Friday, 7 April 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M.

My little teaser a few weeks ago provoked a little bit of positivity among you, so I've decided to press ahead with the series I hinted at. As long-time readers will know, R.E.M. hold a very special place in the hearts of MrsRobster and I. 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.

A lot of what I have is on vinyl that I haven't managed to rip, but who knows, if this series is a success I may consider a follow-up at some point in the future should I ever get around to ripping any of those old records.

I'm going to cover the band's entire career, but am debating whether a chronological series is a good move or not. My hunch is many of you will give up once we get to the end of the IRS period, so I'm going to opt for a more random approach. That said, I'm starting at the beginning. Literally.

R.E.M. formed in the spring of 1980. They spent much of the year rehearsing and gigging. In October of that year they played a hometown show at Tyrone's which was recorded. It remains the earliest known tape of R.E.M. in circulation (although according to this article, there's some even earlier video footage in a private collection). It's raw and more than a little rough, but it's a wonderful document of one of the world's most successful bands in their infancy. Remember, they'd been together just a few months but were already being given the tag of 'Athens' best band', which for a town with such a rich musical legacy really was some accolade.

The set contained a mix of covers and some of the band's earliest self-penned material. Some of the songs they would go on to record in the studio. Today I'm offering up two songs from this show - I'll post some more another time. Firstly, a song that despite being one of their first, had to wait six whole years before a studio version emerged - Just A Touch featured on the band's fourth album 'Lifes Rich Pageant'. This version is less furious than the studio take and Stipe is clearly still getting to grips with the lyrics and melody.

The second song is one that didn't have the staying power that Just A Touch did. Action fell out of favour by the time 'Chronic Town' came out, probably because by then R.E.M.'s music (and in particular Stipe's lyrics) had evolved somewhat to become something a little more complex. However, it certainly fits the mood of those wildly energetic early shows.


  1. Fascinating stuff. This is clearly going to be one hell of a series.

  2. This is going to be immense.

    If it helps....I'm willing to volunteer my services to rip your vinyl....of course that would mean we would have to arrange to meet at least twice...once for you to furnish me with the precious cargo and then again for its safe return.

    I'm very jealous of those who cottoned onto R.E.M. from the outset. Took me a few stupidity for not taking on board what folk were telling me. I was too obsessed with too many other guitar bands at the time.

  3. Excellent - keep them coming!

  4. Looking forward to hearing the stash!