310. talk about the passion

 

“It’s hard to overstate how big a deal REM were in the cool world when they first hit, except maybe to say, everything about them was punk … except their sound. They did it their way, Michael Stipe resplendently inarticulate, the other guys jangling along with deceptive power, reminding us that there was way more to music than all the godawful corporate radio crap we hated and and/or punk’s necessary vomit. Which was the key, I guess. So much beautiful and mysterious stuff between those extremes that wanted exploring. All that passion. And yet, I don’t think REM ever really topped that first album, Murmur. They’d never be that essential again, even as their sound got sharper, tighter, and Mr. Stipe stooped to enunciating, even making sense eventually. That got boring fast.” (Philip Random)

REM-1983-live

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320. gravity’s pull

“Vancouver, 1984. REM finally made it town and a sold out Commodore was waiting for them, including at least one member from every at least half-cool band in town. They opened with Radio Free Europe as I recall, which killed, but equally notable was Michael Stipe’s hair. It was long, uncut for at least a year, hippie long. Which just wasn’t done in those days in cool culture. Punk had accomplished that much, hadn’t it? Guys with long hair and cool no longer belonged in the same sentence, or the same nightclub. Jump ahead a year to 1985 and REM were back, playing to yet another sold out Commodore, and now there were all manner of long haired guys in the audience. Except now Michael Stipe had his cut short, and dyed blonde. People were confused, feeling out of synch. Until the band kicked into their first song, Gravity’s Pull from the new album Reconstruction Of The Fables – strong and dark, and heavy without being obvious about it. Everybody quickly forgot about the hair.” (Philip Random)

REM-1985-live

529. Cuyahoga

“I gave up trying to figure out what Michael Stipe was on about very early on. The first few REM albums, he was mumbling, which made it easy. But then, come Life’s Rich Pageant, he was suddenly enunciating, you could now decipher words – they just weren’t adding up. Except maybe Cuyahoga. Because I’d read about the Cuyahoga as a little kid. The river that was so polluted with man made chemicals and whatever that it actually caught fire, Cleveland, Ohio, 1969. That’s the kind of fact that’s all too meaningful.” (Philip Random)

REM-1986-roadside