Friday, 2 June 2017

The hidden world of R.E.M. #9

After a massive world tour that took a lot out of them, R.E.M. made the conscious decision not to tour their next album 'Out Of Time'. Instead, they made numerous appearances on radio stations and TV shows, as well as the occasional secret gig under an assumed name (more of that at a later date).

Los Angeles college radio station KCRW FM is one of the best radio stations in the world. End of. It plays host to all kinds of artists of various renown and standing, giving each a chance to shine. In 1991, R.E.M. (augmented by dB's guitarist Peter Holsapple) entered the studio, enjoying the biggest hit of their career, their biggest selling album to date and a whole new audience just waiting to take them to their hearts. Instead of a standard run-through some new album tracks and a couple of old favourites, R.E.M. ran riot, showing everyone that they were just a bunch of guys who had a lot of fun.

The set did include a few new album tracks and some old faves, but it also included some hilarious attempts at covers, a couple of absolute gems - and a lot of laughter. I've picked a bit of everything today. I may revisit this 'show' at a later point, but for now, I'm giving you a file containing three of those attempted covers and another of two originals.

The covers? A quickly aborted take on Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, an even more quickly aborted attempt at Johnny Cash & June Carter's Jackson, and Spooky, a song oft covered, but most notably by Dusty Springfield. In case you're wondering - the 'Microwave' who requested Spooky was Mark Mytrowitz, the band's long-time guitar tech.

Bandwagon was a silly song the band wrote and recorded during the 'Fables...' sessions, and can be heard on the 'Dead Letter Office' b-sides comp. They don't make it past the first chorus on this attempt though... Fretless, by contrast, is very possibly R.E.M.'s best ever non-album track. To this day I cannot understand why it didn't make 'Out Of Time' but Shiny fucking Happy fucking People did! One of the biggest mistakes of the band's career. Even this rough live take beats most of what's on that record hands down.


  1. Nice nugget about Holsapple. Didn't know that. I have Bandwagon on the Can't Get There From Here 12". Bought because it said the A-side was an extended version. Was exactly the same as the album. Thirty-two years later, I still can't let it go.

  2. Shiny Happy People was just silly. I don't think it is totally out of place on 'Out Of Time' as I think the band just felt like throwing a bit of a curveball at those who classified them as po-faced and too serious, but I agree that its a shocker 'Fretless' never made the cut.

    I bought the KCRW LP as a Xmas gift for a friend as he's a big REM fan and a lover of country music and I thought giving him a recoding of 'Jackson' was just perfect. I hadn't realised until today that it wasn't a full reording of the song - and he's too polite and nice a guy to express any subsequent disappointment to me.

  3. Would've liked them to have persevered with 'Tusk', one of my favourite Mac tracks. Fascinating post as always Robster.