seen them twice: once at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the Up tour, once in St. Paul for the Accelerate tour (with Modest Mouse and the National opening). The band huddled around a piano with several members (did they bring out people from the opening acts? I don't remember) strumming acoustic guitars for a rendition of Let Me In and I'm sure wasn't alone in feeling like it was just for me and my mom and brother who were with me, and my dad, who wasn't.
posted by valrus at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Valrus! Ha ha! UP! YES! HOLY SHIT, I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE!
posted by Hyperbolus at 3:52 PM on September 21, 2011


My dad was a huge fan of R.E.M. when I was a little kid

*sigh*

I. Am. Old.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:58 PM on September 21, 2011 [13 favorites]


OH, and re: lyrics, I um acquired this live thing from '09- guess it was a legit release? And they're doing all these old songs that haven't been part of their repertoire for years, and Stipe starts talking about how he can't remember or make out his old lyrics, so he has to go on the internet to find out what they are... some mild hilarity ensues. It's just a brief bit, I'd transcribe it if I had my music here. But - I thought it was sort of wonderful that even *he* doesn't know, so really, whatever you think old REM lyrics are? Well, you might be right!
posted by hap_hazard at 3:59 PM on September 21, 2011


My REM fandom peaked in the late 90s, when I was about 14-15. Oddly enough, I discovered them due to Radiohead, of whom I was a totally obsessed fanboy at the time (well, I had heard of them before that, but I never bothered to check 'em out until I started reading about Radiohead and they came up as an influence).

One consequence of is that I did not realize that Monster is an Album You're Not Supposed to Like until fairly recently. To which I say: Screw you, hipsters. "Crush With Eyeliner?" "Circus Envy?" Damn good songs.

Anyway, my interest in them has waned in the years since and I never much bothered with any of their releases after Up, though I'll still break out Murmur and Automatic for the People on occasion. But I've always respected their ethos. Godpseed, boys. You've earned it.
posted by breakin' the law at 4:06 PM on September 21, 2011


Almost every single girl I dated in the 1980s was into REM.
The one I got married to wasn't

We didn't last very long.

To the band - Thanks for making some great music that was perfect for the time.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 4:07 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll miss you guys. Thanks for helping out the music scene way back when, for lifting my spirits lots of times, and for some killer songs.
posted by jonmc at 4:34 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


High school. Rockville, MD.

Did you go back home after the concert?

HA! The World Famous, I was still too young at the time to heed REM's sage advice, but we definitely kept it in mind. Unofficial theme song for my high school's graduating class of '86.


If the official theme song was Wasted Years by Iron Maiden, the Rockville, MD class of '86 wins.
posted by The World Famous at 5:14 PM on September 21, 2011


Last time I saw them was at one of those Concerts for Change in 2004, sharing the bill with Bright Eyes, surprise guests Neil Young and John Fogarty, and this Bruce guy. And they more than held their own, and that's saying something when you have those other three acts as revved up as they were that night.

Goodbye sons of Athens. I'll be blasting your CDs at work all day tomorrow.
posted by Ber at 5:23 PM on September 21, 2011


Grew up in GA and live in TX.
It's pretty interesting, the difference between the way my friends from the South and my friends from Texas are reacting to this.
To the Texas folk, REM was definitely something they were into for (variable) fleeting moment and then no longer gave a damn. To my friends who spent the '80s and '90s in Athens, Atlanta and various other southern college towns, there is much more nostalgia.

Me, I left and moved West. I held onto their early stuff as a lifeline back to my youth and the mountains of the East. After Automatic, I only listened to the new stuff a handful of times and never found there what I needed and got from the earlier albums.

Oddly enough, most of my listens to the later stuff were provided by a friend from NY who loved it all. Different mental connections, different effects.

(And I am thankful for the lack of "your favorite band sucks" in here. And equally thankful for the love of different REM eras.)
posted by Seamus at 5:37 PM on September 21, 2011


Didn't see this on the front page, and started writing a post - which, when previewed, told me that this post was posted. Here's what I wrote:

After 31 years, REM announced they are breaking up. REM played a unique blend of "Minor key, mid-tempo, enigmatic, semi-folk-rock-balladish things," according to their guitarist Peter Buck - often featuring picturesque, vague, nonlinear, queerish lyrics.

They're credited as being among the forefront of college rock, indierock, alt rock, postpunk, and a bunch of other subgenres. Their career spanned 31 years. They didn't burn out young nor did they slowly and painfully fade away.

Here's a live version of "Harborcoat." Their music made me love music.

Thanks for everything, REM.
posted by entropone at 5:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


i think monster was their last great album - everything after that? - pretty good but it just didn't stick with me for some reason

it's understandable that they would break up, but i had really hoped they could find a way to be a great band again, instead of just a good one

but from chronic town to monster, their records had every bit of the genius and originality that the beatles had in the mid to late 60s - they were the greatest band of their time, the 80s

and even if i feel their post-monster stuff wasn't up to that level, they never embarrassed themselves with something bad or stupid - i probably should give those albums another listen sometime to make sure

but even so, they have nothing to be ashamed about - i sensed they were trying hard - and they remained listenable

maybe in a few years, they might reconsider, get barry back on board and just play in the studio for the hell of it without worrying about a tour and all the rock business junk that gets to be too much

to me, there's only one band that's managed to come close to their brand of mysterious, artistic rock and roll - the tragically hip - if you're an REM fan and haven't heard them - you should check them out
posted by pyramid termite at 5:41 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This sounds like snark.

It isn't.

Anyone not from the US on this thread?

(I ask because I grew up when REM was doing their thing, and it was good, and they got their airplay and column inches in the UK, but now it's a few cool videos and some nice songs and not much more. And I wonder if that's me or because it's an American thing which I am not.)
posted by Devonian at 5:45 PM on September 21, 2011


they never embarrassed themselves with something bad or stupid

Radio Song

I'm sorry.
posted by The World Famous at 5:48 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


All right, it's 1983, I'm 15 and, God only knows why, but I buy Murmer. I literally have no idea who these guys are and have never heard a single song by them. I buy the cassette and stick it in the car stereo on the drive home. I proceed to listen to "Radio Free Europe" about 17 times. For about two weeks, I'm unaware that there are even other songs on the album - in fact, I'm unaware that there are other songs anywhere in the world.

My friends don't like them because they don't rock hard enough or because they don't have enough synthesizer. I had a diverse group of friends.

Anyhow, I was sold and bought Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction on vinyl - my ultimate show of love to a band because if I buy it on Vinyl, that means its a permanent part of my collection.

I saw them play Toad's Place in New Haven on the Fables tour. They opened with 'Feeling Gravity's Pull." They didn't play 'Radio Free Europe,' but I barely noticed. I danced with this girl I'd never met at the concert and we kissed at the end of the night, more because we'd be carried away by the music. I was 17. Never learned her name. Nothing like that ever happened to me again.

When I became a college DJ, REM and bands that played the kind of of music they played were the center of my shows until Document. I was young, arrogant and was pissed off that other people were listening to them. I missed a great album because of that. Idiot!

I got over myself by the time Green came out, which was helpful because "World Leader Pretend" may be my all time favorite song played by anyone ever.

I loved how they didn't list all the tracks on their album and deliberately screwed with us with the fan art.

The only time I've ever won a radio contest was when Monster came out and a local station was offering a copy of the CD before the official release date. I was on speed dial for six hours.

I've loved all of their records - except Around the Sun - even the post Bill Berry albums. Its a different sounding band, to be sure, but still an amazing band.

Anyhow, I am sorry to hear they broke up. Very sorry. Collapse Into Now, however, was an excellent swan song. I owe R.E.M. for getting me interested in college and alternative music, which in turn led to me liking nearly every band I love now - even the ones that sound nothing like them.

31 years and a huge impact on contemporary music is a pretty decent legacy. Good on them for leaving on a high. Thank you, gents.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:58 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


> And I wonder if that's me or because it's an American thing which I am not

That's part of it, I'm sure, for the same reason that (as seamus points out) folk from their own region care about REM more now than people in other parts of the US do.

Not like that's an uncommon thing. Just for instance (for those who don't know) the Australian band Silverchair, which hasn't been heard from much in the US since Neon Ballroom went gold in 1999, continued to have very respectable success at home in Oz through the late 2000s.
posted by jfuller at 6:21 PM on September 21, 2011


I really, really loved Out of Time. The other albums never spoke to me as much, but I must have listened to OoT a hundred times in a row. Not for Losing My Religion, which had quickly grown stale with the ceaseless radio-play, but for the whole rest of the album. The whole thing. The sadness and longing fills a part me and my history like an old girlfriend I told I would love forever.

I guess this makes me uncool or something, but I don't care. You know, I haven't listened to it all the way through in years, but tonight—right now in fact—I'm going to put it on and get myself sad for no good reason at all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:25 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anyone not from the US on this thread?

Devonian, I'm English, and it sounds like I've had a pretty different experience to you. Even in their later period, I still feel they did a lot of touring and got a lot of airplay. Imitation of Life, for instance, from Reveal, was played constantly. And Leaving New York from Around the Sun. I remember the singles from Accelerate doing pretty well too. And their set at Live8 in London went down a storm.

And for what it's worth, I think R.E.M. historically have actually had more success in the UK charts than in the US.

And all the other English people I've spoken to about this tonight have their own string of R.E.M. concert stories/strong opinions on R.E.M.'s best album/theories about their best period/bemused affection for Michael Stipe, bless him/etc etc and are feeling sad and nostalgic tonight.

So rather than a US/non-US thing, I think it's just a case of ymmv.


I'm English, and also very late for bed. So...night all!
posted by badmoonrising at 6:27 PM on September 21, 2011


I was fortunate to have seen REM half a dozen times over about ten years starting in 1987- they were my first ever concert come to think of it, and I was astonished at Stipe's stage presence and energy.

The musical backdrop of the late 80's and early 90's for me is Finest Worksong blasting through the tinny speakers of my old Prelude as I wind down some forest road in Western Maryland singing at the top of my lungs like a maniac. I tip my hat to these fine musicians and the wonderful gift they gave me.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 6:40 PM on September 21, 2011


Looking ahead - I really hope Stipe records an album in the near future. I remember reading an interview with him years and years ago where he mentioned the idea of doing a solo album of covers. He listed a bunch of songs he planned to do and the only one can I recall was The English Beat's "Drowning".
posted by davebush at 6:42 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish I hadn't seen REM live in Chapel Hill in 1989. Despite starting strong, something must've gotten under Michael's skin that night because he gradually became more sullen and angry, in a bloody obvious way. This manifested itself first by his reaction to someone yelling out their favorite song: "Two things: first, we don't take request; and second, I hate that song." Then they got to "End Of The World As We Know It" and he took my favorite song, a joyous celebration of life and chaos and freedom and anarchy, and ruined it. He sounded bored and put-upon. I've never been able to listen to their albums after Green without hearing that "I have to sing this song again" voice, and I haven't been able to hear my once-favorite song in the same way ever since. But they did give me two fantastic years of protohipsterdom in high school, and some great great music, so I thank them for that.
posted by waraw at 6:55 PM on September 21, 2011


a solo album of covers.

Well, heck, I can't resist. Here is an album's worth of cover songs performed by R.E.M.:

"Crazy" (originally by Pylon)

"Femme Fatale" (originally by The Velvet Underground)

"I Walked With A Zombie" (originally by Roky Erikson)

"King of the Road" (originally by Roger Miller)

"One" (originally by U2 - well, sort of REM)

"The Passenger" (originally by Iggy Pop)

"Superman" (originally by The Clique)

"Tom's Diner" (originally by Suzanne Vega)

"Wall Of Death" (originally by Richard and Linda Thompson)

"Redhead Walking" (originally by The Beat Happening)
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:56 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


That's it - Playing Life's Rich Pageant all day today...
posted by estuardo at 6:59 PM on September 21, 2011


Aw, man. I grew up on Automatic For the People but never really paid much attention to their other stuff until I heard Daysleeper for the first time this summer. It's the strangest, most affecting and cathartic little song I've ever heard.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2011


The one time I saw R.E.M. Modest Mouse opened and Johnny Marr played with R.E.M. during the encore.

BOOM! Top that!
posted by Kattullus at 11:16 AM on September 21 [2 favorites +] [!]

I'll try: Saw them open up for Gang of Four at Emerald City in Trenton, NJ, June 20 1981. More than anything, I remember being a little shocked that the singer had long hair.
posted by newmoistness at 7:26 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


When people say, "what should be the soundtrack of your life?", R.E.M. is always at the top of my list. Just thinking of them brings back the heady days of MTV when it was young and weird, jangle pop, and the unyielding earnestness of what it felt like to actually believe in something. I love these guys and wish them nothing but the best for all they've given me.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:27 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since we're sharing our REM stories....

So in 1983 in high school the AP English teacher lets us, one Friday a month, bring in music and play it on - get this - a record player so long as we offer the class a two or three minute explication of the song.

Bridgette Burke (how I remember that name, I've no idea) played Wolves, Lower, and I was hooked. Now, she had, in Junior High, been one of the Cool Girls or probably one of the Popular Girls. Her dad, as many in our town did, worked for Hoerst Fibers, and her family had been rotated to Germany for two years. She came back with jeans that looked a little not like what we were wearing, and although the Popular Girls still accepted her as a kind of legacy or something, it was clear she was into some Different Shit.

So after class, I asked her if I I could make a tape of that record, and she said yes, and that's about all I remember about her. I think she had a really nice ass, but didn't we all back then?

The next year, my friend's in college (I'm not yet) and we go to see them at the 40 Watt opening for Love Tractor. It was half cover, often VU, and the songs from the EP and a few from Murmur. I remember having the feeling that I Just Didn't Get It yet...but a few months later I bought Murmur and listened to it so hard I wore out two cassettes (you young folk can roll your eyes at this point) listening to the second side of that.

A couple of years later, I meet my future wife. I was in love, but uncertain about a future her - she's a jock, I'm a long haired pot smoking hippie freak philosophy major - but the first time she shows me her dorm room (and yet nothing happened, dammit!) the two cassettes lying about are Murmur and 77.

I knew she was a keeper right then.

Later, my good old ex-best friend's sister was Stipe's next door neighbor and all she did when I asked her about him was complain that he never, ever cut his fucking grass and the weeds were getting into her yard.

I'll miss their music, but that was another time and another place, and just like them we all move on. Hopefully our movement is more meaningful for having heard their music.
posted by digitalprimate at 7:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read this whole thread all the way through and most of the things I'd have said have been covered, very well, by others.

So I'll say something nobody said, but which I mostly believe: if you don't like "Stand" and "Shiny Happy People" than you have not completely gotten the point of R.E.M.
posted by escabeche at 7:35 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I bought my first R.E.M album when I was 14. By the time I was 15 I had every album they had released and any bootleg I could get my hands on. I still own 5 original pressings of of the early I.R.S LPs bought many years ago. What does all this mean? That I'm getting old. You're getting old. R.E.M. has gotten old, and they know it. But I can't listen to Radio Free Europe without seeing my younger self gluing newspaper and magazine cutouts into to massive collages in my room, and hearing my mother call me out for dinner. Dreaming of the future then. They really did open the world up for me. Not them alone but they were a part of it. So now my thoughts are sweet reflecting on those early days. I guess you really can't get there from here.
posted by nola at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't had time to re-read the last couple hundred comments, just a coupla thoughts

- suddenly they're missed and "classic"

- i once saw them, expected a lot of underground mondo-2k types, found mostly teenieboppers

- heard a story second hand that MS styled his hair at a party w mustard (which i've always since meant to try).

ok, that's 3 if yer countin', looking forward to many future projects!
posted by onesidys at 8:06 PM on September 21, 2011


oh, also they were the first band i listened to after a 2 year hiatus from the putrid rock of 1983-1894.
posted by onesidys at 8:07 PM on September 21, 2011


Not sure if it tops it, but when R.E.M. played here in Vancouver, Radiohead was in attendance (they were playing the next day) and Thom came out and sang Patti Smith's part in E-bow the Letter. Also, later was called up to sing "It's the End of the World..." Thom danced around like a kid who'd just been given the biggest lollipop ever. He even grabbed Peter Buck's guitar from him and started wailing on it. Pretty awesome.

And the next night Stipe came out for the encores and mangled the backing vocals to Karma Police with a note so off key that Thom fucked up the next two lines, as well. But the day was saved with the chorus sing along, and then Stipe grabbed Thom in an embrace, which was sweet.

I've cried real tears to Nightswimming, and Drive. Tick tock, tick tock.

Some bands I like to name check, and one of them is REM.
posted by jokeefe at 8:19 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh, also they were the first band i listened to after a 2 year hiatus from the putrid rock of 1983-1894.

I dunno... when I travelled back in time to 1894 I found some of Stephen Foster's stuff to be pretty enjoyable.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:20 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


My REMories:
Fables of the Reconstruction came out when I was in Grade 11 and just starting to ease out of a pointy-shoed, eyeliner new wavy kind of thing. I bought that album and loved it; taped it so I could listen to it when I borrowed the car. I think I taped The The on the other side. They went on the local video show Toronto Rocks and played the Can't Get There From Here video. I tried to figure out Driver 8 on guitar and got most of it. I bought Dead Letter Office when it came out and learned half of the covers on that. Then I had to track down Murmur, Reckoning and Chronic Town.
Got really into Document and Life's Rich Pageant at University. We would go to our last afternoon class and then head to the campus bar (The Elbow Room!) and sit there and drink beer and eat nachos until the place closed at 1am, and it seemed like Fall On Me and INXS's I Need You Tonight were on constant loop on the video screen.
Saw the Green tour at Maple Leaf Gardens with Indigo Girls opening and Stipe singing "Kid Fears" with them. I remember it looked like he was wearing like mechanics coveralls or something.

After that I sort of lost interest. I never bothered with the next album because Losing My Religion was on the radio every 3 minutes and I was sort of sick of it, it seemed like music your mom would like or something. I did buy the Automatic For The People CD and enjoyed it, but it was more an album to put on when you have a party or clean the house, not a stare at the album cover for an hour kind of album, for me at least.
Funnily enough, I met Mike Mills when he wandered into Lee's Palace where the band Crash Vegas was playing. No one seemed to know who he was so I walked over to him and introduced myself. We stood and watched the band for a while, I remember him saying something about not enjoying bands with female singers who "belt it out" or something like that. He was a nice enough guy, though. I told him that the bass player was Daniel Lanois' sister, which he thought was cool. He was going to check out another band but asked if I'd be there when he got back and sure enough he came back later and said hi.

I still play Driver 8 and Swan Swan H every now and again on my guitar.
posted by chococat at 8:30 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've cried real tears to Nightswimming

"Nightswimming" is one of the most beautiful songs of my life, and the most perfect summation of what it was like for me to be young, and in love, and a little bit scared, and not have any idea of what life had in store for me but not caring.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:11 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nightswimming reminds me of nightswimming at my old college. It always makes me cry.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Everybody Hurts is one of the many songs that did save my life.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:13 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I proceed to listen to "Radio Free Europe" about 17 times. For about two weeks, I'm unaware that there are even other songs on the album - in fact, I'm unaware that there are other songs anywhere in the world.

This is where I'd draw little hearts. THAT is love, dude.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:19 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The first serious gigging band I played in was kind of an R.E.M. cover band. We didn't play R.E.M. songs exclusively, we also played other stuff that appealed to the crowds that haunted Panama City Beach nightclubs at the time (stuff like Drivin' and Cryin', Guadalcanal Diary, and Neil Young, and a fair share of originals--one of which you can actually hear here, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it), but we almost always squeezed in at least half a dozen or so R.E.M. songs into our two sets ("End of the World as We Know It," "Talk About the Passion," and weirdly enough, "Swan Swan H" off Life's Rich Pageant spring to mind).

I still remember the moment when the original bass player for that band, who was a senior at the time (and seemed so much more knowledgeable and savvy about what was and wasn't cool in music to an impressionable kid like me) first introduced me to R.E.M. as a high school freshman. He said he wanted me to branch out some musically, since we had recently started playing in a band together and I was the junior member of the group at 14, and he lent me a cassette of Life's Rich Pageant. I asked him what to expect, and he told me R.E.M. was like a punk band but with clean guitars. He was probably just trying to get my guard down enough that I'd give it a chance, because at that time, I was a complete hardcore, punk, and skate rock purist, and had no real patience for wimpy-sounding, emotionally nuanced music like that.

Anyway, that basically set me on the road that eventually led me to make a serious effort at making music myself, and really reopened my musical tastes to melodicism, and in general, to all kinds of music with more emotional range than just belligerent anger. First hearing R.E.M. made a huge impact on everything that followed for me musically.

Years later in college, while my wife and I were driving on the interstate to visit some friends in Gainesville, I sped past a big tour bus whose license plates I half-noticed in passing, and from what I could recollect I quickly realized, the plates had said "R.E.M."

As soon as I realized what I'd just seen might mean, I turned to my wife and asked her if she'd seen the plates, too. She said she had and thought I was right, but she couldn't be sure either, and so I slowed down the car, hoping to let the bus pass me so I could get another good look at the plates. But the more I slowed down my car to let it pass, the more it slowed down, to the point that I eventually found myself driving only about 20 MPH in the fast lane. I really wanted to see if I'd seen what I thought I had seen, and to know if it was really them. Just the thought of being so close to my musical-heroes got me so worked up I could barely contain myself.

But it soon became obvious that no matter how hard I tried, they weren't ever going to let me know for sure. And as I finally gave up on our little game of keep-away and resumed a reasonable cruising speed, leaving the bus and any possibility of knowing with certainty if it was them behind, I thought, "Yep. That's R.E.M. all right."

So does anyone know if they ever used a tour bus with custom plates that read "R.E.M."? I've always wondered if I was just imagining things--kind of like trying to parse Stipes' lyrics on Chronic Town or Reckoning.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:26 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just watched the "Everybody Hurts" video, which I hadn't seen in maybe 15 years, and had a moment of revelation. My personal favorite screenplay I've ever written (unproduced, as all my feature scripts are) has a climactic moment, central to the whole thing, in which a tightly-wound woman in a taxi in the middle of a traffic jam gets out of the cab and steps up on top of it.

I had no idea that I had been inspired by that video for that moment, and it gave me chills to see it onscreen tonight.

On a slight tangent, since I'm still feeling out my reactions to "Nightswimming,' I want to mention that emotionally, it feels like a companion piece to this song (not by R.E.M., but still fantastic) for me.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:29 PM on September 21, 2011


I am really not trying to bring anyone down. Really, I'm not. But I've always been fascinated by REM and -- God, I actually had to go back up the thread to search for it, U2 -- being the absolute antitheses of earworms for me. For ME -- I'm not trying to bring you down. I've been subjected to both bands on radio for three decades, and I've never, ever been able to tell anyone what the name of one of their songs is. I just looked at a YouTube video linked above -- I swear, just five minutes ago -- and I already actually can't remember the name of the song, or even what it sounded like.

These bands -- this band, which one was it? That just broke up? And the other bands that sounded like them, which just means they didn't sound like anything, like they were the pure noise that allowed you to tune to the static on the radio appreciate the static -- these complete zero-memory bands -- which one just broke up? REM? U2? Was one from England? Were they on the radio in the 1980s? I mean, I remember "Don't Worry, Be Happy" like it was yesterday, because it was so dreadfully perfect for whatever year that was, 1984? Which was a year when I must have heard a whole lot of this band that just broke up, and I can't remember a single bit of it.

The 1980s and 1990s were dreadful, awful musical decades. I would love to have a lobotomy of the 1980s and 1990s music lobes. Just take the flesh out now. But you know what? If I had a radical musical lobectomy of the 1980s and 1990s right now, I wouldn't know less about this band, because it never made an impression in the first place. It was less than background noise, I guess, to me (to ME -- not trying to get you down, sorry your favorite band is gone).

For me, this is like the producer of the least memorable television commercials of the 1980s and 1990s calling it quits and moving to his special tranquil place.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 10:15 PM on September 21, 2011


But at least you found the presence of self to come here and tell us all about it.
My condolences to your family on your awfulness.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:20 PM on September 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Btw having visited your comment history, there is no way you aren't David Cross' "I don't own a tv" character from Mr Show.

I congratulate you for graduating to a higher, untouchable cultural plane than the rest of us dirty-footed plebes. Now fuck off back to there.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]




This is extremely sad to me, as this band not only moved me back in my wee days, they really laid down the foundation for so much of what I ended up loving years later - primarily Radiohead, which would not be anywhere near what they are today without the influence of R.E.M.

black8, I'm right there with you, "Fall On Me" is arguably the single most gorgeous thing they ever did. I mean watch this (sorry about the commercial). The pleasure these guys have given me over the years is really something special, bless their souls, lungs and fingers.


posted by dbiedny at 10:41 PM on September 21, 2011


So the song is on, and I'm passing by power transmission lines. I notice that the power lines have these odd orange balls on them, every so often. Something clicked – a subconciously-recognized lyric bubbled to the surface of my mind – and I yelled for all the cows to hear: "POWERLINES HAVE BLOATERS SO THE AIRPLANES WON'T GET SNAGGED!"

A few years back, I was hanging out with a friend, listening to records, when "Driver 8" came on. I laughed, telling her about the afternoon -- so many, many years after first hearing the song -- that I had a total "aha!" moment after having finally figured out what Stipe was singing. She slapped her forehead in delight; the whole "floaters" bit had been eluding her for years, too, and I had unlocked an enduring song mystery for her. I like to think that she's shared the happy knowledge of the floaters with others ever since.
posted by vespertine at 10:50 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't believe I'm saying this, but Everybody Hurts is one of the many songs that did save my life.

Nothing to be ashamed of. I love that song-- not for itself, necessarily, but for the good it's done and for the humanity, the love, the compassion, behind it. If it kept even a half dozen kids from suicide, then REM's done more than enough good, in my eyes.

Talk about the passion...
posted by jokeefe at 10:52 PM on September 21, 2011


Nah, it's cool, I get it. I don't see it as shitting in the thread, even, really. But obviously the music was important to a lot of us here.

I think that, yes, U2 and REM are inextricably tied together somehow. But there's a difference. Even at the height of their popularity, REM always acted like the lucky band from Athens, GA. U2 became the BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD and acted like it. And I actually don't fault U2 for that. A minor tangent:

I have rules for the radio in my car. Certain bands get absolute immunity. Souixsie, Bowie, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Clash and some others, if they come on the radio, they MAY NOT be turned off. Even if I'm alone and not particularly in the mood for it. Other bands are shoot-on-sight, but they are the usual suspects. Creed, Nickelback, 311, etc. A scant few artists get the "strict scrutiny" treatment (which doesn't actually match the legal meaning at all) that I will probably turn them off, but there's at least one song of theirs that I like, so they get a moment's chance. The Police are a good example of this.

U2 sits in a weird place where they get strict scrutiny for most of their output, but absolute immunity for Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop. Which were, you know, their BIGGEST BAND IN THE WORLD albums. The previous stuff "where the streets have no name" notwithstanding doesn't hit me at all and has been overplayed to the point of grating irritation. The later stuff, "walk on" notwithstanding, is the band imitating itself in a shamelessly soulless and commercial grab for radio time. I have no use for it.

This view is, of course, almost heretical, but no matter. I'm already the guy in this thread heralding Monster so it's clear when I was born and what I care about in music. The point is that REM, unlike U2, aged gracefully, handled fame and success about as humbly as anyone could ever hope to, and never stopped following their muses.

Well, until today, I guess, but there's always hope for side-projects.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


(The band was -- and still is -- one that significantly defined my teens and twenties and helped me cope through some truly challenging times. I think I'll go listen to their catalogue now.)
posted by vespertine at 11:00 PM on September 21, 2011


And I get THAT, Navelgazer. I'm not threadshitting. I just think it's interesting that almost everyone has a band or a cluster of bands that are just Novocaine for them -- they're popular, you hear a lot of them, and they just make absolutely no impression. They repress memory of themselves. Which is not to say a negative impression! I've got plenty of those. Just big popular bands that just blow through your mind like they never were there in the first place -- like you got through the 1970s never even hearing X or Y or Z even though everyone else did and some of them hated them and some of them loved them.

That's the way this band, and the ones I mix up for it, were for me. I'll bet the rest of you can claim similar blind, null spots in your appreciation of the commercial music of the last three decades.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 11:06 PM on September 21, 2011


What? You were absolutely threadshitting.
It doesnt become something else just because you said you werent.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:08 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cool. (and no, Senor Cardgage, it's a legitimate opinion)

By the way, as long as I'm thinking about Monster again, it's on the upper echelon for me, along with Loveless, of albums which sound absolutely like no other album ever produced. (this is ironic perhaps as these two sound somewhat similar to one another.)

Seriously, if there were a delux reissue of Monster that came out and some song I'd never heard were played on the radio I'd know that it was from Monster before Stipe even started singing. It's just a singular, immediately identifiable piece.

And strangely, I realize that the way it sounds, with Stipe's voice low in the mix and drifting almost other-worldly and lost amid the chaos, brings me right to another major SONG OF MY LIFE, specifically this one.

It has nothing to do with R.E.M. except that they are linked in my mind via Monster and hitting my teenage life at the exactly right moment (in this case, exactly describing a night I was coming home from with my girlfriend as I was still experiencing it) as R.E.M. could at it's best, like with Nightswimming.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:16 PM on September 21, 2011


REM were a defining band for me growing up pre-Automatic. I still loved them even when they hit it big.

Thanks for the music guys!
posted by arcticseal at 11:44 PM on September 21, 2011


I am a fan of their entire catalog.

Except Shiny Happy People. Let's face it everyone. That song sucked some really serious balls.

I look forward to their reunion tour.
posted by quadog at 12:06 AM on September 22, 2011


Money remains a pretty good motivator.

Sure. But if you reform just for the money, chances are the resulting work is merely going to cheapen your band's legacy. Even as as a casual REM fan, I've got enough affection for them to hope they avoid that fate.

Years before Joe Strummer died, The Clash were being offered increasingly massive sums to reform their classic line-up and tour, but they had the good sense and strength of character to always turn it down. I've got huge respect for that decision.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:21 AM on September 22, 2011


A combination of listening toold REM songs and songmeanings.com has reminded me just how bloody good REM were.. They were the first band I really ever got into. I remember getting a 'best of' tape around 1992 and then buying as many of their tapes as I could afford, before opening my eyes to so much other good music.

Well I know what I'm listening to for the next few weeks..
posted by estuardo at 3:26 AM on September 22, 2011


Anyone not from the US on this thread?

They had a huge period in New Zealand, about the same time the B-52s did, amusingly enough. Roam, Shiny Happy People, Deadbeat Club, Everybody Hurts, Love Shack, and Man on the Moon are mentally interleaved for me around the mid-late 80s through early 90s. I don't think they really grabbed that much attention before or after; for one thing, a lot of the audience for R.E.M.'s "college radio" (itself a category that needed explaining here, as I remember) were listening to Flying Nun acts.

For another, and it's hard to remember for some, impossible for others, but at that time, you found out about stuff through word of mouth, radio, zines, music mags. Some band from the US South getting airplay in New Zealand in the 80s? Not gonna happen without a suitably hefty label and budget, for the most part. It's not that much earlier that the staple of most Kiwi musicians' living was doing covers before the original artists' records made it here; seriously, in the 50s and 60s quite a few musos made a living by having friends ship them records a few months ahead of the mass-market. Get record off a friendly sailor, cover whatever's big in the US or UK, and people will buy your version while the bulk shipment is still coming. The guy who's famous in the US was an also-ran here.
posted by rodgerd at 3:40 AM on September 22, 2011


a lot of the audience for R.E.M.'s "college radio" (itself a category that needed explaining here, as I remember) were listening to Flying Nun acts.

Which makes them a natural audience for R.E.M., I think -- surely Buck's guitar work owes something to the Dunedin sound, and he did once call the Chills "the second-best band in the world."
posted by escabeche at 5:39 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, heck, I can't resist. Here is an album's worth of cover songs performed by R.E.M.:

A few more, many from their famous fan club Christmas singles:

"Summertime" (Gershwin)
"Academy Fight Song" (Mission of Burma)
"Wicked Game" (Chris Isaak)
"See No Evil" (Television)
"Baby Baby" (The Vibrators)
"No Matter What" (Badfinger)
"I Will Survive" (Gloria Gaynor)
"Dream (All I Have to Do Is)" (Everly Brothers)
"First We Take Manhattan" (Leonard Cohen)
"Dark Globe" (Syd Barrett)
"Moon River" (Henry Mancini)
"Last Date" (Floyd Cramer)
"Wichita Lineman" (Jimmy Webb / Glen Campbell)
"Spooky" (Classics V)
posted by aught at 5:42 AM on September 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


All along all along all along the tomb.
Secrete in secret in secret in the ruin.
Secluded in a maker stone not only deadlier but smarter too. Smarter too.

I could live a million.
I could live a million.
I could live a million.
I could live a million years.


And here I thought you would. College music, never die!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:49 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love "Shiny Happy People" and I don't care who knows it.
posted by josher71 at 6:04 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


The greatest kindness ever shown to my kid-self was when my new stepcousins, ranging in age from late teens to mid twenties, took me to an REM concert. I was a pudgy androgynous and shy fifth grader who was wholly intimidated by and in awe of said new cousins, and that show blew my mind. I tear up just thinking about it. Have always felt like REM unconsciously played a part in that act of generosity and will love them forevermore. Good on them for moving on with their lives, and thanks for the many years of great tunes.
posted by Lisitasan at 7:10 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Devonian: Anyone not from the US on this thread?

In Iceland, where I'm from and currently live, R.E.M. are a huge band. R.E.M. splitting up was in the news here. I remember when I was a kid, almost every single kid in my class born in the fall got Monster as a thirteenth birthday present.
posted by Kattullus at 8:07 AM on September 22, 2011


I think some of the response to the band's breakup highlights a few ideas I'd like to see die out: Once you've sold 10 million records, selling 5 million is an abject failure and once you've produced a classic work, releasing a good-but-not-classic one taints your legacy.

I understand the reason why so many artists like to hypothesize about the public response had their career unfolded backwards.
posted by Adam_S at 8:27 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of my all-time favorite mis-heard lyrics: three of us were in the car singing along to "Catapult," but only Dave and me were actually singing "Catapult! Caat-a-pult. Catapult!" Lisa was singing "Got a bug! Gooot a buug. Got a bug!"

Oh, the days of hastily home-recorded cassettes with no track listings...
posted by fikri at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2011


Anyone not from the US on this thread?

Reminiscing from Northern México… “Document” came out when I was in grade school, and I have fond memories of listening to it outside the school’s auditorium, in a beat-up Walkman my dad had brought me from Japan. I've must've watched Tourfilm 100 times and finding it gave me goosebumps every single time . One of my all-time favorite bass lines is the one from “Laughing”, and I believe (in example and Coyotes) that Texarkana is a fantastic song as well as Carnival of Sorts and Driver 8. I remember the countless hours spent in a garage trying to get the lyrics and vocal harmonies right for ITEOTWAWKI, so our band could perform it at a party . Thanks to REM I was able to discover at an early age, the music of Gang of Four, The Feelies, Wire , the Db’s , Pylon and of course, The Velvet Underground. Peter Buck reaffirmed my feeling that the genius of guitar playing lies in the right hand (inverse accordingly) and the guitar sound on What's the Frequency, Kenneth? is tremendous. I only managed to see them once, on the Monster Tour, with Radiohead and Natalie Merchant as opening acts.

After new adventures in Hi-Fi, I drifted into different aural territories. But I can honestly say that it is one of my dearest bands. I wish them the best and I thank them for the music.
posted by elmono at 8:43 AM on September 22, 2011


I've been slowly reading through this thread all day, a handful of comments at a time until I start to feel a bit teary, at which point I go back to work for a while, humming a few bars to myself of whatever song was mentioned last.

Here's my story:

I was in middle school when Out of Time came out, and REM became the first contemporary rock band that I really got into on my own. A birthday gift of a big plastic cassette holder came with Green sitting in the first slot - the rest was history.

When New Adventures first came out, I dutifuly bought it, listened a couple of times, and then put it away, not really getting it. A few years later, I was finally ready for the album after realizing what a great song E-Bow the Letter was, and again became obsessesed.

Although I am relatively young enough to have joined the party a bit late by most accounts, I consider myself fortunate to have seen REM in concert 8 times. Some highlights:

- 1998 Bridge School Benefit. Michael talks about recording Up in San Francisco - I think he mentioned the Ocean Flower Aquarium. He said that they would record their next album in San Francisco if the internet could refrain from reporting this fact, and no, the internet could not refrain. Neil Young joined them in playing his favorite REM song, Country Feedback. It was amazing.

- 2003 at the Heinekin Music Hall in Amsterdam. Despite barely being able to see anything over all the heads of the tall, tall Dutch boys, it was an incredible show. The REM Timeline notes that they played These Days, Exhuming McCarthy and I Believe for the first time since 1989. Looking again at the setlist, I think this was probably my all-time favorite show.

- 2004 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I realize that Around the Sun actually has some really good songs on it, it's just that the recorded versions just don't capture that energy that makes the live shows so memorable.

- 2008 at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam. Not so many tall boys blocking my view this time, but I seemed to be surrounded by a bunch of loud chatty people who only quieted down to pay attention when they played a recognizable hit,although of course it was still a great show. When Michael introduced Mike Mills singing Rockville, I was super excited to see Mike sing a song, and cheered loudly, which earned me strange stares from the people around me.

- 2008 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Night 2. I had scored a single decent ticket through their email list, and was sitting next to a woman who had seen them maybe dozens of times since the early small club days. They played Find the River, and we both had a quick OMG freakout at the beginning (her: "I've NEVER heard them play this song before!"). It was completely transcendant, and one of only a couple times I've been moved to tears by a live performance.

Thanks, guys, I was honored to be able to share the experience and be touched by the music, even if I was relatively late to the party.
posted by KatlaDragon at 8:56 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love that people all over the world know Pylon because of REM.
No one I know around here knows Pylon.
posted by Seamus at 8:58 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I forgot to mention that Wikipedia refers to Collapse Into Now as being the band's final album under their $80 million contract with Warner Brothers. It would have been really fascinating to see how they handled going it on their own as they always seemed fairly internet-friendly. As mentioned up-thread, it will indeed be interesting to see what solo projects Stipey gets up to.
posted by KatlaDragon at 9:06 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, the number of bands or artists I listened to because of REM is huge. Pylon, sure, and other Athens acts, but also their influences like Television and Patti Smith and Big Star, and acts that came after, too, like Radiohead.
posted by uberchet at 9:08 AM on September 22, 2011


> No one I know around here knows Pylon.

If anyone has a . to spare for a non-REM band in this REM thread, I might as well mention that poor Randy Bewley the Pylon guitarist (who lived right up the street from me and whose son Adam played with my kids) fell dead not too long ago of a sudden heart attack--age 45. He was still almost rockstar thin and not at all given to any kind of known self-abuse, and I ran into him out walking frequently.

Midlife guys, there are all sorts of good healthy things you can do for yourself but there ain't no way you can make yourself bulletproof. If you got family, hug 'em.
posted by jfuller at 9:26 AM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I am living in Athens RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT and all the townspeople are running through the streets ululating and rending their garments. Not really. But people are really really sad about it. As you can imagine, REM was more than just a band to this town. They were a fundamental institution. Everywhere you go where something good for the community has been built and there's some wall or brick pathway or fountain listing the donors, REM's name is right up at the top. I've always been so pleased to live in a town where "REM" tops the town's roster of moneyed philanthropists rather than some old-money guy whose family probably owned slaves and is just donating so he can continue to be president of the Rotary Club and sit in the mayor's box when the Bulldogs play (though no offense to you either, sir). It was always a treat to go to the Go Bar or the 40-Watt and see various members of the band hanging out listening to whomever was playing and not being bothered (except by me that one time I got too drunk at that X show; so sorry, Michael), or to see them at the Daily Co-Op or Cine just hanging around being Regular Folks. They gave a lot to this town and still do and probably still will. Still. It's a big deal and some big shoes to fill. Patterson Hood, I'm lookin' at you, boy.
posted by staggering termagant at 9:28 AM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I can attest that if you go to Athens, GA, and you ask the guy who drives the airport shuttle from Atlanta to show you the church where REM played, they will totally know where it is and will drive you by there.
posted by escabeche at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2011


And this is the beautiful Seney-Stovall Chapel, where some of The One I Love video was filmed, if I am not mistaken. When I lived in Athens in 1985 (right next door to Michael Stipe over on Grady Ave., strangely enough), this chapel was abandoned. My friends and I would climb in the window and take photos. Of course, REM were instrumental (ha!) in helping restore this beautiful building, as they were in many other projects. Check out this video that talks about some of the ways they've helped the town that I love (and also gives you a great feel for the town what raised 'em up).
posted by staggering termagant at 9:47 AM on September 22, 2011


And I meant Swan Swan Hummingbird, dangit, not The One I Love.
posted by staggering termagant at 9:52 AM on September 22, 2011


The longer this thread gets, the sadder I get. In the big picture, a band breaking up is such a trivial matter, but in a person's life, a band can be extremely important. Art matters and there's no shame in feeling like your world just got a little darker. This band meant more to me than I realized.

Automatic, y'all.
posted by davebush at 10:08 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I... I wasn't expecting to be so affected by this news, which I always knew would come someday. I wasn't going to post anything here. But I've been listening to R.E.M. since 1983, never as a rabid fan but so very many of their songs were the soundtrack to various years of my life. I've been reading through this thread, listening to songs and trying to untangle whether what I'm feeling is the loss of new songs henceforth from this amazing and sometimes frustrating band, or finally being stricken with feeling my advancing age pounce on me.

R.E.M.'s first TV appearance on Letterman... we were all so young then.

When I finally got rid of all the VHS movies I'd carted around for years, there was only one I couldn't let go of -- TourFilm. My nick on messenger in the early 90s was Sweetness Follows; that song was the soundtrack to losing my father and still makes me sob. I'm afraid this weekend I'm going to dig out some old bootlegs and mixtapes (on cassette) that an old crush gave me years and years ago. He always included a cryptic and obscure cover to complete the tape and to make me wonder. (What could he ever have meant by making the cover of Dark Globe the closing track on that one?)
posted by vers at 11:48 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I was young and full of grace, and spirited, a rattlesnake...

I saw them on the Reckoning tour, in Providence, RI. The Dbs opened. At that point, Michael Stipe was known for being a mutterer, to the point where people were wondering if he had some sort of speech impediment that kept him from enunciating the lyrics; he sounded so shy when he sang that people wondered how he could make it through a show. The show was amazing, and the audience roared for an encore. And Michael Stipe walked out onto the stage by himself, illuminated by one green spotlight. The crowd roared for a bit, and he stood there. The crowd quieted, and he launched into a crystal-clear, beautiful version of Moon River.

The audience responded with hoots, whistles, and yelling. And Michael walked offstage in the middle of the song.

The audience was baffled; more catcalls, more whistling, which tapered off as a thunderous applause started up. And Michael came back onstage, stepping into that same green spotlight.

He sang Moon River, all the way through, solo, unaccompanied, to a perfectly silent house.

I can't describe how astonishingly beautiful it was.

Then the band came back out, and did a more traditional, rousing encore set. But that moment, that silent audience, that floating voice, that moment is stuck inside me, gemlike, powerful, quiet, perfect.

The smell of sweet, short-haired boy...

It was an open secret from the time I started not just listening about the band, but hearing about them. Michael Stipe never dissembled about being gay, avoided addressing it. He just was. Knowing that there was this guy out there, this enigmatic and talented and creative and unique individual, who was also what I was... it was a source of enormous hope to me. I was weird, I just wasn't weird like the gay people I'd seen in the media were weird. Up until then, I'd thought on some level that being gay meant that I'd have to somehow become someone I was not; I'd have to find a way to fit into that culture.

While Michael never seemed to have a particularly easy time with being gay, at least he was doing it in his own unique, inimitable way. It gave me permission, in a way, to be whoever I turned out to be.

And then he wrote Losing My Religion, the best song about coming out that's ever been belted out by hundreds of thousands of people playing Rockband. And Be Mine, which I think is one of the best gay love songs ever.

Thanks for everything, Capt. Scrummy.
posted by MrVisible at 12:14 PM on September 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


I really, really loved Out of Time. The other albums never spoke to me as much, but I must have listened to OoT a hundred times in a row. Not for Losing My Religion, which had quickly grown stale with the ceaseless radio-play, but for the whole rest of the album. The whole thing. The sadness and longing fills a part me and my history like an old girlfriend I told I would love forever.

I guess this makes me uncool or something, but I don't care.


You're okay by me. If someone said, "name a song you love for no reason you can explain and that no one else knows about," my instant answer would be "Me in Honey."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:34 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy Cats!

I just watched the Letterman link in vers' post and learned that Murmer was sold at a lower than normal price. I wonder if that is what led me to buy it? Thank you, Internet, for solving a personal mystery. I probably discovered R.E.M. because their cassette was cheaper than any of the others I could have chosen that day.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really, really loved Out of Time. The other albums never spoke to me as much, but I must have listened to OoT a hundred times in a row.

Oh man, "Half a World Away" is one of the saddest, greatest, most heart-wrenchingly glorious songs I've ever heard. There was a semester in grad school where it seemed like some days, there was nothing else to do but listen to that tune. "I had too much to drink / I didn't think, I didn't think / of you, I guess that's all I needed / to go it alone, hold it alone..."
posted by scody at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


When I was in probably 7th or 8th grade, my one-year-older but worlds cooler cousin brought two cassette tapes with him when his family came over to our house for a holiday dinner. Those tapes were Green by R.E.M. and Licensed to Ill by the Beastie Boys. Thus began my music education/awakening.

Back then, with limited funds and access to buy new music, it's funny how whatever happened to catch your eye on an expedition to the record store then almost by necessity (because you had nothing else to listen to) became really important to you musically. I mean, I probably owned only like 20 CDs for much of high school. Automatic for the People was a major part of my high school angsty unrequited crush-filled life. I'm pretty sure that Nightswimming or Star Me Kitten (or both) ended up on every mix tape I made back then.

I love that today, as a 35-year-old, I can go back and listen to it and still recognize how great it is.

I also love that today I gan spin up Spotify and listen to a huge chunk of the R.E.M. catalogue instantly. Yay, the future.
posted by misskaz at 2:04 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw them at Summerfest in 1984, when they were touring for Reckoning and close enough to the dinky WQFM "Rock" stage to see how nervous Michael Stipe was. I was almost 15, but by then I'd been listening to them since I was 12. Ironically, the next night I went to see Hall & Oates, who were headlining at the huge stadium of the festival.

I saw them again at Dane County Coliseum for Document in '87, and Rosemount Horizon and Alpine Valley in '89 for Green. Like a lot of people, the bloom was off the rose for me after Monster, but I'd try to listen to the new albums as they came out, to give it a chance.

It was E-Bow The Letter that finally put me off. I just thought it was so dirge-like and depressing, I couldn't listen to it and I thought, if this is where they're going, I can't go there with them.

I suppose I'll have my friends who like later period-R.E.M. (And they're all a lot younger than me, as it happens) and see if I've really missed anything.

I hope they're happy. They had a really good run compared to most popular musicians of any genre.
posted by droplet at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2011


Anyone not from the US on this thread?

I can't speak to any broad cultural trends in Australia, but half my Facebook and Twitter feed was talking about the breakup and it made the front page of all our major mainstream newspaper websites. My music site ran an article about it, even though we don't usually talk about band breakups. Robyn Hitchcock comes here often, and apparently Sydney jangle pop band The Hummingbirds were produced by Mitch Easter, who worked with R.E.M.

Plus, we've got a guy who looks and dances like Micheal Stipe holding political office.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:04 PM on September 22, 2011


Plus, we've got a guy who looks and dances like Micheal Stipe holding political office.

Peter Garrett looked and danced like Michael Stipe before Michael Stipe looked and danced like Peter Garrett. Now if we can just get Michael Stipe to run for political office in the U.S. . . .

apparently Sydney jangle pop band The Hummingbirds were produced by Mitch Easter

My best R.E.M. anecdote isn't even about R.E.M., but about Mitch Easter. In high school my band (heh - "my" band is something my bandmates would not agree with) opened for Let's Active and we all thought it was the biggest deal in the world. And yeah, they were really good.
posted by The World Famous at 6:23 PM on September 22, 2011


I bought Chronic Town and then Let's Active's Cypress and always preferred the latter. I never actually bought any R.E.M. records after Chronic Town but I damn near wore the grooves out of Cypress.
posted by unSane at 6:31 PM on September 22, 2011


I'm with scody, love love love "Half a World Away". It always seemed to go well with "Dronning Maud Land" by The Fat Lady Sings.
posted by arcticseal at 6:50 PM on September 22, 2011


Yeah, Out of Time is crazy underrated. If you stuck a gun against my head and demanded that I pick a favorite R.E.M. song I'd probably say "Country Feedback."

It's crazy what you could've had, it's crazy what you could've had...
posted by Kattullus at 6:59 PM on September 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man, this post is so great. Thanks for all the thoughts and stories, everyone.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 9:35 PM on September 22, 2011


Oh man, "Half a World Away" is one of the saddest, greatest…

Right there with ya, scody. The distinctive organ/mandolin/harpsicord/strumming guitar sound, that pulsing dirge of an opener, starting on a minor and resolving to a major, just slays me.

For some reason it makes me think of an Irishman waking up in some unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar country with a guilty hangover, lamenting the love he has lost.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amusing and somewhat touching: collage of fans covering "It's the End of the World As We Know It..." on Slate.
posted by aught at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Out of Time is crazy underrated.

Out of Time suffered a lot from being popular -- you were an REM fan from BEFORE everyone found out who they were. And it is an extremely poppy album.

I'm torn on it. It is a great album, but it's neither fish nor fowl, that is, neither the cryptic and jangly REM of the IRS days nor the truly refined pop sound of AFTP forward. It's just straight 1991 pop. And listening to it always ends with me pulling out AFTP and remembering yet again what made them so great.

Because, holy crap, Automatic For The People was and is brilliant. No matter how much the Your Favorite Band Sucks sentiment wants to push it aside and say their decline began with Chronic Town, it is really hard to deny that AFTP is one of the purest expressions of pop music ever to come out of the American music industry.
posted by dw at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think lots of people would deny that. I listen to Out of Time and Monster a dozen times for every time I listen to AFTP.
posted by escabeche at 6:35 PM on September 23, 2011


Amusing and somewhat touching: collage of fans covering "It's the End of the World As We Know It..." on Slate.

To go with that: Here's the cover by Great Big Sea (that somehow manages to be FASTER than the original, and I'd like to know how the HELL that's possible).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 PM on September 23, 2011


after reading this thread, i listened to UP, a desperate attempt to do the good ... thank you REM. I cried with Monster. New Adventures in Hi-Fi is one of my all time faves.
posted by nims at 2:30 PM on September 24, 2011


Around the time Automatic For The People was released with at least two songs from the soundtrack I live by, there was an interview with Stipe where he said that if the band kept doing songs in that vein, they would become another James Taylor. I was crushed, since those songs were among the most gorgeous they had done. Can't find the interview online; can anyone?

Also, please point me to a video or MP3 of R.E.M and Natalie Merchant covering Sloop John B. He used to sing backup on stage for a Campfire Song for her, among other collaborations.

I'd no idea that Bingo Handjob lasted just two nights (apparently I have bootlegs of both nights. Who knew?)

And since no one has posted Fretless, I will.

Thanks.
posted by vers at 3:31 PM on September 24, 2011


Oops! I thought I had already linked to R.E.M. and Natalie Merchant covering Sloop John B, but I messed up the link. Here it is. It's joyous.
posted by Kattullus at 4:21 PM on September 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


a kiss for you, Kattullus. Joyous indeed, and a cover I hadn't heard before. Thank you!
posted by vers at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2011




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