THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 35)

With Up yielding not just one, but TWO top 10 hits, and a sold-out World tour in full swing, Warners decided to capitalise with the release of a fourth single from Up. They really shouldn’t have bothered – to say it backfired is an understatement.

While Up may not be described as the most ‘user-friendly’ record in R.E.M.’s discography, it nonetheless had some wonderful songs on it. For a fourth single, how about the uplifting Walk Unafraid, without a doubt one of the Up Tour’s live highlights? (here, here!!! – JC)

Or The Apologist with its “I’m sorry” refrain referencing the early classic So. Central Rain? Or even, as a real curveball, Up’s best moment in my opinion, the Krautrock-inspired Leonard Cohen pastiche Hope? (agreed….the best song on the album, but so unlike R.E.M. -JC)

But Warners thought “No, what we need is an utterly forgettable 5½-minute dirge that no one will play on radio and no fans will feel the need to buy again.”

And that’s exactly what transpired. Released on 28th June 1999, Suspicion became the first R.E.M. single in more than a decade not to chart in the UK. That is perhaps the only significant thing I can say about it. Both formats (for there were only two) contained the full-length album version of Suspicion

mp3: R.E.M. – Suspicion

Not even the b-sides can save this one. More live tracks I’m afraid. In this case, more from that Jools Holland special from the previous Autumn. The main CD release included these:

mp3: R.E.M. – Electrolite [live on Later… With Jools Holland]
mp3: R.E.M. – Man On The Moon [live on Later… With Jools Holland]

The collectible 3” CD contained a live in the studio take of Suspicion (though not the same one that appeared on the Lotus single), plus an early fave taken from that Jools show.

mp3: R.E.M. – Suspicion [live at Ealing Studios]
mp3: R.E.M. – Perfect Circle [live on Later… With Jools Holland]

Not the most inspiring way to sign off the Up era, but perhaps in some way fitting considering what was to come over the next few years…

The Robster

8 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 35)

  1. Did a bit of a deep dive into the other songs on Up thanks to this post. I love Hope! Glad they included Leonard Cohen credit as it is absolutely Suzanne – in a good way. But they make it right by giving credit.
    It doesn’t surprise me that Warners had no clue what to do about a 4th single. I’m just surprised that they thought singles were what was selling the album. But I guess it was still a time when albums were expected to sell hundreds of thousands or even millions. Nowadays a few thousand physical sales gets you on the charts.

  2. Given that a recurring theme of this series has been the ability of the record companies (or band themselves) to select the obvious – to my ears and it would appear others as well – tracks to release as a single, it should come as no surprise that Walk Unafraid, The Apologist and Hope were ignored. They not only are my favourite tracks on Up but are also a change of pace from the already released tracks. Perhaps if they had chosen to release one of them it would have led to the album (& the concept of REM as a three piece) being seen in a different light?
    I think the description of Suspicion as a dirge is slightly harsh. It feels fine as an album track. Just have to check the full tracklist to see if it makes MY 10 track version.

  3. Totally agree with DAM here: Walk Unafraid and Hope were (in my contemporary opinion) were much more ‘right’ for a fourth single, especially Hope.
    Looking forward to what can be said on the forthcoming Sundays. The Up singles was the last time I bought R.E.M. singles and the next album was the last time I bought one of their albums ‘to listen to’ (as opposed to collecting).

  4. Totally the wrong choice of single and clear at the time that the lights maybe on in the bridge but there was no course being plotted for REM at this stage

  5. Suspicion is a pleasant little song. Probably goes on for 4 minutes too long. Not sure it would have been single material at 1:40. I’ll have to give a listen to the other tunes you guys are saying would have been better choices to make the call. ButI think Echorich put his finger on it: by 1999 it was obvious that singles weren’t selling LPs.

  6. I only heard Suspicion for the first time with the Lotus post a couple of weeks ago. I like it as a B-side or if it cropped up on a mixtape, but I agree it’s not a single and definitely not a summer single, at that. The best version of the three for me is the Live At Ealing Studios take, which just has more energy. I enjoyed the live versions of Electrolite and Man On The Moon, Perfect Circle less so. I really enjoyed the post and comments, as always.

  7. Definitely a poor choice for a single. I’m looking forward to
    the next posts in this brilliant series – sounds like they’ll cover
    an unloved era for the band’s fans, so that will be v interesting.

  8. Came here for the B-sides. Being a pre-Warner Brothers REM fan, I was happy to see Perfect Circle here. There are good things about this version (back up vocals, bass and some of the piano) but the sound of the drumming really kills this version for me. It’s a bit jarring. This is supposed to be a soft, slow dance type of song.

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