R.E.M. – The playlist

Last blog I talked all about why R.E.M. Is my favorite band. (Click here.) Now, as promised … my R.E.M. playlist. Like the last one, this blog goes out to the band I love! Hope you get to check (some of) these out. And, as always, would love to hear what YOU think:

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  • South Central Rain (Reckoning album, 1984) – Captures me from the first guitar chords. Guitarist Peter Buck wept when he heard this recording, written about a Midwest storm when he couldn’t get in touch with his parents.
  • Can’t Get There from Here (Fables of the Reconstruction – aka, Reconstruction of the Fables, 1985) – Love the electric guitar riffs. Have no idea what it’s about, don’t care!
  • Fall on Me (Life’s Rich Pageant, 1986) – Love the lyrics, melody, chorus, the whole deal!
  • The One I Love (Document, 1987) – The one Michael Stipe declares is NOT a love song … have no idea why he keeps yelling ‘Fire’ but it works.
  • Finest Worksong (Document) – Just like it; good, solid, driving rock ‘n roll.
  • It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine) (Document) – IMG_2013When my son Dan started playing acoustic guitar, I sometimes sang or played along. One day, we worked on this fantastic song in the stairwell of my in-laws’ upstate apartment (maybe for the acoustics?) Man, that’s a hard one to sing, even with the lyrics sheet, but I feel so fine every time I hear that song and think of that special memory.
  • Pale Blue Eyes (Dead Letter Office, 1987) – In its liner notes, R.E.M. says this album is a tribute to ’45 singles, especially the B-sides, where ‘you can clear the closet of failed experiments, badly written songs, drunken jokes and, occasionally, a worthwhile song that doesn’t fit the feel of an album.’ This cover of a Lou Reed song (with some different lyrics from Michael Stipe) is an outtake from Reckoning that I, for one, find worthwhile!
  • Pop Song 89 (Green, 1988) – Pure energy!
  • You Are the Everything (Green) – This song embodies everything I love about this band’s work. It’s mournful yet hopeful; compelling, relatable and deep; timely and timeless. It’s musically complex (listen for Mike Mills’ singing). And I can totally relate to its messages – we’re all scared at times, but we can look back nostalgically to capture and relive a time when we were ‘everything.’ And Michael Stipe brings you right back there – to the back seat of a car, to your childhood kitchen, to being a star gazer at one with the universe, to feeling pure peace.
  • Losing My Religion (Out of Time, 1991) – What made me fall in the love with the band in the first place. (Was interesting to learn ‘losing my religion’ is not about religion at all; it’s a Southern phrase about having a painful, embarrassing crush on someone.)
  • Shiny, Happy People (Out of Time) – They would hate me for putting this one here. But this was meant to be ‘cartoon-like,’ according to Michael. And even at their ‘sappiest,’ most mainstream, I find them extremely inspiring and fun. Plus I love the video and the back-up vocals from bassist/pianist Mike Mills and the B-52s’ Kate Pierson.
  • The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite (Automatic for the People, 1992) – Just cool all around, with great wordplays throughout. This is the song that musically ‘quotes’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight and has Michael Stipe literally laughing on the track when he pronounces Dr. Seuss, Zeus.
  • Everybody Hurts (Automatic for the People) – Michael says he wrote and sang this one more clearly than any other R.E.M. song, so people struggling with suicidal thoughts might find hope. Do you see why I love this band so much?
  • Man on the Moon (Automatic for the People) – Love the music, lyrics and nostalgic references. Quirky and wonderful … ‘Here’s a truck stop instead of St. Peter’s’ ‘See you in Heaven if you make the list’ and the list of goes on for me.
  • Find the River (Automatic for the People) – My favorite song from my favorite band and probably my favorite album of theirs. They call it ‘elegiac,’ which I had to look up … lol. It hits me hard from the very first beautiful guitar notes that sound like a river, to the purely poetic lyrics throughout (some of which I had to look up too). Have tissues handy if you watch the video, about an old man and his dog … I won’t give any more away.
  • What’s the Frequency, Kenneth (Monster, 1994) – Famously about an incident Dan Rather had, where someone asked him that. Just like the electric energy.
  • Electrolyte (New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996) – A larger-than-life song about Hollywood people who pretty much are. Love the guiro (percussion instrument) at the start and the piano (and banjo) throughout. Also the funny little story Michael told on ‘Behind the Music‘ about how he happened to see Martin Sheen at their mutual dentist. While Martin was in the chair, Michael asked if it was o.k. that they mention him in this song. Martin answered in that totally garbled way, when you try to talk with your mouth wide open and people working on your teeth. (It was probably much funnier when Michael told it, but you get the idea …)
  • At My Most Beautiful (Up, 1998) – Beautiful tribute to Beach Boys music and wonderfully quirky little love song.
  • Daysleeper (Up) – Michael was inspired to write the lyrics when he was passing by an apartment that had a ‘Quiet please, daysleeper‘ note on the door. From that one sign – which he saw when he was leaving a haiku writing party! – he wrote an elegant, insightful, empathetic portrayal of what that must be like. Brilliant!
  • Supernatural Superserious (Accelerate, 2008) – Fantastic rocking song and such a relatable, comforting message – we all had our humiliating high school and camp childhood experiences and we can all overcome them.

By the way, I will move on to some new and diverse subjects now, after this ‘deep dive’ into R.E.M.!

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