This is the seventeenth week of the UK singles released by R.E.M. More often than not, either myself or The Robster has opened up proceedings by suggesting that the single you are about to hear is very unrepresentative or is untypical of the album from which it has been lifted. Deja-vu?
mp3: R.E.M. – Radio Song
The opening track on Out of Time was released as a 45 in both the UK and the USA in the first week of November 1991. It has a spoken intro and a guest vocal from rapper KRS-One. It then has a few notes that sound as if The Partridge Family are about to burst into song. Micheal Stipe’s opening contribution feels as if we about to be getting a follow-up to an earlier non-hit single:-
“The world is collapsing around our ears”
The thing is, this time he doesn’t feel fine.
There’s a few things that now annoy me about Radio Song, not least that the rap is lame and feels very dated. I know KRS-One was an established name in the hip-hop scene at the time through Boogie Down Productions and had obviously been brought on board with the best intentions but in this instance, he feels more frustrated than genuinely angry. An opportunity to drive home the message of playlists on radio stations being of little or no appeal to much of the demographic was missed.
And yet…..after some thirty seconds when the organ, bass, drums and guitars kick in, it becomes a more than passable tune that bounces along at a decent lick. But it still doesn’t ever feel as if it should be selected as a single, not least for the fact that it would be near impossible for a song that attacks playlists and the music preferences of DJs and their production team sidekicks to get much in the way of airplay.
And yet……Warner Bros. obviously had no worries as the record-buying public in the UK continued to spend substantial amounts of cash on all things R.E.M. and it made its way to #28 in our charts. It bombed in the States…..
Once again, it was made available on 7″, 12″, cassette and CD. The common track was another lifted from the 1 April session for ‘Rockline’.
At the time, this was a relatively unknown song, with it being a cover of a 1967 single by The Troggs. It’s an acoustic effort in which Mike Mills takes the lead vocal and with the ba-ba-ba-ba stuff going on in the background, it’s a third cousin of sorts to Near Wild Heaven. It’s quite awful.
Three years later, the same song was recorded by Wet Wet Wet as their contribution to the soundtrack of the film Four Weddings and A Funeral. It spent 15 weeks at #1 and was never off daytime radio, to the extent that some DJs, having got tired of it, began to play either the original version by The Troggs or the R.E.M. cover – there’s a certain irony of it being taken from a b-side from a single that has lambasted radio stations and DJs of that ilk….
The 12″ also offered up a rare thing. An R.E.M. remix:-
It comes in at just over a minute longer than the original version and Scott Litt deploys the sort of bog-standard production tricks and techniques so beloved in that era, especially multi-tracked vocals, keyboards to mimic orchestras and electronic drums. It’s listenable but it’s disposable.
The CD came with three live tracks, thus keeping with the formula of the previous three CD singles lifted from Out of Time. The blurb with it stated:-
“This is the fourth in a series of limited edition CDs released alongside singles from ‘Out Of Time’. Each includes 3 live songs, all complementary to those available on the other formats. Collectively they form a record of ‘R.E.M. In Concert’.
And to help you store your new CDs, which if memory serves me correctly all retailed at £3.99, there was a plastic box in which you could put them. The only thing was that Warner Bros. was kind of running out of decent sources to locate material – no way did they want listeners to get the chance of live material from the IRS days and so they turned again to Tourfilm and shows from that era:-
And yes, you have heard that live version of Orange Crush before as we slotted it into the look at the single release of Orange Crush a few weeks back,
Onwards and upwards for R.E.M., arguably the biggest band on the planet at the end of 1991. It would be nine months before the next single and The Robster will be here next week to say a few words.