This week’s words are courtesy of The Robster:-

One thing that is noticeable when you study R.E.M.’s discography is how many amazing songs were not released as singles. But perhaps more baffling is the list of tracks they DID put out as 45s and how many of them are considered among the weakest in the band’s canon.

Following the critical success of their first two records, R.E.M. took a drastically different approach to the recording of their third. Relocating to London, they chose to work with English producer Joe Boyd rather than Mitch Easter and Don Dixon. It rained nearly every day, the band grew increasingly homesick, and by the time it was released they were reputedly close to breaking up. Yet I consider ‘Fables Of The Reconstruction’ one of R.E.M.’s best albums.

It marked a turn in the band’s songwriting style. Musically, it drew on southern folk music, and Boyd’s experience in the folk genre probably helped the sound to evolve on record. There was also a shift in Michael Stipe’s lyrics, moving away from the unintelligible, esoteric nature of the early songs to that of a more storytelling bent, words you could actually make sense of. There was a real sense of beauty in these songs in spite of what was happening internally at the time.

So it seems strange, looking back, why the label chose to release the least representative song on the record as its first single. Cant Get There From Here (no apostrophe – deliberate) opened side two and to say it sounds out of place would be an understatement. It has a kind of pseudo-funk feel, a horn section, and Stipe almost sounding like Elvis in places. It’s a real oddball song, unlike anything the band recorded before or since. They didn’t even play it live after 1986.

It’s a shame really, as there were so many other great songs on ‘Fables’ that would have served as better introductions to the album. In the US, both Driver 8 and Life And How To Live It were put out (the latter admittedly only as a promo). If it were down to me, I’d have picked Maps And Legends. But no, we got the album’s novelty tune, which when thinking about how Rockville was the band’s previous single, makes me wonder how exactly did the label view R.E.M.? For all the amazing songs they had at this stage, it’s the almost comedy moments that were chosen to highlight the band to the public. And it didn’t end here – we come to Stand and Shiny Happy People at some point in the future, and they were for a different label entirely.

Did the label think the band took themselves too seriously? Did the band insist on these songs as singles in order to dispel that very myth? Whatever way you look at it, Cant Get There From Here will not be remembered as one of R.E.M.’s finest moments, it’s nothing more than a disposable, jokey pop song.

The 7” release featured an edited version on the a-side, while the b-side contained another lighthearted moment, the really rather silly Bandwagon. In the sleevenotes of ‘Dead Letter Office’, Peter Buck described it thus: “This song was originally called ‘the fruity song’ because of all the stupid chord changes. Still one of the funniest songs we’ve written.”

As for the 12”, well the cover misled us into thinking we were getting an ‘extended version’ of Cant Get There From Here, which was rather naughty as what we actually got was the bog-standard LP version. Bandwagon also featured on the flip along with a track Charity Chic featured recently in his Heaven/Hell seriesBurning Hell. Yet another in- joke, it’s the band’s attempt to make a heavy metal song. It’s not very good at all, as most of the commenters to CC’s piece seemed to agree on.

This could go down as one of R.E.M.’s worst single releases, even as fond as I am of Bandwagon. None of the songs can be taken seriously or as representative of R.E.M. or the ‘Fables’ album, which probably didn’t help people’s perception of it at the time or since.

mp3: R.E.M. – Cant Get There From Here (edit)
mp3: R.E.M. – Bandwagon
mp3: R.E.M. – Burning Hell
mp3: R.E.M. – Cant Get There From Here (12″ release)

The Robster


JC writes:-

I am thrilled, delighted and honoured that this new series is going to benefit from regular contributions by The Robster, one of the biggest and most knowledgable R.E.M. fans on the planet, as can be seen from various postings over the years at his excellent, albeit now occasional blog, Is This The Life?

He’s onboard this and next week, with more offerings in the pipeline for later on. Here’s his take on the fourth single to be released in the UK.


Before I start, I’d like to thank JC for offering me the chance to contribute to this series. He knows of my love and passion for one of the most influential bands in my life and I hope I can live up to the extremely high standard he has already set. I promise not to be too much of an anorak, and give JC the right to jettison any superfluous material, especially if he feels I’m ever being boring or just showing off – because I am more than guilty of that from time to time. Anyway…

R.E.M.’s earliest songs were simple, energetic rock and roll songs. While their songwriting dynamic took a couple years to gel, they did come up with a few songs that would grace their later repertoire. Look at ‘Lifes Rich Pageant’, for instance. Released in 1986, it contained no fewer than three songs composed way back in 1980: Just A Touch, Hyena and What If We Give It Away (at the time titled Get On Their Way). All The Right Friends, written by Buck and Stipe before they’d even met their future bandmates, was also demoed for Pageant, eventually turning up on a movie soundtrack in 2001.

While the band’s second album, 1984’s ‘Reckoning’ contained mainly brand new material, there were two songs that also dated from their earliest period – Pretty Persuasion and (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville. The former was an undoubted highlight of the album, but it was Rockville that was put out as the second single; a strange move considering it sounded like nothing else the band had put out to that point.

Rockville was written by Mike Mills as a plea to his then girlfriend Ingrid Schorr to not leave Georgia and return to her native Rockville, MD. In its earliest incarnation, it’s described by Peter Buck as “kinda like how Buddy Holly would’ve played it.” This live version, captured at Tyrone’s in the autumn of 1980 (as far as I’m aware, the earliest known recording of the band) bears that out. And before you ask, I don’t know who Paul was.

mp3: R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (live, Tyrone’s 1980)

By the time 1984 swung around, Rockville had been made over. During studio sessions for ‘Reckoning’, the band gave it a country feel as a light-hearted nod to their country music-loving manager Bertis Downs. It always seemed destined to be a single, but the initial intention was not to include it on the album, instead to release it as a standalone single between ‘Reckoning’ and its follow-up. It did, however, make the final cut, but I can’t help but feel its placing – after the fragile, plaintive Camera, and before the politically-charged closer Little America – reduces it to a mere novelty.

The UK 7” featured an edited version of Rockville with a live version of Catapult, recorded in Seattle in 1984, on the flip. This live track appeared later as a bonus track on European CD reissues of ‘Reckoning’.

mp3: R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (7″ edit)
mp3: R.E.M. – Catapult (live, Seattle 1984)

The 12” featured the full-length album version of Rockville, two more live tracks and Wolves, Lower from the ‘Chronic Town’ EP (though here its title was shortened to simply Wolves). The live songs on the 12”, 9-9 and Gardening At Night, were recorded in Paris on Good Friday 1984. Two different live versions of these songs were also included on that European CD reissue of ‘Reckoning’ but, despite various listings to the contrary, they were recorded in Boston, MA. and were not the Rockville b-sides.

mp3: R.E.M – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (12″ version)
mp3: R.E.M. – Wolves
mp3: R.E.M – 9-9 (live, Paris 1984)
mp3: R.E.M. – Gardening At Night (live, Paris 1984)

In the band’s later years, Mike Mills took to singing the lead vocal of his song. This gorgeous abridged version, performed solo on VH1 Storytellers, is probably my favourite.

mp3: R.E.M – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville (live on VH1 Storytellers, NYC, 23rd October 1998)

The Robster


Since coming back to vinyl, inspired by taking up this blogging nonsense back in 2006, I’ve picked up some second-hand early singles by R.E.M., all for nothing more than £1 or £2 as that was back in the days when folk were still looking to clear homes of what they regarded as useless junk. Besides, all the tracks, including b-sides could be found on compilation CDs as IRS did everything they could think of to cash in on the world-wide fame that had come in the early 9os with the albums on Warner Bros.

The band’s third UK 45, from March 1984, is my oldest single. It’s the lead-off from the sophomore album, Reckoning, which was released the following month (not that I was paying attention at the time – I was obsessed with The Smiths)

mp3: R.E.M. – So. Central Rain

A song so timeless and enduring that the band was performing it as part of the live sets until almost the very end. It’s hard to imagine, but the very distinctive and memorable opening few notes were only added at a very late stage in the recording process. The band knew they had a classic on their hands but as Peter Buck would later explain:-

“[Producers] Mitch Easter and Don Dixon had the idea that the intro was weak — which it was. They came in early one day, and Don took a little guitar hook out of the chorus and stuck it on the front of the song. In those days, you physically had to cut the tapes up and splice them back into a new position, so it wasn’t quite as simple as it is now. When we came in, they played it to us, and we went, ‘Wow! That’s great!’ ”

It’s a song whose title doesn’t appear in the lyric, and this the reason why the sleeve advised that the name of the track was So.Central Rain (I’m Sorry), just in case any unassuming would-be purchaser wasn’t entirely sure of what they were trying to track down.

The 7″ and 12″ releases came with different b-sides, and again there was a reliance on cover versions:


mp3: R.E.M. – Walter’s Theme/King Of The Road

The former is a short, 90-second long instrumental, aside from a couple of spoken/sung lines and yelps from Michael Stipe that leads immediately into a country-band style cover of the Roger Miller classic that seems to be been captured live in the studio, possibly from a jam. Worth mentioning that the 7″ refers to it as being just the one song:-


mp3: R.E.M. – Pale Blue Eyes

Voice of Harold features the same tune as 7 Chinese Bros., the second track on Reckoning. I’m not sure if it is an earlier effort with the tune or it was just the band having a bit of fun in the studio as the lyric on the b-side is Stipe simply reading out, in time with the tune, the notes that appear on the back of The Joy Of Knowing Jesus by The Revelaires, a gospel album that happened to be in the studio in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The second track is another Velvet Underground cover, not quite as shambolic as There She Goes Again, but again, it’s nothing all that special.



SWC has provided some outstanding entertainment over the past few months but it is now time for Sundays to be returned to its traditional slot of looking at the UK singles released over the years by a singer or band.  The spotlight was most recently shone on The Auteurs/Luke Haines, while previous efforts have included Simple Minds, Marc Almond, Paul Haig, Grinderman, New Order, XTC, Undertones, Buzzcocks, Cinerama, The Clash, The Style Council, The Jam, Altered Images, and James.

It’s fair to say that some efforts have been better received than others and a few suffered from fatigue in that they covered too long a period and/or some 45s were pretty sub-standard.  There’s a chance that by deciding to go with R.E.M. that something similar will happen, but hopefully not for a long while.  This will, all being well, run for over a year…..

And the reason it is kicking off with Part 2 is all down to the fact that Radio Free Europe, featured, very recently, as part of the great debut singles feature.

The Hib-Tone version of Radio Free Europe was released in July 1981 and was a USA-only release.  The same was true for the next piece of vinyl, the Chronic Town EP in August 1982.  A year later, the band re-recorded the debut single for inclusion on the LP Murmur, and new label, IRS, decided to issue it as a single.  It charted at #78 at home but didn’t do anything in the UK.  For the sake of completeness, and to bring this long and rambling into to a merciful conclusion, here is its b-side:-

mp3: R.E.M. – There She Goes Again

It’s a rather perfunctory cover of The Velvet Underground song.  This was one of the first songs I ever heard by R.E.M. and I thought it was so dismal that it put me off them for a long time – it would take until the release of Document in 1987 before I began to pay proper interest.

Let’s quickly move on to November 1983.

IRS issued Talk About The Passion as a promo-only 12″ single in the USA with the two b-sides, Catapult, and Sitting Still, similarly taken from Murmur.  Here in the UK, the track was given a proper, if somewhat limited release, on 12″ vinyl with Shaking Through, also from Murmur, included while the flip-side offered up two of the tracks from the otherwise unavailable Chronic Town EP:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Talk About The Passion
mp3: R.E.M. – Shaking Through
mp3: R.E.M. – Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars)
mp3: R.E.M. – 1,000,000

I can now totally understand why the early singles and debut album had such an impact on those who picked up on the band at the very beginning, but I still feel that ‘Passion’, after an amazing instrumental opening and initially mesmeric vocal delivery, folds in on itself after about two minutes and becomes repetitive and I find myself switching off.

The b-sides are all reasonable enough without really setting any heather on fire.  I certainly don’t think they were, or are, as memorable and timeless as many of the UK singles from indie-guitar bands that I was more familiar with back in 1983.

Bring on the brickbats………



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.



Album : Green – R.E.M.
Review : Rolling Stone, 12 January 1989
Author : Michael Azerrad

On Green, R.E.M. dares to think positive. Songs like “Stand,” “Get Up,” “World Leader Pretend” and “The Wrong Child” are a continuation of the upbeat call to arms sounded on Document‘s “Finest Worksong.” It was no coincidence that such a hopeful record was released on an election day whose outcome was a foregone conclusion. Now is not the time for despair, R.E.M. seems to be saying, but for a redoubling of efforts.

Having made the leap from a small label, I.R.S., to a monolithic major one, Warner Bros., R.E.M. hasn’t sold out; rather, the band has taken the opportunity to crack open the shell it’s been pecking at since it recorded its first album. On Green, R.E.M. acknowledges the outside world with a slew of musical references and some relatively pointed lyrics.

As Michael Stipe’s vocals get more distinct, so does his message – instead of meaning almost anything you want them to, his noticeably improved lyrics seem to be about at most two or three different things. Stipe even makes an effort to enunciate. And perhaps more remarkable, this is the first R.E.M. album with printed lyrics – actually, it provides the lyrics to just one song, “World Leader Pretend,” but with this band you take what you can get.

Green reveals a much wider range than previous efforts, including a playfulness that wasn’t there before. Some songs have a downright bubble-gummy feel: on “Stand,” Peter Buck lets fly with a ridiculously wanky wah-wah guitar solo. Still others reveal more emotion than the band has shown in the past; “You Are the Everything” and the untitled track that closes the album are frank love songs with few strings attached.

Except for those tender ballads, R.E.M. has completely lost its folk inflections. A heavy guitar sound has replaced the old Byrdsy jangle (which scores of college bands continue to ply). The trademark asymmetrical song structures are gone, too; now, verses are repeated for maximum catchiness.

The band’s last two albums – Life’s Rich Pageant and Document – seemed very much of a piece, but Green is a distinctive record with a new feel, at once slightly synthetic and deeply felt, with Stipe conveying strong conviction without shouting and subtle emotion without disappearing into the woodwork. (Green was coproduced by Scott Litt, who also coproduced Document, the band’s commercial breakthrough.)

“Turn You Inside-Out” includes percussion by former Sugar Hill Records house drummer Keith LeBlanc, but it’s no rap jam – rather, it’s the heaviest rock these guys have yet recorded. R.E.M. won its reputation as a great rock & roll band as much with its live shows as with its earnest, evocative records, and this album begins to approach the concert experience – not necessarily in its visceral impact, but in its stunning contrasts: the song that follows “Turn You Inside-Out,” the mandolin-laden “Hairshirt,” is the most delicate and affecting thing the band has ever done. “I am not the type of dog who could keep you waiting for no good reason,” Stipe fairly croons.

Musically, Green quotes a lot of sources. Listen closely and you can hear references to the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Sly Stone and others. If R.E.M. were any more calculating, one might suspect this is the band’s sneaky way of squeezing into tightly formatted AOR radio, with its emphasis on classic rock bands.

Just as it’s fascinating to watch elder statesmen like Keith Richards reconcile rock & roll with middle age, it’s fascinating to see how R.E.M. handles fame and commercial success. On paper, this looks to be the band’s biggest album ever – strong singles material (“Get Up,” “Stand” and “Orange Crush”), a major label, a more accessible sound. So it’s not for nothing that the album is titled Green, although environmental concerns, naivete and the generally positive attitude of the record must also have something to do with it.

R.E.M. may be dangerously close to becoming a conventional rock & roll band, but Green proves it’s a damn good one.

mp3 : R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend
mp3 : R.E.M. – Turn You Inside Out
mp3 : R.E.M. – Orange Crush

JC adds : Given that nobody had any idea just how massive R.E.M. would become, not quite with Green but the following two albums – Out of Time and Automatic for the People – then this review is very clairvoyant.




I don’t generally like being negative about things, other than the usual racist, sexist type stuff that would offend any right-minded individual. So, True Confessions is a tricky one. Having read and confirmed my understanding of the series’ premise with JC, I do still feel the need to unburden myself about a song that anyone who knows me will be amazed to find that I’m not all that keen on. So, my motivation is that by putting this in writing, it’ll help me understand why I don’t like the song, because on the face of it there’s no rational reason why I wouldn’t like it.

It’s fair to say I like R.E.M. Indeed I like R.E.M a lot. I have all the studio albums and various other recordings too – not the insanely expensive stuff, but enough that anyone perusing the shelves Chez Gog would be in no doubt that I’m a fan. I’ve even listened to Around The Sun in its entirety within the last six months. I was also the first person to play the band on the student radio station I frequented back in the mid-80s – “(Don’t Go Back To) Rockville”, not that you were asking. So why would I have a dislike of one of their songs, and which one is it?

Ah! R.E.M., you say. Here we go. Why he doesn’t like “Shiny Happy People”. Er, no. I’m OK with that one, their first Top 10 hit in the UK. It is in fact their second UK Top 10 hit, a couple of years later, that I really struggle with – “Everybody Hurts”.

After I’d decided to write this piece, I had a chat with a mate with whom I regularly discuss matters musical. His take on it was that I’d got fed up with it being the soundtrack to heartstring-tugging film footage on various charity appeals on the television – you know, with the “please text your donation” message scrolling at the foot of the screen. I disagreed. There is far more chance of me donating on hearing Michael Stipe singing (even if it’s a song I don’t like) than there would be from watching a video with dancing weather forecasters and singing newsreaders – I’d probably just go and brew up if I had to witness that.

The other reason for disagreeing was that when I first heard “Automatic For The People”, it was the one song that I identified as “filler”. Shows what I know! True, it’s quite dirge-like and I’m certainly one for more upbeat songs, but there are other downbeat tunes on the album and I don’t have any real issue with those; in fact I’ve just played “Nightswimming” twice whilst typing this to confirm that point.

If I’ve got to put it down to anything (and I’m still not convinced), it’s the orchestration…

mp3 : R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

As I wrote that last sentence, I had a lightbulb moment – surely the live version that I’ve spent years skipping on the CD, surely that is string-free (apart from guitar and bass obviously). Having sat and listened to it for six minutes and fifty seconds, I am now convinced. This particular live version is great, even with the crowd singing. Strange really, because I wouldn’t normally have any sort of issue with a bit of orchestral backing, but for me the song is enhanced by its absence here.

mp3 : R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts (live in Dublin)

So, mission accomplished. I have achieved my objective in understanding what it is about “Everybody Hurts” that makes me dislike it – the studio version anyway. I have also discovered that there is a version out there for me and I’ve owned it for a number of years and just haven’t bothered with it. I genuinely had no idea where this was going when I first started typing and have to admit at being quite surprised where the last hour and a bit has taken me. Thanks, JC – and take this as evidence that a supposedly negative series can have a positive outcome.




I feel after 12 successive guest postings that I should have another go myself.  The last time I had such a quality run like this I took on the task of an ICA for R.E.M.  It’s history repeating….

There’s a lot of amazing stuff being posted out there in the little corner of the internet occupied by the those folk to whom you can easily visit by clicking links over on the right hand side of this place. Fans of R.E.M. should be particularly delighted with a new series launched a few weeks ago by The Robster over at Is This The Life?

“Over a period of several years I acquired all manner of rare and unreleased gems from market stalls, record shops, mail order, the fan club and, later on, the Internet trading community. I’m going to post all manner of things from my stash in the coming months for as long as you remain interested.”

There’s been four postings in the series thus far, all of which have been of the utmost quality. Some of the versions offered in the first few weeks indeed have been superior to those available via studio albums or previously available live/alternative versions.

As a way of saying thank you, I thought I’d have a stab at a second ICA for the band. The last time round was a posting that I took a great deal of time and care over, and it was only completed thanks to the imposition of a combination of rules including that I couldn’t include singles, I was restricted to one track from each album (or a b-side from one of its singles) and that all tracks had to feature the legendary Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe line-up.

To my immense relief and satisfaction, the ICA was very well received with suggestions that I have a go at Volume 2 and not to let the rules get in the way. It’s taken a while and I make no apologies for that as I’ve had to cut down what was a very extensive list down to just ten. It’s an ICA which I think contains a few surprise selections but the thinking all the way through wasn’t to just pick out ten great tunes for the sake of it but to forge something that would make for a second volume that worked across across both sides of the would-be vinyl without being predictable.


1. FINEST WORKSONG (from Document, 1987)

Tempting as it was to go for the Mutual Drum Horn mix for something a little bit less known, I couldn’t pull myself away from the original version that opened up the LP that introduced the band to a bigger audience than before. Oh and of course, it also provides the sub-title of this ICA.

This was a big and thumping introduction to a record that in sound and production was a fair way removed from what had come previously. It was almost as if, having quietly delivered, some would say murmured, a number of softly sung and beautiful sounding protest songs up until now, Stipe was determined to make sure that his voice was going to be heard this time round. And nobody should doubt that he was angry and wanted his fans to rally with him.

2. (DON’T GO BACK TO) ROCKVILLE (from Reckoning, 1984)

I wrote about this track at length in December 2014 and am happy to repeat what I said then.

A sad tale of long-distance love told over a quite exquisite tune that can’t quite make its mind up if it is indie, pop, honky-tonk or country.

Such is my belated love for this track that on the only occasion business has ever taken me to the Washington DC (it was back in 2002 and I was delighted to learn that the conference venue, which was where I was also staying for three nights, was the Watergate Hotel), I used a spare afternoon to hop on a commuter train out to Rockville, where I had a walk around for about an hour and took some photos.

There are days, and many of them at that, when I think that this is my all-time favourite R.E.M. song. I know that many folk out there feel exactly the same way.

3. MAN SIZED WREATH (from Accelerate, 2008)

There’s very few who will speak out in favour of Around The Sun, released in 2004 to the most unfavourable reviews and really poor sales. Even the band members were quick to dismiss it once the obligatory promotional efforts had been dispensed with and the fact it took the best part of four years for the next material to be released showed they were determined not to repeat the mistake of making a boring sounding record by a bored sounding band.

Supernatural Superserious was chosen as the comeback song, its online release in February 2008 pre-dating the new album, Accelerate, by around six weeks.  It was a bit of a worry as it sounded as if it had a riff based on Since You’ve Been Gone by Rainbow.  But over the ensuing period, as the band did some promo work, more of the album tracks got an airing.  My ears pricked up a bit when I heard Man Sized Wreath and while I’ll be the first to admit that in the overall canon it is a long way from the everlasting quality of the earlier material it was just a relief to hear the band sounding energised once again and for that alone I’m happy to include it within this volume and it fits in well with the overall feel and tenure of this ICA.

4. MUNICH (live) (from Radio 1 Live Lounge, 2008)

The promotional work for Accelerate saw the band members do a few things they hadn’t for a few years. On 26 March 2008 they went into the live lounge of BBC Radio 1 where they played a version of the first single from the new album (see Track 3 above), talked about their upcoming gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London and, in keeping with the tradition encouraged by the live lounge production team, played a stripped down cover version.

The song they chose was Munich, a single that had been released by indie-guitar band Editors back in 2005. Each of Stipe, Berry and Mills had declared themselves fans of the UK band who weren’t all that well-known outside of Europe having tried but failed to crack America. Whether it was a back-handed compliment to the fact that Editors had put a well-received cover of Orange Crush on an earlier b-side or the fact that the lyric of “People are fragile things, you should know by now. Be careful what you put them through” resonated so much with the band on the back of the criticism of Around The Sun only they themselves know. Think of it as the delightful little oddity that is necessary to help with sales of second volumes of compilations.

5. MAN ON THE MOON (from Automatic For The People, 1992)

One of the big sing-a-long hits really has to be included. I shied away last time round but refuse to do this time. It would be disingenuous of me to ignore just how massively popular the band became as the 90s dawned on us just because they are the songs that took them into arenas and stadiums, justifying the high-price contract offered by Warner Brothers. Let’s be honest and frank about it. If R.E.M. had remained something of a cult act throughout their career, then a song which celebrated the life and times of a recently deceased comedic actor who was the very definition of cult would be seen by many as the height of cleverness and indeed genius. Lyrically and musically, this is a great song that no amount of sing-a-long audience participation, or indeed guest vocal contribution from the bloke out of Coldplay*, could ever ruin.

(NB:  this was written long before KC’s ICA of last week; it’s just taken a long while to get round to posting it; honest!!)


1. ELECTROLITE (from New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996)

The closing song from the final album recorded by a four-piece R.E.M. has long been one of my favourites. It’s a song that seems to perfectly draw that particular era to a close but perhaps stripped of that context and its particular placing on that particular album runs the risk of not working within an ICA.

The band was, of course, no strangers to including piano-led ballads within their albums but what makes this a cut above the others is that a seemingly simple sounding tune conveys an epic and seemingly metaphorical lyric, one which says goodbye to both the 20th Century and their ailing drummer. Sublime and beautiful in equal measures.

2. WALK UNAFRAID (live) (originally from Up, 1998)

Up was always going to be a difficult album to come to terms with, being the first without Bill Berry. There were many, particularly among the critics, who thought that the band should have called it a day when one of the original members was forced to quit because of concerns around his health. It was a million miles away from the very early R.E.M. and a million miles away in the other direction from the platinum-era R.E.M.

And yet, it’s an album that in many places contains some of their most compelling material from any part of their career, particularly the clearly autobiographical Walk Unafraid in which Stipe acknowledges and indeed celebrates his transformation from timid frontman to articulate spokesman for the disaffected and deeply concerned. I wasn’t convinced by the song as it appeared on the new album – the tune didn’t quite somehow back up the message – but the spunkier and more defiant version I first saw and heard in Manchester in 1999 on the promotional tour for the album, and which was replicated in the live CD/DVD from gigs in Dublin in 2005, is more like it.

3. GARDENING AT NIGHT (from Chronic Town EP, 1982)

It’s now 35 years since this particular song was first heard by the general public, thanks to its inclusion on the Chronic Town EP. Rumoured to be the first original song they were ever truly happy with, it’s clearly one that is of huge significance to the band as evidenced by:-

– the original version has been added to with three other takes of the song, all from the early days, being included on various compilation albums that have been released over the years
– it was performed during the band’s induction into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame in 2007
– there have been five live versions made available through official releases
– the song title also inspired the name of the band’s publishing company, Night Garden Music

I do fully accept that the production makes this song very much of its time, but it does more than hold its own with so many other of the classic releases from that classic jingly-jangly pop era and it still fills the floor at indie gatherings for folk of all ages.

4. SO. CENTRAL RAIN (from Reckoning, 1984)

“Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry”

Gut-wrenchingly beautiful. At a time when Morrissey’s songs of a love gone wrong were taking much of the UK by storm, here was an example of the genre from the other side of the pond that was equally brilliant.

5. KING OF BIRDS (from Document, 1984)

I don’t know why, but I have more problems selecting the final track on my ICAs than any other. It’s that need to identify and choose the killer song that would make the listener want to go to their turntable to flip the vinyl back to Side A for a further listen while recognising that most studio albums don’t finish with a track that was selected as a single. The secret of any success in closing out an ICA is to use something of a hidden gem. I think I’ve succeeded here……………………..

Once again, I’ve left off so many that I really wanted to include. I reckon I could churn out at least three more volumes and still not be close to completing the task of offering up essential R.E.M songs but given how hard it was to nail down Vols 1 and 2 then I’m going to draw a line.**

But please, feel free to offer up your own version if you’re so inclined.


*why I’m not fond of Man On The Moon played live – here’s the version with Chris Martin as recorded live in London in 2004 at a benefit gig for the OXFAM charity

**I reserve the right, in the very fullness of time, to compile Vol 3 solely on the tracks being offered up by The Robster.




I’ve not done all that many ICAs in recent times, preferring to leave such posts to guest contributors. Those of you who have taken the time to submit an ICA will know just how time-consuming an exercise it is, not just in getting your thoughts down on paper but having the pleasure of listening again to the back catalogue of a singer or band in the effort to find that perfect running order knowing fine well you’ll probably change your mind within a few minutes of hitting the send button.

I have the same dilemma and find that if I get myself immersed in an ICA I struggle to come up with the required daily postings to keep this place ticking over, but given that next week will see a series of guest postings while I’m off enjoying myself in Toronto I have no excuses but to have another go. But I’ll make it easy for myself by going for R.E.M.

Actually, thanks to a slight sleight of hand I have made it much easier than it should be. Those of you who recall The Fall ICA from August 2015 will know that I restricted myself to selecting only from singles released in the UK. Today, I’m restricting myself to album tracks that weren’t released in the UK as a 45…..and they had to come from an album on which Bill Berry featured………which in turn meant 10 studio LPs released between 1983 and 1986……….which led me to go with one from each of them (with one exception)

Believe me, without these bye-laws for this ICA I’d still have been writing the piece come this time next year. So here is what I’ve called It’s Crazy What You Could Have Had.

Side A

1. Begin The Begin (from Lifes Rich Pageant, 1986)

This ICA opens with the opening track from the band’s fourth studio LP which, looking back, can be seen as taking the first serious steps away from being a cult indie/college band towards world domination within five years. The album tackled a range of political and ecological issues and its release seemed to coincide with Michael Stipe finally getting comfortable with the idea of the front man being seen by so many, fans and media alike, as the spokesperson albeit he was often singing lyrics penned by one of the other members – such was the joy of having all compositions attributed to Berry-Buck-Mills-Stipe.

Begin The Begin has always been a band favourite, being played extensively at gigs and long after most of the other songs from the IRS years had been dropped to accommodate the ones the arena and stadium audiences had paid good money to hear – y’know, the 19 singles lifted from the first four albums from the 90s which have come to define the band in the eyes and to the ears of so many. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – and indeed if I hadn’t imposed bye-laws for the ICA many of those 19 singles (and indeed a number of the earlier 45s) would have made the cut. But I would still, no matter what, have opened up the ICA with what Stipe has described as an act of ‘personal, political activism’. It was the right note to strike at exactly the right time in history.

2. Driver 8 (from Fables Of The Reconstruction, 1985)

One of the hardest things in pulling together any ICA is getting the best possible running order. I know some contributors have dodged this simply by putting it together in chronological order which, after all, is what many record labels do when compiling a ‘Best of’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ effort. By deciding not to feature any of the singles – most of which would fall into the upbeat and catchy categories – this particular ICA is not the most commercial release that would ever be put together. But in my mind, it’s always important to start things off in a way that appeals most to a casual listener to draw them into listening to the rest of the record. It’s a common approach as can be evidenced by so many albums opening with singles as the first two tracks on Side A.

Driver 8 is a cracking example of very early listenable and danceable R.E.M. and its inclusion here is only possible as it wasn’t released as a single in the UK.

3. New Test Leper (live acoustic version) (from New Adventures In Hi-Fi, 1996)

New Adventures In Hi-Fi is a wild beast of an album.  It’s way longer than anything else the band had done before or indeed have released since. It was as if it had been recorded specifically to cater for a CD release, coming in at just under the maximum length permissible under that format. It has its flaws, as indeed would just about any 14-song LP no matter who released it, and yet it is probably my favourite album by the band. Maybe that’s down to it marking the end of an era with Berry moving on at its conclusion, and yes, I too found it hard to reconcile that it all happened 20 years ago. But by any account it is incredibly bold and ambitious LP in its aims, including of course the fact it was recorded in many parts during soundchecks for the arena gigs in the world tour to support the release of Monster.

New Test Leper is a sad and haunting song with its meaning open to various interpretations. Is it told by someone with an obvious physical deformity or someone whose lifestyle has led to be a mental breakdown or debilitating illness? I’ve always taken it as being from the viewpoint of someone with AIDS trying their best to explain to an unsympathetic and non-listening world that their illness neither makes them a bad person nor a threat to anyone.

The version included here is one of the b-sides to Bittersweet Me; it demonstrates just how good they were at picking up their instruments and belting out a tune (although belting isn’t quite what they do in this instance)

4. World Leader Pretend (from Green, 1988)

For highly personal reasons, this is up there among my all-time favourite songs by anyone, far less by R.E.M.

Let’s just say that it gave me inner strength and self-belief at a time when I was going through a lot of turmoil, not really sure if I had the ability to break out of a relationship in which I found myself trapped. There’s also an amazing live performance captured on Tourfilm in which the song’s opening is amended to namecheck a song by Gang of Four. (see bonus footage below)

5. Country Feedback (from Out Of Time, 1991)

The LP which spent 109 weeks on American album charts, including two separate spells at #1 spot; it also was part of the UK album charts for 183 weeks (that’s nearly 3 ½ years FFS!!) with just a single week at #1.

It has many outstanding tracks including this, named simply to describe its music – country rock (with pedal-steel guitar) and some feedback thrown in. It’s a rambling, slighty insane lyric which has since been claimed as coming from a single-take in the studio in which Stipe had only some prompt words written down on a piece of paper with much of it being improvised. If this is the case, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, it is simply as extraordinary a song as has ever been written and recorded.

Side B

1. Pretty Persuasion (from Reckoning, 1984)

One of the band’s earliest songs and to many involved from the outset a bit of a surprise omission from their debut album, albeit it was soon earmarked for its follow-up. Another of the upbeat numbers that made their sound so attractive to the college radio networks which played such a major part in breaking the band. This could have easily been a single and indeed there’s every likelihood that if either of So, Central Rain or (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville had somehow charted then IRS would have rush-released this as a cash-in. It’s still astonishing to realise that the two singles were flops but then again, if they had propelled the band into the spotlight it would have been well before they were truly ready and would in all likelihood led to them breaking up before they realised their full potential.

2. Disturbance At The Heron House (from Document, 1987)

The LP in which the world began to really pay attention thanks to it spawning a Top 10 single (and the most misunderstood wedding song of all time!!)

It’s an album in which the singles are by far the strongest and most enduring songs, albeit they are a long way removed from the R.E.M. that early fans raved about and obsessed over.

Here’s a song that kind of harks back to the older material in sound and complexity but which opens with what seems to be a blatant rip-off of Born In The USA. On the surface, it sounds like another agitprop number expressing concern about the politics and politicians dominating the American landscape at the time. But there’s another really intriguing explanation that I came across on the internet a while back:-

“According to (Stipe) it was a song about how Athens was being promoted as the new “it” scene for music due to the popularity of themselves and other bands such as the B-52’s coming in to fashion. This of course led to a lot of musicians and bands, or “grunts and hirelings” as the song labels them, coming to Athens to try and make it big and claiming it as their own. Much like Seattle in the early 90’s.

These “followers of chaos out of control” were obviously distasteful to the real and authentic Athenian musicians who had worked hard to build their careers only to have these “monkeys” imitating (aping) their style and pretending to be from Athens. Apparently a music magazine was doing a cover story on the Athens scene and as a cover shot for the issue there was a picture of all these so-called Athens bands gathered at a local monument “they’re meeting at the monument” which seemingly did not include any of the authentic Athens bands at the time. This, of course, sickened and infuriated Michael and company and so they wrote this bitterly scathing song to describe the event.

When given this context it is indeed one of the most straight forward songs he has written and the line “when feeding time has come and gone, they’ll lose their hearts and head for home” is one of the most delicious F.U.’s that has ever been delivered in a song.”

Make of that what you will………………

3. First We Take Manhattan (b-side to Drive, from Automatic For The People, 1992)

The LP that spawned six singles and sold 18 million copies worldwide. The LP packed with strings-laden or piano-led ballads. The LP with a song that later spawned a Hollywood movie starring one of the most famous American comedy actors to emerge in the late 20th century.

Let’s be frank…..there’s not really all that much left when you exclude the singles; the remaining tracks do include ballads and political rants but they just aren’t in the A-list of R.E.M. songs. Nor did I feel they fitted in well at any point of this ICA. So I’ve gone for this cover version – originally recorded for the tribute album I’m Your Fan – and then included as a b-side to the lead single off Automatic For The People. The band have always been great at acknowledging their heroes and influences with cover versions, many of which sadly often appear a bit lacklustre and half-hearted….almost as if the band don’t consider they can bring anything new or better to the song. But that’s not the case in this rockist take on a Leonard Cohen number….

4. Let Me In (from Monster, 1994)

The LP that caught everyone out. As far removed from the smash-hit Automatic as could be imagined and chock-full of loud and often distorted guitars with lyrics that veer from angry to bemused to creepy to scary to scared. It’s an album that was dismissed by many at the time and yet it is one that in many places has stood the test of time and still maintains the ability to surprise all these years later.

Let Me In is Stipe’s heartfelt and ultimately futile plea to his good friend Kurt Cobain with the lyric based on one of their final phone calls before the Nirvana frontman committed suicide.

5. Perfect Circle (from Murmur, 1983)

A song that so perfectly captures so much of what made R.E.M. so special in so many different ways. Always had this down as being the one to close any ICA, even one which included the singles.

So there you have it. My first ICA in a long while and one that putting together could have been an impossible task without me bringing a few one-off rules into place.

The links can be downloaded individually. I’ve also made the two sides of the ICA available.

Side A

Side B


Oh and I nearly forgot……



You can blame The Swede for this. The Belle & Sebastian posting a while back led him to leave this comment:-

“Your 45 45s at 45 sounds like fun, but was a bit before my time. Any chance of reposting the list one day?”

So I thought I’d delve into that archives for the entire series which more or less tells the story of the first 45 years of my life between 1963 and 2008. One per week for the forseeable future and with it being a cut’n’paste job it also in some ways gives me a bit of free time. Here’s the preamble to how it all began:-

“On June 18th 2008, I will turn 45 years of age. That’s in just under three months time.

One of my all time heroes, Bill Drummond, marked his 45th Birthday with the writing of a book that was partly biographical, partly philosophical but completely genius.

I’d love to have the talent to do something similar, but instead I’ve decided that I’ll make do by saying a few words on 45 of my all-time favourite 45rpm records.

Actually, that previous sentence is totally misleading. In fact it could even be regarded in the same light as Heather Mills’ evidence in her divorce case – ‘inconsistent, inaccurate and less than candid.’

Here’s why…..

(1) Not all of the songs on the list were released on bits of plastic that spun around your turntable at 45 revolutions per minute.

(2) The list is not my 45 all time favourite singles as I’ve decided to restrict each act/performer to one entry. Otherwise it would have been a chart dominated by a handful of bands such as The Jam, New Order, Orange Juice and The Smiths.

(3) What consists of a list at this particular moment in time could fluctuate on a daily basis. I reckon I’m firm on my all time Top 10…..but what one day might, for example, be sitting at #24, could the very next jump up to #13 or drop down to #33. And at the lower end of the list, some songs which bubbled under may find themselves sneaking in at the expense of something sitting proudly in the 40s or 30s.

(4) The 45 in question had to have been bought by me (or on the parent album as I was sometimes skint) at the time of release – this means that stuff that I grew to love years after it first came out are controversially disqualified.

So, over the coming weeks, I’m going to have a regular series counting down some great singles – and I’m going to also post the b-side as well (or Tracks, 2, 3 and 4 in the case of it being a CD single).

I’m in no doubt that what will gradually be revealed will irritate almost all of you as something you think should appear high up the chart suddenly makes an appearance in the high 30s. Or you’ll be hacked off when I choose a song that you’ll consider can never be regarded as the best 45 he/she/they ever released. Or worst of all, when a band or performer who you would have in your Top 5 doesn’t appear in the list at all…..

To give you an idea of how long this particular exercise took, I started off with a list of almost 300 names. For most of them, it was relatively simple enough to find my one favourite single that they had recorded. For others it was a really tough task. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I whittled it down. Once I was below 100 songs, it became almost impossible.

I hope that this will prove to be a series you find enjoyable enough, and please feel free to come on board with your comments, views and observations and savage attacks on my taste at any point in time. For now, in artistic alphabetical order, here are the songs which came in at Nos. 46-50…

mp3 : Billy Bragg – Levi Stubbs’ Tears
mp3 : Morrissey – November Spawned A Monster
mp3 : REM – Electrolite
mp3 : Stereolab – Ping Pong
mp3 : Violent Femmes – Blister In The Sun

See….I told you it wasn’t an easy task.”



I’ve long been embarrassed at how slow I was to catch-on to R.E.M. and always had pangs of jealousy towards those who cottoned on from the start and got to see them before they became staples of the arena/stadium tours.

My excuse?

I was way too engrossed in UK jingly-jangly indie pop and the fact that in the early 80s my home city seemed to be the centre of the musical universe to pay any attention to what was coming out of the USA .

Besides….one look at the cover of this 1984 single and noticing that one of them had long hair was more than enough to put me off taking the band seriously at the time no matter what some folk were saying in the music papers.

But I should have trusted my ears and not my eyes. For quite simply, this single, which is rather astonishingly more than 30 years old, is quite wonderful:-

mp3 : R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville

A sad tale of long-distance love told over a quite exquisite tune that can’t quite make its mind up if it is indie, pop, honky-tonk or country.

Such is my belated love for this track that on the only occasion business has ever taken me to the Washington DC (it was back in 2002 and I was delighted to learn that the conference venue, which was where I was also staying for three nights, was the Watergate Hotel), I used a spare afternoon to hop on a commuter train out to Rockville, where I had a walk around for about an hour and took some photos. It was, and I guess still is, a lovely little town.

Here’s yer b-sides of the 12″ single that I picked up second-hand a couple of years ago:-

mp3 : R.E.M. – Wolves
mp3 : R.E.M. – 9-9*
mp3 : R.E.M. – Gardening At Night*

*Recorded Live at ‘The Eldorado’, in Paris on Good Friday 20 April 1984 in mono


That equated to around £6 or $9 (US) for the ticket.




“This one goes out to the one I love”.

With that such simple sentiment seemingly at the heart of the song, it is easy to understand why it has become a bit of a favourite among newly married couples as the wedding waltz.

The fact that the rest of the lyrics are clearly about a failed relationship, and one that the protagonist is quite happy to boast was nothing more than a passing fancy, surely means that this is a song whose true meaning has bypassed most listeners.

mp3 : R.E.M. – The One I Love

Michael Stipe, as long ago as 1988, was proclaiming the song to be incredibly violent and was about using people over and over again – an idea given further credence when you take into consideration the background refrain sung by Mike Mills – “she’s coming down on her own again”

The single was originally released in 1987 and the 12″ contained an instrumental and a live recording on the b-side:-

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

This particular live recording dated from 24 May 1987, when members of R.E.M. played two consecutive acoustic sets at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica as a benefit for Texas Records. Four of the songs performed were, at the time unreleased one of which was the above. As was this, which was made available on the b-side of the 12″ of It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine):-

mp3 : R.E.M. – This One Goes Out (live)

That was the original title of the song….the subsequent re-naming has, I’ve indicated, caused untold confusion.

Oh and it’s worth mentioning that the only reason we have been able to experience these McCabe recordings is that the singer enjoyed the shows so much he carried around a cassette copy of them and insisted that they be used as b-sides on subsequent singles.




I was reasonably prolific in June 2007 with 24 posts in all.  The month began as May 2007 had ended with a daily series called ‘Holiday Hymn’ in which I provided a daily series of postcards from the island of Aruba.

These were  followed by a tale of a journey home that turned bad with alcohol confiscated by customs as I fell foul of the recently introduced no liquids in hand luggage rule; some posts about covers (inevitably!), stuff about bands that were largely forgotten; a post for turning 44 and others that I think still read well. Oh and a few words at the end of the month to say that just as the blog was really hitting its stride I was having to put things to one side for a bit as I was going over to Toronto to work for 16 weeks.

There was also a  a rant about From The Jam (which I’m now a bit embarrassed about given that Bruce Foxton has since done a really nice and thoughtful thing for a dear friend of the blog),

Here’s the full list of songs that were featured in June 2007….I don’t think I’m wrong when I say it would make for a great Radio 6 show or a jukebox that would be eternally blasting out music:-

Belle & Sebastian – Another Sunny Day
Super Furry Animals – Hello Sunshine
Billy Bragg – That’s Entertainment
Curve – What A Waste
Aztec Camera – Sunset
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling
Josh Rouse – Sunshine (Come On Lady)
Alexi Murdoch – Orange Sky

The Adventure Babies – Camper Van
Malcolm Middleton – Stay Close, Sit Tight
Tindersticks – Until The Morning Comes
REM – Electrolite
The Monochrome Set – Jet Set Junta
Blancmange – Waves
The Wedding Present – Back For Good
Simple Minds – I Travel
Beck – Devil’s Haircut
Beck – Devil’s Haircut (Remix by Noel Gallagher)
Lloyd Cole – Butterfly
Lloyd Cole – Butterfly (Planet Ann Charlotte Mix)
R.E.M. – Radio Song
R.E.M. – Radio Song (Tower of Luv Bug Mix)
Giant Sand – Red Right Hand
Lambchop – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
Lambchop – The Theme From The TV Show ‘Dallas’
Jackie Lee – White Horses
The Trash Can Sinatras – White Horses
The Wedding Present – White Horses
Primus – Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver
Pete Wylie – Sinful (Tribal Mix)
The Smiths – This Charming Man (New York Vocal)
Prefab Sprout – He’ll Have To Go
Scritti Politti – Faithless (Triple-Hep N’Blue)
Care – My Boyish Days (drink to me)
Care – Flaming Sword
Care – Whatever Possessed You
The Lightning Seeds – Flaming Sword
The Jam – Away From The Numbers
The Jam – In The Street Today
The Jam – Down In The Tube Station At Midnight
The Jam – Strange Town
The Jam – Thick As Thieves
The Jam – Scrape Away
The Jam – Tales From The Riverbank (fan club flexidisc version)
The Jam – Happy Together
Moby – Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday)
New Order – 1963
James Kirk – Old Soak
Blink – Happy Day
Family Gotown – Box
The Frank & Walters – Fashion Crisis Hits New York
Arab Strap – There Is No Ending
The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu – The Queen and I
The KLF – Kylie Said To Jason (full length version)
Graham Coxon – Freakin’ Out
Foil – Are You Enemy?
The Pixies – Velouria
Queens Of The Stone Age – No One Knows
The Clash – White Man In Hammersmith Palais
The Clash – Stay Free
The Clash – Straight To Hell (unedited version)
The 1990’s – Pollokshields
Morrissey – Come Back To Camden
Cornershop – Heavy Soup
The Weather Prophets – Well Done Sonny
Malcolm Middleton – A Brighter Beat
Elizabeth – (Dance) Into The Heart Of Your Enemy
Billy Bragg – Ontario, Quebec & Me (live)
Prefab Sprout – Goodbye Lucille #1
The Breeders – Safari
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne
St Etienne – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees – In The Heal Of The Night
British Sea Power – Remember Me
The Lilac Time – The Girl Who Waves At Trains
St Vincent – Now. Now.
I Am Kloot – Over My Shoulder
Neil Young – After The Goldrush
Edwyn Collins – Don’t Shilly Shally
The Wedding Present – It’s For You
The Trash Can Sinatras – Only Tongue Can Tell
Martha Wainwright – Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole
The Wannadies – Hit
Grinderman – Love Bomb

In addition to that rather exhausting list, there were three other songs wthin the posting I’m revisiting in full. It dates from 21 June 2007 and is one in which I give a big shout out to ctel.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Judging by the comments that he often makes afterwards, one of the regular and long-standing visitors to TVV – Ctel – seems to enjoy when I post rare tracks by the best band to come out of Athens, Georgia.

Yesterday, I picked up second-hand copies of a couple of 12″ singles from the IRS days. Maybe Ctel already has the tracks, but if not, what follows are for mostly for him, but I’m sure he’ll be happy for you all to share:-

mp3 : R.E.M. – Finest Worksong (Lengthy Club Mix)

This single was released in April 1988, a full 7 months after the album Document came out, and so it was given a different recording and mix featuring a horns section. A shorter version of this was later put on the compilation LP Eponymous, but to the best of my knowledge the track in all its glory is only available on the 12″ single. The band left IRS two days after the UK release of Finest Worksong and signed for Warner Brothers.

mp3 : R.E.M. – Time After Time etc.

This is the b-side to the Worksong single. It’s a live medley taken from a recording made by Vara Radio in Holland of the band’s concert in Utrecht on 14 September 1987. According to the set-list reproduced in the book Adventures In Hi-Fi : The Complete R.E.M. by Rob Jovanovic and Tim Abbott (Orion Publishing 2001), the three-track medley, which comprises Time After Time, Red Rain (a cover of the Peter Gabriel song) and So. Central Rain was the fourth and final encore of the show. Much of it is Michael Stipe singing acapella, with Peter Buck seemingly the only other band member on stage. It’s a very quiet recording, so you may have to crank up your volume for best effect.

mp3 : R.E.M. – This One Goes Out (live)

In other words, an early version of The One I Love, the song which brought the band to the attention of a wider audience. It was actually the first ever public airing of the song and was on 24 May 1987, a full three months before it was issued as a single. It’s taken from the 12″ release of It’s The End Of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

The record sleeve tells us that the recording is from a show at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica held as a benefit for Texas Records who had been hit with a lawsuit. The Jovanovic/Abbott book reveals that the show opened with four songs by Steve Wynne of Dream Syndicate, followed by a couple of songs by a ‘tipsy’ Natalie Merchant of 10,000 Maniacs (the latter of which she was joined on stage by Stipe), before the main R.E.M set.

This One Goes Out was in fact the first full R.E.M. song of the evening. However…’s a recording with a difference. When Merchant left the stage, it wasn’t Berry, Buck or Mills who joined Stipe but Geoff Gans, a member of staff at IRS Records.

The book says…’Gans started some acoustic strumming and the unlikely pairing served up a stunning version…’.

And it is.

The other track on the b-side of the single is a live version of Maps and Legends from the same how, but this can also be found on the CD of the re-released Fables of the Reconstruction that came out in 1992.

So thanks Ctel for coming by so often – and thanks for inspiring these rare and great songs.

2013 update

Little did I know when I wrote these words that we would one day meet in the flesh and that he would be single-handedly responsible for saving the blog a few years later when I got quite overwhelmed with things happening in my real life…but’s a tale for another day.

If any of you are keen to hear any of the songs in the list, please let me know and I’ll get round to reposting them.