Friday, 12 May 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #6

The Work Tour of 1987 was the R.E.M.'s biggest to date. They had a breakthrough hit single in the States which no doubt bolstered ticket sales, and were within a whisker of the Top 40 in the UK. 'Document' was (and still is) one hell of a record, loaded with political content and proof, if any were needed, that R.E.M. were going to be a major force in the not-too-distant future.

On the day 'Document' was released in the UK, the band played a show in Utrecht, Holland which has been widely bootlegged. It's probably one of the best live recordings out there and the boot I have - entitled 'A Bucketful of Worksongs' - remains a favourite of mine. The 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of 'Document' included a disc featuring this very show, though typically of such things it is incomplete. Four songs are missing - all cover versions.

Superman was released as the second single from 'Lifes Rich Pageant' the previous year. It was the first track on any R.E.M. album to feature Mike Mills on lead vocal. The original by The Clique is much loved my many, but (and maybe I'm biased) I much prefer R.E.M.'s take. Harpers, meanwhile, is a cover-of-sorts. Michael Stipe actually co-wrote it and produced the original by avant-garde band Hugo Largo. Stipe sings it accapella and struggles with the high notes, but it was a regular during encores for a few years.

I'll bring you the other two "missing" songs in a later episode...


  1. One of the best concerts I’ve ever been too!!
    Very shortly afterwards (1-2 weeks?) it was broadcasted on Dutch radio (of course I tapped that, and still treasure my tape). Now looking to the available setlist and the complete bootlegs, it appears that not all songs were broadcasted (missing: Little America / only later broadcasted separately: End of the World and Begin the Begin)and the encores switched around (no clue why).
    In the official 25anniversary issue apart from the 4 covers is also missing “Time after Time” (incl. the short a capela Red Rain*), which was previously issued as part of the ‘Live Medley’ on some 12inches and the IRS Years reissue of Document.
    *for the a capela ‘Red Rain’ I remember Stipe hitting his upward turned chest, like asking for (red) rain coming down on it (note: Red Rain is from Peter Gabriel, who I saw just a week before REM live in concert).

  2. Big thanks for these and also to famvd for such wonderful recollections of the gig.

    The 'Time After Time/Red Rain/So.Central Rain' live medley from the Utrecht gig was made available on the 12" of the UK release of 'Finest Work Song'

    According to 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), it 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. On the vinyl, it’s a very quiet recording, almost lo-fi in nature.

    Hope I haven't ruined anything for a future posting!!! (so feel free to delete this if I have stolen any thunder...)