Friday Song: R.E.M.

It took me a long time to warm to R.E.M. I recall the iconic posters on various walls in various smokey beer drinking rooms, the warbling voice of Michael Stipe filtered through the downtown Sacramento heat, another porch on another dusky tree-lined street. The music was always a little too meta-Southern hipster for me, and it wasn’t until their 1988 album, “Green,” that I started liking some of their songs, particularly the lovely instrumental “Endgame.” I eventually moved through their catalog, and it was this song from 1984’s “Reckoning” that resonated strong when I knew I had to leave the suburban homestead, ironically the cities of Rocklin and Roseville bordering each other. I’m not filled with Thomas Wolfean Can’t Go Home Again melancholia anymore and now it’s just a place to revisit friends and family. But back in the day, “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” buttressed me to get the hell out…

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11 Responses to “Friday Song: R.E.M.”

  1. Fucking love that song.

    I fell into REM in high school with Life’s Rich Pageant. A girl I was sweet on was into them. Saw them play the Paramount in Seattle and was a major fan ever since.

  2. Wow. Strange you should bring up R.E.M. I’ve recently in the past month been getting back into them.

    The first four R.E.M. albums were just brilliant. I was into them in the early 80s with release of “Reckoning” and they were one of my all time favorite bands. I followed them through-out the 1980s and they are sort of the soundtrack of that decade for me.

    The later records like “Document” and “Green” are alright, but a little over-produced. I love “Automatic for the People” — their last great album IMHO. I could never get into “Monster” but I thought “New Adventures in Hi Fi” was good because it was recorded mostly live. It had a good feel. After Bill Berry left the band, they’ve kind of lost their way.

    Their song writing is what does it for me. They always struck me as a simple garage band that made it big because in spite of their limitations, they had a knack for writing infectious, yet somewhat eclectic tunes.

  3. Oh… and a bit of trivia – Michael Stipe had nothing to do with this song. It was written entirely by the bassist Mike Mills. In fact, Mills sings it these days in concert.

  4. automatic for the people is a masterpiece, it s the last great album they recorded and the only real interesting one with a major publisher.

    i really prefer (but i may sound like an old fart) their older albums, murmur, fables of the reconstruction (re issued this days in a glorious special edition)… they were not trying to sound articulate, it was quasi mystical indie band, half dream, half grounded in strange mutterings… i guess they lost it when they lost their ambiguity(especially after monster, but the seeds were already on green), when stipe appeared in full light….

  5. I second the Automatic for the People love. I’ve gone back and forth with REM. I loved them intially, then got burned out (probably on the meta thing), but I’ve since re-embraced them. It sounds like a number of your readers have followed similar paths with them.

  6. i love esp. early R.E.M., i still have ‘life’s rich pageant’ on cassette tape!

  7. Frank B Says:

    I actually liked the early, murky stuff. I still think “Radio Free Europe” was their greatest moment.

    But, yeah, they did sort of recover in the mid-Nineties. If I were to go back and listen to those albums, it would probably make me nostalgic for those days of wine and roses…but mostly wine.

  8. Frank B Says:

    Wow, AftP was Nineteen-Ninety freakin’ two?

    Ever find yourself thinking of music by certain bands as “late-period” or even “after they were over for me” and then realizing that those albums are now considered oldies or the band’s golden period by some?

    I’m sure there’s somebody out there whose favorite Replacements album is the final one that I still haven’t heard all the way through and don’t even consider fully legit.

  9. christian Says:

    Suffice to say that I love reading all your R.E.M.emories.

    Strangely, I didn’t “get” into them until their single “Stand” which most of my diehard REM pals despised. I’m a sucker for an anthem.

    Stranger, I find myself buying R.E.M.’s new stuff while my fanatic friends stopped listening seemingly around 1989. Fair weather fans!

    I really love “Up” from 1998 but its electronic sound alienated the garage band base. Actually, I think R.E.M. are the ultimate Garage Sale Band. How many times was their music played over downtown sales over the 80’s and early 90’s…

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