THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 10)

As mentioned last week, first heard on the radio and the clincher to me asking for Document to be a Xmas present in 1987.

At the time It’s The End Of The World….was sinking without a trace in the UK, the release over in America the same week in August 1987 of The One I Love was a game-changer. It took the band into the Top 10 and paved the way for the major labels to come looking to entice R.E.M. with a mega-sized contract.

It made sense to give the single a release here in the UK and across Europe, which duly happened in November 1987. The release of Document had been to near-universal acclaim from the critics, and indeed all four of the UK’s main music papers were talking up R.E.M. as the saviours of guitar music. It got some airplay, but not a huge amount on the daytime shows – maybe producers had cottoned onto the fact that this was not the straightforward love story that it first appeared from hearing the refrain of it going out to the one who was loved.

It reached #51 in the UK charts which was progress but not as much as perhaps was hoped for given the success it had enjoyed back home. Indeed, despite the praise heaped on Document, it had spent only three weeks in the album charts before falling out, and so for all that the critics talked the band and the songs up, the sales weren’t really being generated over here.

mp3: R.E.M. – The One I Love

I won’t waste time going on about how The One I Love is among the most misunderstood lyrics ever penned, I think we all know that.

Instead, I’ll get to the b-sides, again from a second-hand copy of the 12″ (which wasn’t in the greatest condition as you’ll soon spot)

mp3: R.E.M. – Last Date
mp3: R.E.M. – Disturbance At The Heron House (live)

Last Date is an instrumental, written in 1960 by Floyd Cramer, one of the pioneers of piano playing in country music. It’s worth remembering that Document had been recorded in Nashville and this tune, which has been covered by dozens of performers over the years, was probably heard on numerous occasions when the band was out relaxing in bars away from the studio. It wasn’t, however, recorded during the Document sessions, dating instead to early September 87 when they convened in a studio back home in Athens, to rehearse for the upcoming tour of four European dates followed by two exhausting months on the road to all parts of America.

You’d be hard pushed to identify it as a performance by R.E.M. without knowing in advance, but it does demonstrate the abilities of Berry/Buck/Mills as musicians capable of turning their hand to a multitude of genres. Last Date would enjoy an American release in January 1988 as the b-side to It’s The End of The World….which was selected as the follow-up to The One I Love.

Disturbance At The Heron House became the third track to receive an official release from the McCabe’s Guitar Shop show. Again, it was one of the tracks performed across both sets – this is taken from the first set with just Peter Buck on acoustic guitar while Michael Stipe sings. It’s worth remembering that it was a new and unreleased song at the time of this performance (May 87) and that is a reasonable excuse for a couple of bum notes, singing and playing.

Eleven months later, and with R.E.M. having left I.R.S. for a new home at Warner Bros, their old label re-issued The One I Love in the UK, with a different sleeve and featuring two old singles – Fall On Me and So. Central Rain – as the b-sides on the 12″. It was an attempted cash-in but the single failed to chart.

Fast forward to September 1991 and R.E.M. are at a new peak of popularity with the record-buying public in the UK. The old label went for another cash-in, releasing The One I Love for the third time. No 12″ release this time, but it was put out on 7″ and in CD format, with two versions of the latter.

The wording inside the first CD, which also came with a detailed bio of the band, stated:-

THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF TWO LIMITED EDITION CD’S TO BE RELEASED FOR ‘THE ONE I LOVE’ SINGLE. EACH ONE INCLUDES TWO LIVE SONGS NEVER PREVIOUSLY AVAILABLE ON COMPACT-DISC. TOGETHER THEY WILL FORM A UNIQUE RECORD OF R.E.M. LIVE

The only thing, however, is that all of the live performances collected on the 2xCDs had been made available before on vinyl across various singles and so there was nothing new for the long-term fans to experience. But the ploy worked as the 1991 release of The One I Love went to #16, which was three places higher than had been achieved by Losing My Religion seven months earlier.

Tune in next week for something different on the third and final single to be lifted from Document.

JC

7 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 10)

  1. I’m interested in hearing what people have to say about this one. For me, The One I Love has become such a standard, it’s difficult to have anything emotive or original to say about it.

  2. I’m not sure wheteher it’s the (over) familiarity of it that makes it difficult to comment objectively on, the fact that it opened the band up to a wider audience (and thereby stopped it being our own “special” thing), or the fact that it can feel a little straightforward (a guitar solo!). I also find it difficult to say much about this. Do I like it? Yes. Do I love it? No.
    Am I glad you are writing this series? Absolutely. Looking forward to the next entry far more. Especially with the teaser at the end of today’s.

  3. I don’t know if it’s interesting or not but, for me, it was noteworthy at the time to hear an REM song where you could both hear the lyric and understand what it meant. Up to this point Stipe’s words were hard to hear and harder to decipher.

  4. I’ll have to agree with JTFL, this was R.E.M. produced to be played on FM radio. Document’s success in the US was partly down to that focus. I really like The One I Love. The lyrical darkness is quite stark and straight forward. The chorus is a sudden, violent outburst that drives home the menace in the song.

  5. Have to agree with the bulk of the responses above.

    ‘The One I Love’ is not the one I love a lot. Not
    that it’s a bad song – it’s just, as has been noted
    above, been overplayed. And, my word, that’s something
    that would be inflicted upon another single that will
    emerge quite soon in this series.

    Great post, JC – always look forward to what yourself
    and The Robster have to say.

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