Artist Info. Lyrics Guitar Tabs Misheard Lyrics


         R  .  E  .  M  .



Formed 1980, Athens, Georgia

THE BAND

Michael Stipe - born John Michael Stipe, Jan. 4, 1960, Decatur, Ga. - vocals.
Peter Buck - born Peter Lawrence Buck, Dec. 6, 1956, Berkeley, Calif. - guitars.
Mike Mills - born Michael Edward Mills, Dec. 17, 1958, Orange, Calif. - bassist, vocals.
Bill Berry - born William Thomas Berry, Jul. 31, 1958, Duluth, Minn. - drums.


The most popular college-rock band of the Eighties, R.E.M. underwent a steady, decade-long rise from underground heroes to bona fide superstars. The quartetís arty mix of punk energy, folky instrumental textures, muffled vocals, and introspective, often oblique lyrics influenced a generation of alternative-rock bands. By the time of its $10-million, five-record deal with Warner Bros. in 1988, the band had gone from playing hole-in-the-wall pizza parlors to major arenas. In 1989 Rolling Stone named R.E.M. "Americaís Hippest Band."

 

 

Michael Stipe, raised by nonmusical parents in a military family that moved constantly, was an introverted child who spent much of his time hanging out with sisters Lynda and Cyndy. By 1975 he had begun reading articles about Patti Smith and the burgeoning New York punk scene and eventually bought three albums that would change his life: Smithís Horses, Televisionís Marquee Moon, and Wireís Pink Flag. While in high school in St. Louis, he joined a short-lived punk-rock cover band.

In 1978 Stipe enrolled in the art department at the University of Georgia at Athens, where he majored in painting and photography and developed an interest in surrealism and medieval manuscripts. While shopping at the local Wuxtry record shop, he met store manager Peter Buck, a native Californian and avid pop fan who shared Stipeís interest in adventurous music. The two decided to form a band. Within a year, they connected with fellow students Bill Berry and Mike Mills, childhood friends from nearby Macon who had played together in various Southern rock groups. In April 1980 the four formed R.E.M. (named for the dream state "rapid eye movement") and began rehearsing in a converted Episcopal church. In July the group played their first out-of-state gig in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they met future manager and confidant, Jefferson Holt.

 

Though influenced by punk and the D.I.Y. aesthetic, R.E.M. developed their own energetic folk-rock style over the next year. Buckís chiming, Byrds-like guitar playing, together with Stipeís cryptic vocal style, became the groupís signature sound. In 1981 they recorded a demo tape of original music at Mitch Easterís Drive-In Studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two songs from those sessions, "Radio Free Europe" and "Sitting Still," were released as a seven-inch single in July on the homegrown Hib-Tone label. The driving "Radio Free Europe" attracted positive notices, and in October the band returned to Easterís studio to record its first EP. R.E.M. signed with I.R.S. in 1982 and released Chronic Town to overwhelming critical praise.

 

The bandís first full-length album, Murmur (#36, 1983), was an instant classic, containing everything its supporters had hoped for: more layers of ringing guitar, more passionately vague vocals, more atmospheric melodies, and more seductive pop hooks. It also included a new, tighter version of "Radio Free Europe." The group followed up with Reckoning which failed to break new ground but managed to reach #27, spawning the minor hit "So. Central Rain (Iím Sorry)," and garnering favorable reviews. The group enlisted London-based folk producer Joe Boyd (Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson) for Fables of the Reconstruction (#28, 1985), which featured a hazy, psychedelic musical setting. Lifes Rich Pageant (#21, 1986) took that experiment further, but with more of a sheen, courtesy of producer Don Gehman (John Mellencamp), who encouraged Stipe to sing more clearly; its single was "Fall on Me," whose video was directed by Stipe.

Although Stipe had begun pulling out of his enigmatic shell with more intelligible vocals, his lyrics continued to confound. R.E.M.ís first major hit, "The One I Love" (#9, 1987), from the bandís first Top Ten album, Document (#10, 1987), was a song of betrayal that was almost universally misinterpreted as a love song. Then, on the bandís major-label debut, Green (#12, 1988), Stipe alluded to the ambiguous nature of his lyrics in "World Leader Pretend," acknowledging, "Itís high time I razed the walls that Iíve constructed." The albumís hit single, "Stand" (#6, 1988), was the simplest, most hummable song of R.E.M.ís career; the albumís other single, "Pop Song 89" (#86, 1988), was a minor hit that made fun of the music business. Dead Letter Office (#52, 1987) is a collection of B sides and outtakes, and Eponymous (#44, 1988) is a greatest-hits album. R.E.M. went on a touring hiatus following Green.

It took three years for the band to return with the highly anticipated Out of Time, which rocketed to #1, went quadruple platinum, and included "Losing My Religion" (#4, 1991) and "Shiny Happy People" (#10, 1991). The video for the former was banned in Ireland for allegedly homoerotic imagery; the latter was a duet with Kate Pierson of the B-52ís. Out of Time also featured an expanded instrumental palette of horns and mandolins. Automatic for the People (#2, 1992) was a somber album containing some meditations on mortality, and string arrangements by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Its hits were "Drive" (#28, 1992), "Man on the Moon" (#30, 1993), and "Everybody Hurts" (#29, 1993).

 

During the latter part of the Eighties, R.E.M. became activists, inviting Greenpeace to set up booths at their shows and becoming involved in local Athens politics. On his own, Stipe spoke out on such issues as the environment, animal rights, and the plight of the homeless. He also ushered other artists into the public eye, including folk painter the Reverend Howard Finster, filmmaker Jim McKay (with whom he set up the film company C-OO, noted for its series of public service announcements), and folksinger Vic Chesnutt. Stipe also worked with rapper KRS-One of Boogie Down Productions and Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs. Meanwhile, Buck produced music by such artists as Kevn Kinney of Driviní Ní Cryiní and Charlie Pickett. In 1990 Buck, Berry, Mills, and singer/songwriter Warren Zevon formed a side band, Hindu Love Gods, which put out a self-titled album on Giant.

 

In 1994 R.E.M. returned to the fore with Monster which combined rockers featuring heavily reverbed guitars (including that of Sonic Youthís Thurston Moore on one track) and distorted or almost glam-sounding vocals, as well as the bandís more traditional-sounding fare. Monster shot to #1, though its first single, "Whatís the Frequency, Kenneth?" only reached #21. Soon after, the band commenced its first world tour in five years. After a few weeks, the tour was canceled in March 1995 when Berry was stricken with a brain aneurysm. Following surgery, Berryís prognosis was good, and the band continued the tour in the U.S. later in the year.


THE ALBUMS

1982 -- Chronic Town EP (I.R.S.)
1983 -- Murmur
1984 -- Reckoning
1985 -- Fables of the Reconstruction
1986 -- Lifes Rich Pageant
1987 -- Document; Dead Letter Office
1988 -- Eponymous; Green (Warner Bros.)
1991 -- Out of Time
1992 -- Automatic for the People
1994 -- Monster




 

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