R is for R.E.M.

REM 1983  (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

REM 1983
(Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

Sad how I have not posted since April. The last post was about Peter Hook and the Light and needless to say that concert was unbelievable. The band’s first set was six New Order songs, second set was a full playing of the Closer album from Joy Division, third set was Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album, then the encore included “Something Must Break”, “Transmission” and of course “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. I am still pinching myself.

I will admit that I get lazy with this blog. There are times when the lack of readership bothers me but I have to take responsibility for that. I don’t exactly make a point of engaging in a lot of self-promotion about The Musings and have to remember that most people may not be fans of the same bands and genres of music I am. Therefore I post when it’s meaningful to ME only nowadays. Maybe one of those cycles started back up for me. Maybe the fact I called out sick to work today influenced things as well.

I liked the Musings by the alphabet theme though so let’s get back to it. I’m done with Q bands already so skipping to the R’s R.E.M. makes sense to me. At least “first four album REM” does. I liked some songs from Document and that was the last tour I made a point of going to but I saw the writing on the wall with the release of that album.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy into the “sellout” theory. I love it when a band I followed early in its career makes it big and become huge nationally, even world-wide if that is the case. I would love it if Elbow ever became massive here in the U.S. I just don’t believe the listeners in this country “get” their style of music which is truly unfortunate. R.E.M. hit that massive type of worldwide acclaim and they totally deserved it. I will just always prefer what they created during the I.R.S. years of 1982-1987.

The band’s second and third albums Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction both rank in my Top 100 Albums of All-Time. REM’s debut Murmur is close and their fourth Life’s Rich Pageant was another incredible effort. Throw in the band’s 1987 B-sides compilation Dead Letter Office and it is easy to see why the band was one of my favorites throughout high school.

REM took the jangly guitar sound of The Byrds and Big Star, mixed in a vocal style that was barely discernible and added one of rock and roll’s all-time best rhythm sections to create what in my mind is the band that brought college radio to the mainstream. R.E.M. made it okay for the mainstream music audience to listen to alternative music and still kept things unique for those of us that listened to punk rock. REM was the pure crossover band, a four-piece that created rock and roll that was so full of hooks yet never strayed into that area of being generic. Even with all the Warner Bros. releases that I may not have particularly cared for this band didn’t release music that sounded contrived. Well okay, maybe “Stand” and “Shiny Happy People” are exceptions to the rule …

The majority of these alphabet Musings I picked one album from the artist but to be honest, every other month it seems I go back and forth between choosing Fables of the Reconstruction or Reckoning as my favorite album from R.E.M. Yes, I STILL listen to those two discs often enough 30 years later that I keep changing my mind. The one difference is the first time I saw them live was at The Palace West in support of the Fables album back in 1985. Watching Peter Buck destroy “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” is still one of the most intense things I have witnessed onstage. I next saw them at Mesa Amphitheatre when it rained and the opener Guadalcanal Diary opened their set with “Pray for Rain”, then the last time I saw R.E.M. in concert I had my microcassette recorder taken from me by security during the Document tour. What memories!

You get a video each from Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction. This version of “Feeling Gravity’s Pull” is exactly what I remember when I saw them in July 1985. Enjoy and be in awe.


Album(s) Inspiration: Fables of the Reconstruction and Reckoning



One comment

  1. sourgirlohio · August 5, 2015

    I love this post. I also prefer the earlier REM, though Out of Time and Automatic are still well ingrained in me. I was born in 81 and grew up listening to REM via my older brothers. I didn’t see them live until 2001, but I still loved the show.

    Great blog!

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