I wrote this during the day, now I'm posting it to keep my mind off the state of Georgia and blood lust.
If you listened to college radio at all the in the 1980’s you could not avoid R.E.M. I’m trying to remember where I was when I first heard them. It had to be the Chronic Town E.P., sometime at WCVF during my sophomore year, fall of 1982. I had to look that up because I thought it was sometime in the spring, but it looks like the record was not released until October of 1982.
In the spring of 1983 I went to a college radio convention in Washington D.C. and they made an appearance. A meet and greet to sign autographs. I did not see them but managed to get one of their early press photos. I still have it, found in the basement. Sorry if the scan cut off the top of Michael's head.
Then in the spring of 1983 Murmur came out and it was like Thriller for independent music. It changed the indie music sound, brought back the jangly guitar and influenced a lot of kids. They were the perfect alternative band, could rock when necessary, and kept it quiet when they could. They were MTV friendly, a bit surly or engaging during interviews; a group of four mysterious characters, yet accessible all at once.
Every year through my college days and Fredonia years it seemed that the band released a new record. They are one of the groups that definitely provided the soundtrack to my life during that time. I remember being in the recording studio at WCVF with the new copy of Document and the looks on the faces of the people in there with me, listening as this great new record was being played for the first time is a good memory. I think the station, as thanks for your support from the record label, received an autographed copy of the album cover that was stolen.
I was obsessed with Life’s Rich Pagaent. Played it over and over, then the house was robbed, along with my turntable. That was a sad time.
Green alienated me a bit, I can't name any song on it other than the mediocre Orange Crush, but Out of Time brought me back into the fold. Loved Me and Honey and the work they did with Kate Pierson. Automatic for the People kept the streak going then Monster completely lost me. Guitar noise, What's the Frequency Kenneth was a grab at pop culture they missed. After that, the band and my life were headed in two different directions. They, along with 10,000 Maniacs (who had their own connection to R.E.M.) and U2 will forever be my Fredonia bands. Maybe Columbus, myself, and the band could not connect?
There really were not many of their songs that hit me over the last ten years. At My Most Beautiful is probably my favorite of anything they recorded during that era. Never saw them live. Never really wanted to after hearing a few of their shows, they did not impress me as a live act so I did not think it was worth the effort. Maybe in time I’ll regret this.
They gave it a go, and had a good run for over thirty years. Not many bands can claim that longevity while sustaining success. They could have called it a day in 1999, or when Bill Berry left and I’d have written the same thing then as I am now. Heck, U2 can break up today and I’d be writing the same thing. It’s sad that it’s finally happened, but they did well, very well, and we can celebrate the great music they left us. Perhaps Mike Mills can put out a solo record now?