Friday, 30 June 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #13

I know that R.E.M. had a torrid time making 'Fables Of The Reconstruction', and many fans rate it quite low among the band's IRS material, but I've always loved it. I'm particularly taken by Stipe's lyrics which take on a real southern storytelling theme. Some of the harmonies on the record rate among the finest they ever recorded too.

The band undertook a massive touring schedule broken down into four segments known as Preconstruction, Reconstruction I, Reconstruction II and Reconstruction III. The first of these included summer festivals in Europe, which were among the biggest they'd ever played. For instance, in June 1985, they were on the bill for The Longest Day, a one-day festival headlined by U2. Billy Bragg, Spear of Destiny and The Ramones were also present. Sadly, R.E.M. failed to get the crowd going. As Tony Fletcher wrote in Remarks - The Story of R.E.M.:  "The 50,000-strong crowd was in no mood for a band opening a set with as downbeat a song as Feeling Gravity's Pull, and the group spent the entire set dodging missiles, the most common of which were plastic bottles full of urine."

A couple of weeks later, however, they were at Belgium's famous Rock Werchter festival where they were much better received. Half of their 12-song set featured tracks from 'Fables...', including Can't Get There From Here. They also threw in a decent cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Have You Ever Seen The Rain? Some of the set was broadcast on Belgian radio and I believe this is the source of the recordings I have.


  1. I've always loved that they do covers from a broad range of sources, and always thought a CCR cover must be lurking somewhere. Cheers for this!

  2. I've always loved 'Fables...' too. Nice version of 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?'

  3. In 1985 it wasn't Rock Werchter, but still the Torhout/Werchter double festival. Double festival meaning Saturday in Torhout, in the west of Flanders, and Sunday the same line-up some 150km eastwards, not so far from Brussels.
    The bill of the festivals included also Ramones (who just had released the single 'Bonzo Goes to Bitburg' about Reagan visiting a WW2 cemetery with graves of SS soldiers), U2 ('Unforgettable Fire' tour) and Joe Cocker.
    I was at the Torhout Festival, hadn't heard anything from REM before, read some interesting things about them in the festival paper before their show and got pretty much blown away listening to their live performance. A little later I heard 'Feeling Gravity Pull' on the radio, which gave me the feeling of floating a little above the ground, before nicely smacking me down on both feet again. So when 'Fables' finally was released, I rushed to the local shop to buy that black bastard. Ever since followed REM and slowly, but steady they became my favourite band.
    About the double Torhout/Werchter festival, it was stated by many (radio/TV/papers/magazines) that many artists have given their best festival performances there, and then especially the second day at Werchter. The organisers were real music fans themselves and looked good after the musicians and their crews, who in return rewarded them (and the visitors) with great performances.

    1. PS: in Torhout REM didn't play 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?', because it was beautiful weather, reports from the next day were that the weather wasn't so nice in Werchter, which prompted REM to play a cover of the song!