27 June 2021

R.E.M.

Michael Stipe

Like many people, the music that still haunts me is the music of my youth. In a way it is as if my musical tastes are more or less frozen in time. I still like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, Free and Jackson Browne, The Incredible String Band and Leonard Cohen. I associate much of "my" music with the time before adult responsibilities arrived - climbing up onto the conveyor belt of work and paying a mortgage and marriage and children.

As a consequence, I kind of missed out on a lot of great music that came along afterwards. Recently, more or less by accident, I have been paying more attention to the music of R.E.M. . For instance, there was a late night programme on the television called "R.E.M. at the BBC" and I was entranced by it.

Formed in 1980 at university in Georgia, they were a very tight band. They sought to be true to themselves and to their ideas. As most readers will know, the frontman was a wiry, elf-like fellow called Michael Stipe and as well as singing the songs he was the lyricist.  Many of his ideas were original and poetic. There was a mysterious, plaintive quality about a lot of his lines and on stage he would often appear to live them as if  mesmerised, reaching for something higher than ordinary life. It is said that Stipe came up with the band's strange  name which he spotted randomly in a dictionary.

Michael Stipe is 61 years old now. R.E.M. split up in 2011 and it is unlikely that they will ever be heard live again. If I had been ten years younger they would surely been right up there on my favourites list but I kind of missed them. Behind them the band left a long history of touring the world, wowing audiences everywhere and of course they left a catalogue of  memorable songs, like these three:-

28 comments:

  1. R.E.M. was of my time and it was terrific. Wasn't Stipe diagnosed HIV in the 90s? He has done well, still going at the age of 61. "That's me in in corner...". But I had no religion to lose.

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    1. I did some googlie research on this. It is by no means certain that Michael Stipe is or ever was HIV+ in spite of the gossip that surrounded his sexuality and health.

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    2. I think that was a persistent rumor but I don't think it was ever confirmed.

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  2. Soundtracks to ones life
    Funny how a song can transport you back to happy and unfortunately not so happy days x

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  3. I saw REM at Liverpool Royal Court Theatre in 1989. Michael had his loud speaker with him. Amazing band.

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  4. They are amazing. And I've always said that the video for Losing My Religion is the reason music videos were invented.

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  5. You know, REM was very popular among my friends, but I never got that into them. (Despite being told more than once that I look like Michael Stipe. Or maybe he looks like me.) I liked their song "Near Wild Heaven" and I'd sing along to the others when they came on the radio, but I don't think I ever bought any of their albums. I was too busy listening to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez!

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    1. I will give "Near Wild Heaven" a spin.

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  6. One thing I always notice about good (i.e. not all) post-seventies bands is how much better the musicianship and recordings were. Some of the early sixties bands in particular got away with being fairly careless.

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    1. ell the technology and the recording studios were far more primitive.

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  7. I will listen to REM . Like you I missed some music. I also missed a lot of music when I was in the arctic. I have been Discovering some things I missed on You tube.

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    1. I hope you enjoy dipping in to R.E.M.'s body of musical work.

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  8. R.E.M. are right in my preferred genre and time, though most of their hits were released before I was old enough to understand music. They had some classic songs for sure, but my favorite is probably "What's The Frequency, Kenneth?" - can you tell I'm not a true fan ;)

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    1. I will search around for that number. You must be very young Wistful Dreamer!

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  9. "Everybody Hurts" is one of my favorite songs. I heard a long interview of the two Micheals a few years ago while painting some walls. It what was a very good listen.

    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/monday-april-5-2021-vivek-shraya-mandy-patinkin-and-more-1.5968496

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  10. Here's the original interview.

    https://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-monday-november-21-2016-1.3857426/r-e-m-s-michael-stipe-and-mike-mills-reflect-on-their-1991-album-out-of-time-1.3858028

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    1. Thanks for the homework task Miss Pixie-Lily. I think I will enjoy that one.

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  11. Have to say they passed me by too. I think most of us are most connected to the music of our youth - the soundtracks of coming of age.

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    1. That is a good way to put it - "the soundtracks of coming of age" but I do know some people of my age who kept up with new music all of their adult lives.

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  12. Similar to what Steve Reed says in his comment, I never quite got into R.E.M. in spite of them being VERY popular in Germany, both back when they were active as a band and now. Probably a combination of something about Michael Stipe's voice and the lyrics I can not fully relate to. Having said that, it does not mean I do not recognise the talent and good craftmanship that has gone into their music.

    The music of my childhood were the Beatles and Abba, the music of my teenage years were Depeche Mode, Madness, Blancmange and many many others who were only on the musical radar for a few months and then disappeared into obscurity. Every now and then, thanks to Youtube I unearth an old gem. Also, I have never lost my love of Soul, Motown and Funk. At the same time, I enjoy Big Band sound (like Glen Miller) and occasionally, a bit of Bluegrass or Reggae won't go amiss.
    Last but not least, I love old school rap and Black Music, such as Curtis Blow, Wuf Ticket, T Ski Valley and the unforgettable Cameo.

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    1. Curtis Blow, Wuf Ticket, T Ski Valley and the unforgettable Cameo? I have never heard of any of them! Did you make those names up?

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    2. Come on, you must have heard of Cameo at least! They were quite big in their time and had a comeback in the 1980s with "Word Up".
      Due to my area having been full of US military and their families, I guess I was exposed to American (and Black) music quite a bit.

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  13. All the mentioned music groups are ones that I enjoy. I too have missed a lot of great music since and have tried to broaden my horizon.

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  14. When Brexit passed, the first thing that popped into my head was "It's the End of the World". It was fitting.

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  15. I love REM, but my favorites are some of their lesser known songs.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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