Hearts out for R.E.M.


It’s a sad moment on Wikipedia when they move you to past tense:

R.E.M. was an American rock band from Athens, Georgia, formed in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry.

Oh, to sing like Michael Stipe. And funny, how his voice bloomed over the first few albums, how the words started garbled as if they wouldn’t get all the way out, as if he wasn’t sure, didn’t care if it was mumbo-jumbo, didn’t matter. The words and singing were better in some ways before they decided to put more meaning on them, because so many people were listening. It became a responsibility to say something more, and they stepped up to it.

The beauty for me is the sounds that come through from other bands they loved, and how they made something new and unique, which we can call American: folk, country, punk, brought together and made pop. Changing popular music, raising the bar, inspiring others: Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pavement, then the countless no-name bands and singers that made it nowhere, but thought they might because of R.E.M.

They made college radio what it was when we still had radio, and that’s the only place you could get it: there, the record store, or from a friend.

You can do simple that’s just right musically, but it’s not simple. And to do it with a sense of humor and taste, that’s worth toasting to, R.E.M.

The three of them with the Muppets here, obviously live, with a jingle-jangle banjo and Stipe, so huggable he makes me cry. (The ear-worm is worth it.)

Pavement proves the B-sides can be better, or the throw-away compilation songs like this one, with their goofiness and just-stick-the-neck-of your-guitar-in-it, and jam it. The self-proclaimed last psychedelic band from sac’to, northern Cal.


Categories: music

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Gotta love the folks who performed with the Muppets.


  2. Mumblerock, we used to call it. REM, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison… I’m missing a few. I was in College when Lifes Rich Pageant came out, and we dissected and analyzed. Was the band selling out? That was the ultimate sin back then. Next: Document, REM with balls. That’s when it became clear that this was a band that wouldn’t sit still. Thankfully.


    • Very cool assessment and lots of opinions around this: when did they go afoul? Did they go afoul? Who am I to say really? Everything in the 80s (including Green) is sublime, by me. What good guys.


  3. It’s good to be young despite the years.


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