There were less than 1,000 copies of the first pressing of this single, from July 1981.  Second-hand copies rarely come up for sale and can fetch up to £200.

The re-press, which differs in that the Athens, Georgia address of Hib-Tone Records has been printed on the label, is marginally easier to get a hold of in that around 6,000 were pressed up.  There’s a few for sale on Discogs, from the USA and Japan, with the asking price either side of £100.

Hib-Tone Records was a short-lived affair, founded by Johnny Hibbert, who actually seems to have had a bigger role to play in the R.E.M. story than I previously believed.

The version of Radio Free Europe which I’m linking to today is courtesy of the compilation album, Eponymous, released in 1988, that I’ve always thought was the original single as that is what it says on the album sleeve.

But, while researching for this post, I found that the Epnoymous version is, in fact, the demo which the band recorded with Mitch Easter in April 1981, while the version that came out on 7″ vinyl on Hib-Tone was one which had been re-mixed by Johnny Hibbert.  It turned out that the band, and in particular Peter Buck, wanted the original Easter version to be the single but the label-owner, who pointed out he was financing the manufacturing and distribution, wasn’t having it.

So….what follows isn’t what you’d hear if you pulled out the 7″ from the Hib-Tone sleeve, but is the version the band wanted and is the one most readily available (and the one I actually have!!)

mp3 : R.E.M. – Radio Free Europe

Here’s its b-side.  It was also later re-recorded for Murmur.

mp3 : R.E.M. – Sitting Still

There’s a very strong possibility that the Sunday singles slot, when it returns later in the year, will feature R.E.M.



  1. I heard this when it came out and liked it. EVERYONE in Orlando did. It would take two more years before I got well sick of hearing R.E.M. constantly. They were also the flashpoint of USA vs UK reactionary “real rock” vs. synthesizers musical jingoism that sat very poorly with me. I would have bought a copy but it was played SO MUCH that every time I left my home I heard it, so there was little need to actually buy it. More’s the pity since I could have used the money in selling one off dozens of times since 1981!

  2. Aaaarrrghhggh! My version of this piece is nearly finished! Oh, well. Reading through it yours is better anyway. ‘Radio Free Europe’ is a perfect song. Never mind that you couldn’t understand the lyrics–that was the point. Invented “college rock” on the spot.

  3. Just to add confusion, the re-recorded version on ‘Murmur’ was slightly longer than the original version, and was released as a single in edited form, clocking in at 3’12”, making it the shortest version available. It appears in this form on 1994’s compilation album, ‘Singles Collected’ along with new b-side, a version of Velvet Underground’s ‘There She Goes Again’.

  4. Ah, good memories sitting around the dorm room in 81/82 trying to decipher Stipe’s mumblings. The absurd translations we would come up with would leave us in tears with laughter or looking at each other with ‘where the f did you hear that?’. The weed helped and didn’t help but good times none-the-less.
    I whole heartily support this becoming a series. Going to put Chronic Town on the turntable now….
    They were scheduled to play my uni in late ’81 and canceled with no warning as their van broke down in New Jersey. They came back in the spring 82. $2 entry fee to make up for the abrupt cancellation. No real distance between the band and the audience. I do recall Michael turning his back on the audience quite often while singing. Odd, but man that was a great show.

  5. Thanks for these, but I’m a little confused. Your post states that this isn’t the original single version, but the name of the file says ‘Original Hib-Tone Single’ – which is it?

  6. The file comes from the Eponymous compilation LP which describes it as the original Hib-Tone single. As I’ve tried to illustrate, if you own a copy of the Hib-Tone 7” (which I don’t!!) it will be a different mix from that which is most widely available.

  7. I’m sure that the original Hibtone is (supposed to be) on the And I Feel Fine triple compilation which covers 82-87.

    The whole Hib-Tone episode ended somewhat acrimoniously if the Begin The Begin book is to be believed.

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